"How big does the screen need to be"? This was the innocent first question asked near the beginning of a deployment of multiple collaborative decision environments (CDE). Slowly, the complexity of the problem surfaced as we were forced to consider the following questions:

  • What are the limits of current display technology?

  • How will people be seated in the physical space and how many seats are required?

  • What is going to be on the display? How can we use that space most effectively?

A large quantity of information exists from vendors detailing the optimum size of display and placement for a television or cinema screen. A large body of data exists for individuals using computer monitors. Each has very different usage characteristics.

CDEs created a scenario that falls between these extremes — computer display characteristics (able to clearly read data) within a group environment (like a cinema). The display itself will be divided into sections, effectively providing users with a matrix of individual computer monitors that need to be examined both individually and as a whole.

To achieve this, there was a need to go back to first principles and answer some important questions. What is 20/20 vision? What are the ergonomics of the eyeballs, neck, and body? What types of information exist and how is it visualized? The final solution needs to be deployable in the office, to locations offshore, and perhaps even in a portable environment to teams ranging from a single user to 10 or more.

This paper examines this problem and provides some methodologies about how to determine the best display for a facility and where to place users within a room so that they can see clearly the full extent of the display. It also explores how this information should be laid out to maximize the usefulness of the display area. This information should prove beneficial to future CDE designers.

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