In Melbourne, a French professor examines the complexity of human-computer systems of the 21st century
His career is partially dedicated between the U.S space program and the European aerospace industry which is most instructive.
Today, in Melbourne, Professor Guy Boy focuses on the complexity of human-computer systems of the 21st century in which interactive computing and hyper-connected plays a crucial role. In this framework, for example, he develops prototypes, and simulations to better understand the potential interactions between human and machinery in gear and space habitats.
e-Toile: Guy Boy, you are an University Professor and the Director of "Human-Centered Design Institute" at the "Florida Institute of Technology" located in Melbourne.
Can you briefly explain your personal and professional background and tell us how you were associated with the U.S. space program?
Guy Boy: I crossed the Atlantic several times for long stays in Canada and the United States. Thirty-eight years ago, I came to spend a year at the Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal, Canada.
I immediately liked the pragmatism of North America. After graduating in engineering and getting a Ph.D. in computer science / automatic control at Supaero, I was hired at ONERA in 1980.
I then had the chance to work with Airbus Industry flight testing and have contributed to the shift from 3-crewmen-cockpits to 2-crewmen-cockpits.
I developed my research for aircraft certification taking into account current emerging issues of human-computer interaction and human factors.
In these early days of the eighties, I studied cognitive psychology to complete my engineering curriculum. It served me a lot later, especially when I worked on the design and piloting of new generation aircraft, fly-by-wire and glass cockpits.
In 1984, I got a grant from the DGA to spend one year at NASA Ames Research Center in California.
I developed a research program on the interaction of astronauts with the orbital refueling system of the space shuttle.
The success of this program allowed me to extend my stay until 1986.
Back in France, I continued to develop the same type of research in space robotics on the Hermes robotic arm with CNES.
At the same time, NASA was developing a new research branch in artificial intelligence and I was offered a position to lead the "Advanced Interaction Media” group.
In 1992, I came back to France to join ONERA again and create a new institute, EURISCO (European Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Engineering), which I chaireduntil 2008 together with Airbus and Thales.
EURISCO was located on the Supaero / ONERA campus in Toulouse.
I worked with the European aerospace industry, and other related industrial sectors. In 2008, I decided to return to the United States where I was fortunate to get a joint appointment as a University Professor at FIT and an IPA (Intergovernmental Personal Act) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where I am Chief Scientist for Human-Centered Design and lead the "Virtual Camera" project.
e-Toile: You enter the "Human-Centered Design Institute" (HCDI) in a reflection on the future of space exploration. What is this about exactly?
Guy Boy: HCDI is a new entity that conducts research in design of life-critical systems. Of course, the human aspects are crucial.
We are interested in the complexity of human-machine systems of the 21st century where interactive and interconnected computing plays an major role.
We are also interested in the design and management of emerging organizations where the role of people evolves. So yes, space is an important topic for HCDI.
Space exploration and the life within space socio-technical systems are topics of investigation and test of possible futures.
We develop prototypes and perform simulations to better understand potential (human and machine) interactions in space vehicles and habitats, for example.
HCDI also continues to develop research on safety-critical systems management not only in aerospace but also in the nuclear domain (new control rooms).
Please visit our website http://research.fit.edu/hcdi/
e-Toile: Within the International Space University and with the most eminent personalities in this field, you chair the local organizing committee of the 25th "Space Studies Program ", SSP12, which just started in Melbourne. What can you tell us about this program, which this year involves 10 French representatives?
Guy Boy: In fact, I am responsible for organizing SSP12 (2012 Space Studies Program of ISU). Its originality is to associate the Kennedy Space Center and FIT; a preparation for nearly two years and an operational part of nine weeks from June 4 to August 3, 2012.
These are high-level courses on a wide set of space-related disciplines. Participants who come from thirty countries will work very intensely and carry out projects in teams. France is well represented. The SSP is very prestigious and the alumni network is very well organized and powerful.
e-Toile: NASA has just turned a page in its history with the end of the program "Space Shuttle". How do you envision the future of space exploration?
Guy Boy: I believe we are in the same situation as after the Apollo program.
It took nine years from 1972 to 1981 to actually see the start of the shuttle program.
Today, the deal is very different, however, it is more than just a frenzied competition, but rather cooperate internationally.
The space station is a successful example of this type of international cooperation. Two directions seem to emerge. One around commercial space; the success of SpaceX with the successful launch of the Dragon spacecraft to the space station, a few days ago is an example.
The other space around exploration of asteroids, the Moon and Mars. Many initiatives are underway.
This is the beginning of a new space age. HCDI focuses on the management of manned and robotic systems. Another possible future is the use of space knowledge and technology to rethink engineering, and more generally, people role and existence in our evolving socio-technical world.