Vums - virtual user modelling and simulation standardisation

The VUMS cluster has been initiated by the European Commission in beginning of 2010 to synchronize efforts among several on-going research projects. The projects VERITAS, VICON, MyUI, GUIDE and VAALID agreed to co-operate on issues of common interest in order to synergise among them and to disseminate their results to the scientific fora and standardisation bodies. All projects in VUMS follow activities in the area of user modelling/simulation and involve human users in their developments and evaluation processes. Therefore the main objective of the VUMS cluster is to align activities in the area of:

  • User modelling
  • Standardisation
  • Dissemination
  • Ethics

User models can be considered explicit representations of the properties of an individual user and can be used to reason about the needs, preferences or future behaviour of that user. Most computer systems providing human-machine interaction already maintain some kind of implicit model of the user (i.e. a specific user profile for an individual user), but there are difficulties when incorporating a user model into the design process of products and services. Usually the main problem is to integrate user profiles supporting different user models in one service/application, or migrating profiles stemming from one user model to a different service. Main reasons for incompatibilities in user profiles are usually to be found in the scope of modelling, source of modelling information, time sensitivity of the model or update methods (Static vs. dynamic model). In some cases physical (mechanics and control) as well as cognitive processes that underlie the user's actions are relevant in user modelling. Also the differences between the user's skills and expert skills, or the user's behavioural patterns or preferences can be reflected in a user model specification. Another important dimension along which it is important to distinguish approaches is with respect to whether they model individual users or whole communities / groups of users. In general one can conclude that user modelling covers many different aspects, including the interaction of the user with interfaces and devices, the analysis of user tasks and the analysis of user characteristics (sensory, physical and cognitive abilities, psychological and behavioural characteristics). Therefore it is necessary to put efforts into finding similarities among modelling approaches and to make the exchange of user profiles possible. A common standard for user model interoperability could be an approach to achieve this.

It is of course necessary to not only involve the VUMS projects in the process of user modelling, but to integrate external institutions as well, especially standardisation bodies and other research projects and experts. Therefore dissemination and networking activities are an important part of VUMS collaboration. The projects will perform joint dissemination activities and organise workshops to promote the ideas of VUMS and collect feedback to initial user model specification drafts. The basic goal of standardisation is to avoid fragmentation among projects (and also external institutions). As described above, application and nature of user models are of course very heterogeneous among different contexts, and this has to be reflected in the standardisation activities. The goal is therefore not to create a new common user model standard, but to make user models interoperable through standardisation of common aspects. This will then support the exchange and sharing of user profiles among different services and contexts.

On the side of ethical management, it is mandatory that all projects perform proper management of ethical issues, and to make sure that national and international regulations apply. The VUMS cluster shall therefore ensure that ethical documentation is shared among the projects, and that the respective ethical coordinators of all projects can maintain regular communication and exchange of information.

Download White Paper

The purpose of this white paper is to present results and positions of the VUMS cluster in order to facilitate a wider discussion and in particular to get in contact with working groups related to relevant standardisation activities.