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Critical Alarms Lab (CAL) stands for designing multimodal (audible, visual and haptic) information for product-user interfaces in environments that have a complex nature. These environments have by virtue multiple users, data processing products, incompatible user or system tasks, and critical events that can either harm surrounding people and/or create a health hazard or financial loss. Some examples of such environments are Intensive Care Units, Control Rooms for Air Traffic, Nuclear Plants, Space Operations, and Autonomous Cars. Their users (often professionals) rely heavily on the monitoring devices’ information/alarms in order to be able to take the right action at the right time. However, the users operate under stress, have high responsibilities and are cognitively overloaded, which in return effect their information receiving and processing capacity. As a consquence, their ability to take correct action for a specific task is hindered. Furthermore, current interactive technology and connectibility of the systems and products as well as wearable technology result in unfamiliar user interfaces which offer unprecedented sensory experiences through notifications/alarms and a range of possibility of interpretations. All together, this may be undesired in critical situations.

Our Mission

CAL’s mission is to seamlessly integrate information, alarms and their originating products/systems in daily practices of users, which can be done by increasing work (or task) satisfaction and mission/human safety, and decreasing fatalities, hazardous events and financial loss. CAL will cater for human faculties from perception to action.

With the help of an enthusiastic and international team that have their roots in both fundamental research and embodiment of ideas, CAL brings together multidisciplinary knowledge, practical tools, design methods, prototyping facilities, testing platforms and an active discussion environment at the disposal of students, participating companies and researchers.

What we do

Designing alarms requires more in-depth knowledge into user context and multi-modal solutions that offer the best practices for users. Projects within CAL collaboratively use generated knowledge and tools for alarm design with the result of extensive societal impact. The Silent ICU project, for example, focusses on societal issues such as alarm fatigue observed in Intensive Care Units and its consequences on patient safety (often death) and nurses’ well-being work satisfaction.

Director's testimonial

Over the years, I have been involved in several information design projects (e.g., pictograms for product sounds, dashboard sound design for Toyota and Lexus cars, auditory display design for ESA space mission control rooms) and chairing autonomous driving projects in which not only sounds but also other modalities are considered for effective warning/informing of the driver for traffic safety. I am also interested to develop tools that support design processes (PSST! product sound sketching tool by Reinier Jansen and urgency based alarm sketching tool by Martijn Verbeij). Currently, my research tackles more societal issues such alarm fatigue observed in Intensive Care Units and its consequences on patient safety (often death) and nurses’ well-being work satisfaction (The Silent ICU project that I’m leading with five on-going projects). In another commercial project, we have been designing a geriatric patient monitoring device that used auditory, visual and haptic feedback when appropriate (Companion for St. Gallen Hospital, CH). I am part of an international coalition for fighting alarm fatigue (American Association for Medical Instrumentation). Similarly, I am involved in setting new ISO standards for designing clinical alarms and designing the sounds as well. However, I have come to realise that designing alarms requires more in-depth knowledge into user context and multi-modal solutions that offer the best practices for users. I want to offer integrated knowledge to our regular students in the faculty and provide them with sketching tools and prototyping facilities as (digital) product or system solutions require information design either in simple or complex settings. I also want to have measurement tools or methods specifically gathered for information design. That is what I hope CAL can do.

Director
Elif Özcan Vieira      | Form-Experience & Sound-Driven Design

dr. Elif Özcan Vieira | Form-Experience & Sound-Driven Design

Activities in CAL are instrumental to inspire new research ideas, challenge information design practices, and feed gaps in IDE education. In the long-term, CAL will be the international authority for designing critical alarm solutions when complex issues need to be addressed thoroughly and sensitively.