Usability measures the extent to which a product, service, or system can be easily used by its intended audience. Usability is important because it can determine if the task the user is trying to do can be done quickly, and without error. For many mission critical systems, this can have life or death consequences. For example, can the doctor use the defibrillator in time to bring you back from a heart attack?
Can a pilot use his weapons systems to shoot down the enemy before the enemy can shoot him down? At Rice University, researchers are examining mission critical systems in a number of domains (like medical devices, voting machines, and transportation), using usability assessment to help inform the designs of these next generation products. Moreover, researchers at Rice are working to identify better, faster and more efficient ways to measure usability, and to understand the kinds of variables that can have an impact on its measurement. By understanding how to best assess usability, Rice University is leading the way in creating technologies that really work for people.