Human Factors Guidance for the Use of Handheld Computing Devices

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Authors: Vicki Ahlstrom
Bonnie Kudrick
Carolina Zingale, PhD.

Zingale, C., Ahlstrom, V., & Kudrick, B. (2005). Human factors guidance for the use of handheld, portable, and wearable computing devices (DOT/FAA/CT-05/15). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


This report provides human factors guidance for the selection and use of handheld, portable, and wearable computing devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablet computers, and, to a more limited extent, head-mounted display systems. These devices are becoming more common in the workplace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wanted to know if these devices would be beneficial to maintenance specialists. Human factors researchers from the William J. Hughes Technical Center were asked to identify the advantages and disadvantages of these devices. These systems require different usage guidelines than standard desktop computing systems because of their size, portability, human-computer interface (HCI) designs, and intended work environments. In this report, we discuss differences between different maintenance tasks and how these differences may affect the selection of an appropriate device. We summarize the advantages and disadvantages of common handheld, portable, and wearable systems, specifically focusing on areas such as device size, screen size and resolution, input method, one- or two-handed operation, and heads down time.