• Contextual Network Navigation to provide Situational Awareness for Network Administrators

      Gray, Cameron C.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Roberts, Jonathan C.; Bangor University; University of Chester (IEEE, 2015-10-26)
      One of the goals of network administrators is to identify and block sources of attacks from a network steam. Various tools have been developed to help the administrator identify the IP or subnet to be blocked, however these tend to be non-visual. Having a good perception of the wider network can aid the administrator identify their origin, but while network maps of the Internet can be useful for such endeavors, they are difficult to construct, comprehend and even utilize in an attack, and are often referred to as being “hairballs”. We present a visualization technique that displays pathways back to the attacker; we include all potential routing paths with a best-efforts identification of the commercial relationships involved. These two techniques can potentially highlight common pathways and/or networks to allow faster, more complete resolution to the incident, as well as fragile or incomplete routing pathways to/from a network. They can help administrators re-profile their choice of IP transit suppliers to better serve a target audience.
    • Dead-zone logic in autonomic systems

      Eze, Thaddeus; Anthony, Richard; University of Chester and University of Greenwich (IEEE, 2014-07-31)
      Dead-Zone logic is a mechanism to prevent autonomic managers from unnecessary, inefficient and ineffective control brevity when the system is sufficiently close to its target state. It provides a natural and powerful framework for achieving dependable self-management in autonomic systems by enabling autonomic managers to smartly carry out a change (or adapt) only when it is safe and efficient to do so-within a particular (defined) safety margin. This paper explores and evaluates the performance impact of dead-zone logic in trustworthy autonomic computing. Using two case example scenarios, we present empirical analyses that demonstrate the effectiveness of dead-zone logic in achieving stability, dependability and trustworthiness in adaptive systems. Dynamic temperature target tracking and autonomic datacentre resource request and allocation management scenarios are used. Results show that dead-zone logic can significantly enhance the trustability of autonomic systems.
    • Evaluating current practice and proposing a system to enhance knowledge assets within a small software development unit

      Fannoun, Sufian; Kerins, John; The University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-06-25)
      Knowledge management and knowledge transfer within organisations challenge continuity and resilience in the face of changing environments. While issues are principally addressed within large organisations, there is scope to evaluate how knowledge assets are managed within small and medium enterprises and to consider how the process might be enhanced. The research reported here aimed to evaluate practice within an evolving software development unit to understand how knowledge has been acquired and utilised to further organisational development. In-depth interviews were carried out with members of the unit to elicit an understanding of individual and collective learning. Qualitative analysis of the data revealed key changes in thinking and practice as well as insight into the development of individuals' contextual knowledge and tacit understanding. This analysis led to the proposal of a bespoke, lightweight web-based system to support knowledge capture and organisational learning. This work is still in progress but it is anticipated that the results will provide a potentially novel and beneficial method for enhancing knowledge assets in small enterprises and consolidating valuable, and potentially scarce, expertise.
    • Formal Verification of Astronaut-Rover Teams for Planetary Surface Operations

      Webster, Matt; Dennis, Louise A; Dixon, Clare; Fisher, Michael; Stocker, Richard; Sierhuis, Maarten; University of Liverpool; University of Chester; Ejenta, inc.
      This paper describes an approach to assuring the reliability of autonomous systems for Astronaut-Rover (ASRO) teams using the formal verification of models in the Brahms multi-agent modelling language. Planetary surface rovers have proven essential to several manned and unmanned missions to the moon and Mars. The first rovers were tele- or manuallyoperated, but autonomous systems are increasingly being used to increase the effectiveness and range of rover operations on missions such as the NASA Mars Science Laboratory. It is anticipated that future manned missions to the moon and Mars will use autonomous rovers to assist astronauts during extravehicular activity (EVA), including science, technical and construction operations. These ASRO teams have the potential to significantly increase the safety and efficiency of surface operations. We describe a new Brahms model in which an autonomous rover may perform several different activities including assisting an astronaut during EVA. These activities compete for the autonomous rovers “attention’ and therefore the rover must decide which activity is currently the most important and engage in that activity. The Brahms model also includes an astronaut agent, which models an astronauts predicted behaviour during an EVA. The rover must also respond to the astronauts activities. We show how this Brahms model can be simulated using the Brahms integrated development environment. The model can then also be formally verified with respect to system requirements using the SPIN model checker, through automatic translation from Brahms to PROMELA (the input language for SPIN). We show that such formal verification can be used to determine that mission- and safety critical operations are conducted correctly, and therefore increase the reliability of autonomous systems for planetary rovers in ASRO teams.
    • The Implementation and Validation of a Virtual Environment for Training Powered Wheelchair Manoeuvres

      John, Nigel W.; Pop, Serban R.; Day, Thomas W.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Headleand, Christopher J.; University of Chester; Bangor University; University of Lincoln (IEEE, 2017-05-02)
      Navigating a powered wheelchair and avoiding collisions is often a daunting task for new wheelchair users. It takes time and practice to gain the coordination needed to become a competent driver and this can be even more of a challenge for someone with a disability. We present a cost-effective virtual reality (VR) application that takes advantage of consumer level VR hardware. The system can be easily deployed in an assessment centre or for home use, and does not depend on a specialized high-end virtual environment such as a Powerwall or CAVE. This paper reviews previous work that has used virtual environments technology for training tasks, particularly wheelchair simulation. We then describe the implementation of our own system and the first validation study carried out using thirty three able bodied volunteers. The study results indicate that at a significance level of 5% then there is an improvement in driving skills from the use of our VR system. We thus have the potential to develop the competency of a wheelchair user whilst avoiding the risks inherent to training in the real world. However, the occurrence of cybersickness is a particular problem in this application that will need to be addressed.
    • An Information-Theoretic Approach to the Cost-benefit Analysis of Visualization in Virtual Environments

      Chen, Min; Gaither, Kelly; John, Nigel W.; McCann, Brian; University of Oxford; University of Texas at Austin; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-08-20)
      Visualization and virtual environments (VEs) have been two interconnected parallel strands in visual computing for decades. Some VEs have been purposely developed for visualization applications, while many visualization applications are exemplary showcases in general-purpose VEs. Because of the development and operation costs of VEs, the majority of visualization applications in practice have yet to benefit from the capacity of VEs. In this paper, we examine this status quo from an information-theoretic perspective. Our objectives are to conduct cost-benefit analysis on typical VE systems (including augmented and mixed reality, theatre-based systems, and large powerwalls), to explain why some visualization applications benefit more from VEs than others, and to sketch out pathways for the future development of visualization applications in VEs. We support our theoretical propositions and analysis using theories and discoveries in the literature of cognitive sciences and the practical evidence reported in the literatures of visualization and VEs.
    • Sketching Designs Using the Five Design-Sheet Methodology

      Roberts, Jonathan C.; Headleand, Christopher J.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Bangor, University of Bangor, University of Chester (IEEE, 2015-08-12)
      Sketching designs has been shown to be a useful way of planning and considering alternative solutions. The use of lo-fidelity prototyping, especially paper-based sketching, can save time, money and converge to better solutions more quickly. However, this design process is often viewed to be too informal. Consequently users do not know how to manage their thoughts and ideas (to first think divergently, to then finally converge on a suitable solution). We present the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology. The methodology enables users to create information visualization interfaces through lo-fidelity methods. Users sketch and plan their ideas, helping them express different possibilities, think through these ideas to consider their potential effectiveness as solutions to the task (sheet 1); they create three principle designs (sheets 2,3 and 4); before converging on a final realization design that can then be implemented (sheet 5). In this article, we present (i) a review of the use of sketching as a planning method for visualization and the benefits of sketching, (ii) a detailed description of the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology, and (iii) an evaluation of the FdS using the System Usability Scale, along with a case-study of its use in industry and experience of its use in teaching.
    • Stigmergic Interoperability for Autonomic Systems: Managing Complex Interactions in Multi-Manager Scenarios

      Eze, Thaddeus; Anthony, Richard; University of Chester; University of Greenwich (IEEE, 2016-09-01)
      The success of autonomic computing has led to its popular use in many application domains, leading to scenarios where multiple autonomic managers (AMs) coexist, but without adequate support for interoperability. This is evident, for example, in the increasing number of large datacentres with multiple managers which are independently designed. The increase in scale and size coupled with heterogeneity of services and platforms means that more AMs could be integrated to manage the arising complexity. This has led to the need for interoperability between AMs. Interoperability deals with how to manage multi-manager scenarios, to govern complex coexistence of managers and to arbitrate when conflicts arise. This paper presents an architecture-based stigmergic interoperability solution. The solution presented in this paper is based on the Trustworthy Autonomic Architecture (TAArch) and uses stigmergy (the means of indirect communication via the operating environment) to achieve indirect coordination among coexisting agents. Usually, in stigmergy-based coordination, agents may be aware of the existence of other agents. In the approach presented here in, agents (autonomic managers) do not need to be aware of the existence of others. Their design assumes that they are operating in 'isolation' and they simply respond to changes in the environment. Experimental results with a datacentre multi-manager scenario are used to analyse the proposed approach.
    • Swarm Communication by Evolutionary Algorithms

      Vaughan, Neil; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-05-27)
      This research has applied evolutionary algorithms to evolve swarm communication. Controllers were evolved for colonies of artificial simulated ants during a food foriaging task which communicate using pheromone. Neuroevolution enables both weights and the topology of the artificial neural networks to be optimized for food foriaging. The developed model results in evolution of ants which communicate using pheromone trails. The ants successfully collect and return food to the nest. The controller has evolved to adjust the strength of pheromone which provides a signal to guide the direction of other ants in the colony by hill climbing strategy. A single ANN controller for ant direction successfully evolved which exhibits many separate skills including food search, pheromone following, food collection and retrieval to the nest.
    • Virtual Reality Environment for the Cognitive Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients

      John, Nigel W.; Day, Thomas W.; Pop, Serban R.; Chatterjee, Kausik; Cottrell, Katy; Buchanan, Alastair; Roberts, Jonathan; University of Chester; Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Cadscan Ltd (IEEE, 2019-10-14)
      We present ongoing work to develop a virtual reality environment for the cognitive rehabilitation of patients as a part of their recovery from a stroke. A stroke causes damage to the brain and problem solving, memory and task sequencing are commonly affected. The brain can recover to some extent, however, and stroke patients have to relearn to carry out activities of daily learning. We have created an application called VIRTUE to enable such activities to be practiced using immersive virtual reality. Gamification techniques enhance the motivation of patients such as by making the level of difficulty of a task increase over time. The design and implementation of VIRTUE is presented together with the results of a small acceptability study.
    • Visualization beyond the Desktop--the Next Big Thing

      Roberts, Jonathan C.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Badam, Sriram Karthik; Brodbeck, Dominique; Kennedy, Jessie; Elmqvist, Niklas; University of Chester (IEEE, 2014-08-15)
      Visualization researchers need to develop and adapt to today’s new devices and tomorrow’s technology. Today, people interact with visual depictions through a mouse. Tomorrow, they’ll be touching, swiping, grasping, feeling, hearing, smelling, and even tasting data.
    • VRIA: A Web-based Framework for Creating Immersive Analytics Experiences

      Butcher, Peter; John, Nigel W; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Chester and Bangor University (IEEE, 2020-01-09)
      We present<VRIA>, a Web-based framework for creating Immersive Analytics (IA) experiences in Virtual Reality.<VRIA>is built upon WebVR, A-Frame, React and D3.js, and offers a visualization creation workflow which enables users, of different levels of expertise, to rapidly develop Immersive Analytics experiences for the Web. The use of these open-standards Web-based technologies allows us to implement VR experiences in a browser and offers strong synergies with popular visualization libraries, through the HTMLDocument Object Model (DOM). This makes<VRIA>ubiquitous and platform-independent. Moreover, by using WebVR’s progressive enhancement, the experiences<VRIA>creates are accessible on a plethora of devices. We elaborate on our motivation for focusing on open-standards Web technologies, present the<VRIA>creation workflow and detail the underlying mechanics of our framework. We also report on techniques and optimizations necessary for implementing Immersive Analytics experiences on the Web, discuss scalability implications of our framework, and present a series of use case applications to demonstrate the various features of <VRIA>. Finally, we discuss current limitations of our framework, the lessons learned from its development, and outline further extensions.
    • Wheelchair-MR: A Mixed Reality Wheelchair Training Environment

      Day, Thomas W.; University of Chester (IEEE, 2017-09-20)
      In previous work we have demonstrated that Virtual Reality can be used to help train driving skills for users of a powered wheelchair. However, cybersickness was a particular problem. This work-in-progress paper presents a Mixed Reality alternative to our wheelchair training software, which overcomes this problem. The design and implementation of this application is discussed. Early results shows some promise and overcomes the cybersickness issue. More work is needed before a larger scale study can be undertaken.