Caméléon Augmenting paper flight strips for air traffic control
Wendy E. Mackay 
Anne-Laure Fayard
Abstract: Augmented reality is a new user interface paradigm that links physical objects to a computer. After a four-month study of a team of Paris en route controllers, we spent a year working with them to create prototypes that use ordinary paper flight strips as the computer interface. Controllers can build upon existing, successful work practices to incorporate powerful new on-line tools. Caméléon is not a single solution, but a process and environment for discovering solutions that work.
Centre d'Études de la Navigation Aérienne
Orly Sud 205  
Keywords: Air Traffic Control, Augmented Reality, Distributed Cognition, Ethnography, Evolutionary Design, Exploratory Data Analysis, Interactive Paper, Interaction Browser, Triangulation, Video prototyping

Air traffic control today Paper flight strips and RADAR
Goal: Increase capacity and improve security in an alreadyextremely efficient and safe air traffic control system.


Air traffic controllers have used paper flight strips and RADAR for almost fifty years, graudally evolving their work practices to meet constantly-changing conditions:

* Repetitive checking of strips and RADAR helps ensure safety under calm to stressful conditions.
* Writing on strips is fast, enabling controllers to perform other tasks at the same time.
* Controllers work together, sometimes annotating strips simultaneously.
* Controllers like strips: they never "fail", even when other computer systems break down.

Paper strips are physical, sharable objects that are easy to annotate and highly adaptable by controllers. Strips support:

highly cooperative work
focused and peripheral awareness
visual and tactile memory
planned and situated activity
shared, distributed representation of traffic

Research approach Augmented reality and participatory design
Goal: Preserve and enhance successful work practices by augmenting rather than replacing paper flight strips.
Ethnographic study
4-month observation of team 9-W, Paris
50+ hours of video, all traffic conditions


Participatory design
Workshops with controllers & researchers
Brainstorming, scenarios & Wizard of Oz


Begin with informal paper & video prototypes
Create working prototypes linked to on-line tools


Tool for visualizing multimedia data
Supports both qualitative & quantitative data
Exploring the design space Technology prototypes and user functionality
Goal: Work with controllers to explore the design space of possible technological and user interaction solutions.
Technology explorations: Build prototyes with today's technology to understand future design trade-offs.

Capture information via:
Graphics tablet, video & touch screen
Future? P.D.A.s


Present information via:
Projection, monitor & transparent strips
Future? Electronic ink or electronic paper


Track information via:
Electronic stripboard, video, barcodes
Future? Smart chips

User interaction explorations: Controllers should continue to control the evolution of their interface.


Interaction browser:

Allows controllers to experiment with interaction techniques, associating gestures with on-line tools and communication between sectors.

Final Analysis Triangulation helps to challenge assumptions
Goal: Triangulate with multiple research and design methods to invent a radically new, but still familiar, user interface.
Challenging assumptions: Our use of multiple perspectives has led us to reassess established views. We argue that:

* Replacing paper strips is more complex than simply copying the information they contain.
* Paper strips need not be less "modern" than mouse and keyboard interfaces.
* New on-line tools need not interpret everything controllers write in order to be useful.
* Controllers are not resistant to change; just user interfaces that do not support their work.

Conclusion: Augmenting strips is an inexpensive, immediately-applicable way to preserve effective work practices and provide access to new on-line technology.


1. Begin by testing augmented strips at a single sector, providing links between strips and RADAR.
2. Analyze annotations to determine, under real use conditions, how they can support inter-sector communication and inform on-line tools.
3. Provide controllers with a local environment for cooperatively evolving new interfaces.


Mackay, W.E. & Fayard, A.L. (1997) HCI, natural science and design: A framework for triangulation across disciplines. DIS'97, Amsterdam.
Mackay, W.E. & Fayard, AL. (1997) Radicalement nouveau et néanmoins familier : les strips papier revus par la réalité augmentée. IHM'97, France.
Mackay, W.E. & Beaudouin-Lafon, M. (1998) DIVA: Exploratory data analysis with multimedia streams. CHI'98, Los Angeles, California.
Mackay, W.E. Fayard, A.L, Frobert, L. & Médini, L., (1998) Reinventing the familiar: Exploring an augmented reality design space for air traffic control. CHI '98, Los Angeles, California.

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