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SimulaTE - Tools and methods for supporting the development of ubiquitous end-user simulations that support collective interaction

End-user simulations are simulations that are designed and developed to support user in their exploration of causal relationships between their choices and actions with future situations. An example of a basic end-user simulation is a game in which users can explore how choices in their behaviour (e.g. taking the bike on days when it does not rain) impacts their energy consumption and health. Many such end-user simulations exist and they are often used to communicate complex relationships in real-world scenarios to people. Many phenomena simulated relate to collective behaviour (e.g. energy consumption, transport choices, business decisions, investment strategies) and hence the approach followed is to support game like simulations that support multiple users and allow investigating collective behaviour.

One aim in the project is to provide methods and to create a set of tools and components that make it really easy to create such end-user simulations and simulation games by domain experts who have only very limited programming knowledge. The purpose and value in research of this approach is threefold.

(1)    Lower the hurdle for other disciplines to create simulation for their research
We will provide an easy to use online tool for social science, management science, and philosophy to create simulations and test them with end users.

(2)    Data collection for research in the large
The platform will allow the collection of interaction data in various types of simulations created by 3rd parties and hence provide a basis for empirical research in simulation usage.

(3)    Vehicle for human-computer interaction research:     
The platform allows exploring and quantifying the impact of interaction components (e.g. comparing different components that allow inputting uncertainty) and visualizations (e.g. comparing the value for the users of different levels of detail in presentations) of interactive simulations.

With this approach we expect to lower the threshold for creating simulations for end-users, e.g. a teacher should be able to create a share market simulation game with specific feature and a health professional should be able to create a simulation of how physical activities impact the probabilities for certain illnesses. By providing a platform that is attractive to create simulations we also expect to get access to usage data that allows new insights in how end users use simulation tools.

In human-computer interaction a particular focus is on the interaction and visualization components to input and output uncertainty and to empirically assess their effectiveness for simulation users. The platform allows assessing simulation UIs and interaction with simulation systems following an “application research in the large” method. The overall results of this research will lead to a fundamental understanding of how to design and develop end-user simulations.