A modular design tool for visualizing complex multiscale systems

Year: 2013
Editor: Udo Lindemann, Srinivasan V, Yong Se Kim, Sang Won Lee, John Clarkson, Gaetano Cascini
Author: Egan, Paul (1); Cagan, Jonathan (1); Schunn, Christian (2); LeDuc, Philip (1)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, United States of America; 2: Dept. of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, United States of America
Page(s): 001-012
ISBN: 978-1-904670-52-0
ISSN: 2220-4334


As engineers design ever more complex systems, such as bionanotechnology, it is particularly difficult for engineers to navigate the influences of parameters to design across multiple scales. We introduce a software tool that contains graphical interface modules that display multiple inputs and outputs simultaneously in real-time, across multiple scales of interest. To assess the utility of real-time feedback in the tool, the tool is validated through user studies involving counterbalanced sequences of optimization tasks with varying complexity and either real-time or delayed feedback. Real-time feedback consistently improved a user’s ability to find better designs and the benefit increased as task complexity grew. Our scientific contribution is a greater understanding of how users search and understand complex design spaces. Users in the real-time condition were made fewer changes to designs each iteration and identifying such strategies could inform agent-based algorithms. Findings aid complex systems applications including virtual experiments, reverse engineering, and scientific discovery.

Keywords: Complexity, GUI, myosin, cognitive study


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