The Effects of Time Delays on a Telepathology User Interface

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Telepathology enables a pathologist to examine physically distant tissue samples by microscope operation over a communication link. Communication links can impose time delays which cause difficulties in controlling the remote device. Such difficulties were found in a microscope teleoperation system. Since the user interface is critical to pathologist's acceptance of telepathology, we redesigned the user interface for this system, built two different versions (a keypad whose movement commands operated by specifying a start command followed by a stop command and a trackball interface whose movement commands were incremental and directly proportional to the rotation of the trackball). We then conducted a pilot study to determine the effect of time delays on the new user interfaces. In our experiment, the keypad was the faster interface when the time delay is short. There was no evidence to favor either the keypad or trackball when the time delay was longer. Moving long distances over the microscope slide by dragging the field-of-view indicator on the touchscreen control panel improved inexperienced user performance. Also, the experiment suggests that changes could be made to improve the trackball interface. (Also cross-referenced as CAR-TR-616) (Also cross-referenced as SRC-TR-92-49)