What if a remote rock breaking system can make the economic transition from manual to automatic operation in a way that empower the operators.




Mining machine operators love the power of the machines and the feeling that they are making decisions. However, due to the developments towards automation, their problem solving identity might be preserved. We envision a solution that empowers the miners as necessary problem solvers. Our system will allow the miner to run a number of mines from one location, and make the transition from manual to the automatic. This is achieved by redesigning the role of automation and operators in the rock breaking work flow and the engaged GUI controlled by a remote controller.

Duration : 10 weeks
Time: 2015 fall                               
Team: Andre Kennedy, Lene Rydningen



In our scenario, rock breaker operators need to operate multiple rock breakers and multiple tasks in one station. The operator's main task will change from operating to monitoring. The semi-automatic system allows the operator to use their skills and experiences to make the best decision when there is a caution or an error in the system. 


Component of the system

The system is controlled via a tablet controller and a monitor. The monitor is used to monitor tasks in the mine such as rock-breaking. The operators can navigate both the interface and the rock breaker using the tablet controller. The tablet is the operator’s personal device and can be taken out of the controller. 




1. Keeping operators as decision makers, while leting them experience the benefits of automation.

Operators are valued for their decision making and planning skills. The machines can do the repetitive tasks and help operators to improve their working efficiency.  

First step:  Analyzes rocks by the system

Second step:  Choose the breaking target

Operators can choose the target rock by pressing the confirm button. The hammer will go to an approximate position which is inside the target area,

Third step: Use the controller for more precise positioning

After that operators can shift to manual controllers for more accurate movements.


2. Gamifying the operating experience, reducing cognitive overload.

Mining activities such as rock-breaking is displayed on the monitor in front of the operator, Operator can use joysticks on the controller to navigated both the interface and the rock breaker. On the one hand, it gives the operator an experience similar to playing the Nintendo Wii. On the other hand, it unify the tools in the control room and reduce the cognitive overload. 


3. Dividing the tasks in two screens on the interface

The interface was divided into two screens. This decision was a result of the user test. Some users commented that having to shift attention during operations between the touch screen and main screen was annoying, they preferred the personal touch screen where the bottom screen was only for non-breaking activities such as calling and scheduling, and the main screen for showing mining tasks. Thanks to that we can reduce the cognitive overload of the users.


4. Improving ergonomics of the controller and interface

The interface design for the small screen is focused on how operators can use it without paying much attention and not making big movements with their hands. This means that touch screen buttons need to be within the reach of the thumbs from both sides of the controllers. 

The  controller allows the operators to work in various positions. And because the operators only need to do precise movements, the joysticks on controller are controlled by thumbs .






The design process was iterative and human centered. Field research led to a thorough understanding of the context. We talked to machine operators to know more about their tasks and needs. This helped us to define a guiding vision on the user's role. 

The mining field and rock breaker

The mining field and rock breaker

The existing mining system

The existing mining system

The information collected during the context research was processed in various forms such as task analysis. The aim was to find out how mining operations are presently conducted. This enabled us to identify potential areas for improvement.



Identity Crisis

There is a need to redesign the level of automation in certain areas to allow the miners to contribute their own expertise, and preserving their identity as problem solvers.                                                  

Mundane Work

An operator'sjob is mundane and repetitive. We want to make the operator feel more motivated at their workplace and offer them a gamified experience.

Information Overload

At present, there are no uniformity or streamlining of operations in the control room, One of the guiding principles of our system was that all the tasks should be unified and accessible through a single point of access. 

Ergonomics Problem

How can we improve the ergonomics of the control room physically, environmentally and visually? 




Based on the future scenario, we had a brainstorming session to generate different concepts that fit the operator’s tasks. We summarized three design guidelines for further concept development: Unifying, Engagement, Empowering .



Co-creation of the interface

Co-creation of the interface

Result of co-creation

Result of co-creation

Storyboard of Interface

Storyboard of Interface

Wireframe of Interface

Wireframe of Interface



The aim of the user testings was to determine whether dual screen is appropriate in an ergonomic format. We set up 3 different systems, and made quick physical and digital prototypes. From the user test we decided to use the controller to control both the interface and the rock breaker. We also decided to divide the interface to two screen