It is widely accepted that interfaces between computers and users should
differ to accommodate individual, or group, needs. One method of
"personalizing" an interface is to have the system form a limited model
of the user and employ it to fashion the dialogue to his needs.
Unfortunately, little is known about the effect of adaptation on the
man/machine interface. Although obvious advantages accrue from
"personalized" interfaces, there are also obvious disadvantages to
presenting users with a changing, adapting, and perhaps apparently
inconsistent interface. The goal of this work is to determine the
viability of an adaptive interface through a human factor pilot study
of a simple, specially-designed, interactive computer system.
The system uses menu-driven selection to retrieve entries from a
large ordered telephone directory. This simple task has several
advantages: it is a realistic application area for interactive computers;
plausible adaptive modeling methods exist and have been studied theoretically;
and previous work has determined the best way to display the menus to users.
The results of this empirical study support the use of adaptive user
modeling. In the (admittedly highly constrained) example system, a
computer interface can indeed adapt successfully to every user. Although
it does not necessarily generalize to other user interfaces, the result
supplies evidence to refute published objections to adaptive user
modeling in general.
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