This page provides some information on Think Research’s iSA application, now available for iPhones, iPod Touch and Android. iSA has now been downloaded by users in over 30 countries all over the world, including most of Europe, the USA, Australia, China, Argentina, India, Jamaica and the Republic of Korea! To read a review of the application see this article from the nice people at CCD Human Factors.
iSA is a portable, electronic version of the commonly used Instantaneous Self Assessment (ISA). ISA was first developed for use in Human-in-the-loop (HITL) Real Time Simulations (RTS) for Air Traffic Control (ATC) research and development (R&D) simulations. That’s ISA in HITL RTS for ATC R&D. Simple!
The purpose of the ISA technique is to continually ask a user the same question (“How do you rate your workload?”) and get their opinions over time on a scale. The question and the scale stay the same but the conditions of the test or simulation may be changing. After a period of time, the user responses can be judged against what was happening at that point in time in order to get an indication of the effect of the test conditions on the user’s perceived workload.
iSA is a mobile app for the ISA technique, which can be used anywhere, at any time and for any test. It was designed for cases where a simulation facility does not have a pre-installed ISA system or where one cannot be installed for reasons of cost or portability. The user can run the iSA application in these instances. Alternatively, since the question being asked is configurable, iSA can be used in any scenario.
Here are just some of the questions it’s been used to assess so far:
– How do you rate your workload?
– How tired/drunk/happy am I right now?
– How would I currently rate this film/song/soccer match?
Alternatively, iSA is now available for android devices running Froyo (android version 2.2) or above. It is available on the Google Play store:
Simply select the iSA icon on your device screen and then hit the ‘Run iSA’ button. This will run iSA in default, or last configured mode. iSA will continue running until the end of the pre-defined run period, or you hit ‘Done’ or the application is disturbed by an incoming call. To avoid call disturbances during your test, it is recommended that you switch to Airplane mode when using iSA during an experiment.
iSA is configurable via the ‘Settings’ menu which is accessed directly from the app home page, the user can customise the following options:
Session Name – A free text session name can be given to each session. This name is tagged onto the output file name.
Input Scale – choose between scales 1-5, 1-7, 1-9.
Test duration – The length of your test in minutes. You can set this to any number.
Prompt Interval – The length of time between each instance of the question being asked. For example, if you want the question to be asked every 2 minutes, set this value to 120 seconds.
Input Time Limit – The length of time the user has to enter a response in seconds. If the value is set to ‘10’, the user has 10 seconds in which to give their answer. If no answer is returned, the application records a missed value and the test continues.
Beep – The user has the option to turn on and off the audible beep each time the prompt appears. This is useful if the device is out of direct line of sight during use.
Number definitions – The default is for the input buttons to include only the scalar numbers. If you wish, the definitions of the numbers can be turned on. This will display text beside some or all of the numbers to indicate which represent a ‘low’ score and which represent a ‘high’ score.
Flash – As above, the user has the option to add an additional alert in the form of a flashing screen.
iSA records the session information in a *.csv file. iSA logs the interval number, the score recorded by the user, the response time (in seconds) for the user to enter the response, and a time stamp of the actual time of data entry. All log files remain on your device until you either delete them (via an FTP program when synchronising) or you uninstall the application.
After using the iSA application, the results can be viewed in the output files using a PC. By selecting the ‘Synchronise’ button on the application home page, a wireless file transfer process is initiated. Follow the instructions given on the device and you will be directed to an FTP site. You can access the files via your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, Safari), Windows Explorer or a dedicated FTP program. It is recommended that you use Windows Explorer or FTP.
Warning: The synchronisation process can take up to 90 seconds, depending on the security settings of the wireless network
Using a web browser to access run logs
Type the given address into a web browser on your PC to see a list of output files currently on the device. A web browser only provides ‘basic’ options. Right click and ‘save as’ to save the *.csv files to your PC, or click to see in your web browser. Depending on your browser, you may not be able to sort, preview or delete the files. Hence we recommend you use Windows Explorer or an FTP program.
Using Windows Explorer to access run logs
Type the given address into the address bar in Windows Explorer. By setting the ‘view type’ to ‘details’ you will be able to sort the files by name, date created, size etc. This enables you to more easily view the recent files or files from a particular session name. You can then download the *.csv files as above.
Using an FTP program to access run logs
This is the recommended option for viewing your run logs as it provides most control over the files themselves. Open up your FTP program (e.g. FileZilla, Cute FTP) and set your Host to the FTP prefix (the numbers before the colon e.g. 192.168.1.9) and the Port to the FTP suffix (the numbers after the colon e.g. 21000). In the FTP file manager you can then preview, sort, download, rename and delete the run logs.
Why does iSA take so long to synchronise over a secure network?
We’re afraid this is a limitation of the FTP protocol used by iSA. In order to keep iSA free, we have used publicly available FTP (diddyFTP) code and this incurs a delay in synchronisation. We could speed it up but we’d have to do some clever coding (or more likely pay someone clever to do it!) and then we’d have to start charging for it. Hopefully you can live with this small limitation (and our rather large logo!) when using the app. It’s what helps keep it free for everyone.
If there is an external SD card installed on the device, all results will be stored as CSV files in the folder SDCard/iSA.
Alternatively you can export each result via email or other applications on your device such as Dropbox. Simply select Export from the home screen, then the result you are interested in from the list. The result should be highlighted when selected. Finally push export at the bottom of the screen. This will show what applications your device has installed that can be used to export the result.