I have wondered about the effectiveness of the large display walls in mission control rooms that we see on TV during rocket launches. Not only the USA (NASA) but Russia, India (ISRO), China and other spacefaring nations too, have these.

Maybe in the 1960s when desktop computer displays were poor, these display walls had a purpose, do they still do? Having a backdrop of colourful, fast-changing charts and pictures do make captivating visuals in TV and news articles. But do the operators in the room see them and use the data for decision-making?

Mission control rooms of NASA, ISRO, CNSA & Roscosmos

Mission control rooms of NASA, ISRO, CNSA & Roscosmos


YouTube Video

These display walls are now being seen in many other places too, like in Police control rooms displaying the visuals from the cameras around the city. Today I noticed one such extra widescreen in the COVID war room of Greater Chennai Corporation in the video by India Today [Link]. That is when it occurred to me, the (key) role that the display wall may be playing in this case. The staff manning the war room are understandably operating in a high mental pressure environment and feeling helpless in many situations which are beyond their control. What might be a simple data-entry operation, can be about allocating a hospital bed or dispatching an ambulance to a patient in a critical condition. Making these life-and-death decisions are not easy for anyone. Health-care workers (who have years of professional training) have the solace of seeing the patients and being in touch with them directly, but for these war room operators who are remote, it can be more difficult. During this pandemic, devoid of office socialising, white-collar workers everywhere have been complaining about zoom fatigue and exhaustion; now think of the tougher situation of these control centre workers. Starring at a computer and hearing heart-breaking voices all day can make your feelings numb and cause depression.

Chennai COVID War Room covered by India Today

Chennai COVID War Room covered by India Today

This is where it occurred to me that having the visuals on the giant display walls of the happenings in hospital wards, vaccination centres, and crematoriums can ground you to the real world. Some of the visuals like rows of covered corpses will be more depressing, but a few like a recovered patient walking out or an empty ward will give you hope.

What do you think about having these giant display walls in either rocket launches and city control rooms?

BTW, the staff in the control room are doing a great service to the city, kudos and good luck to them to keep my fellow residents safer. May your tribe grow!

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