Telly vision in need of improvement

It is too early to say whether my new exercise regime – having a bite to eat before starting a run – is a breakthrough or not; I need to collect more data. Before you conclude that I am just making an excuse for not being able to report any improvement, I can say that I do feel a greater level of energy towards the end of my runs, but this could be due to a myriad of factors. Maybe I did not exert myself as much during the early and middle stages. Maybe the weather was better, the wind at my back. Maybe I was more rested. Maybe it was the placebo effect: I believed I would have more energy so I felt that I did. As you can see, for the experiment I am conducting, there is no single variable to correlate with the result. Many parameters interact in a complex way to produce success or otherwise in a single run. As with many complex systems, especially those involving humans, such as an NDT inspection, seeing the path forward to the answer is not easy because there is a myriad of possibilities. Once you know the result, it is generally an easy process to use hindsight to show how the evidence supports the outcome or at least the favoured hypothesis.

Whilst pondering on this latest attempt to slow the deterioration of what little athletic prowess I had and feeling a little sorry for myself, I built a web of connected thoughts around encounters with the latest domestic technology. I have always enjoyed music, despite lacking a musical ear, and I was quite happy when I went off to university with a transistor radio and a tape cassette player. I was then exposed to a world of which I had no knowledge; a world of amplifiers, equalisers, woofers, tweeters and record decks with a finely balanced stylus. It was a world of high fidelity. I fully understand the desire to listen to quality tones, although I did, and still do, wonder about the benefits of using such high-performance equipment in a small space and with the human receptor likely to be of variable quality. Digital subsequently replaced analogue, offering better performance, but vinyl has seen a resurgence in recent times because people prefer the sound produced.

Moving on a few decades and from ears to eyes, I had a similar experience as I encountered the world of LED televisions: OLED; QLED; 4K; 8K; HDR; and UHD. I was quite happy with the old TV but, despite manipulating the colour balances, there were complaints that the picture was too blue. As we all know, blue light is tiring on the eyes and blue light at night can affect sleep patterns. The TV was replaced. Although the environment may have a somewhat lower impact on a TV picture than on the output from a sound system, both are ultimately filtered by human receivers, which, as with athletic ability, suffer from age deterioration. There are two lessons from this fact.

The first is that the human body is very good at adaptation. So you get used to having slightly below-par vision, not hearing the full range of tones and just plodding along at a constant perceived level of exertion. Only when you are shown an alternative do you realise that improvements could be made. When you finally accept that your eyesight is no longer as good as it was and get a prescription for a pair of spectacles, the improvement in clarity makes you wonder why you did not do it earlier.

‘Augmentation’ is a term being used more and more in relation to advanced technology assisting in human performance. In reality, augmentation has been around since the first magnifying glass or hearing horn. It can be used to bring human performance up to a predetermined standard or to take it beyond existing limitations. NDT has long mandated augmentation by way of eye tests being conditional for the award of certification. At the high-technology end of the spectrum, artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied to assist operators in the analysis of data and images.

Whilst it is much more exciting to perform research into AI, it would be a mistake to ignore lower technology options to make it easier for operators to perform reliably. I am aware that equipment is being produced incorporating such aids. The question this month is: what are we not doing that could be simple to implement? I recently came across a document on colour schemes for the display of data and I wondered whether the NDT community was applying best practice in this area. It may be and, if so, I would like to know more. My own experience of analysing automated ultrasonic data started at the beginning with three colour pen plots using alphabetic characters, which I still have an affinity for today. This was replaced with colour palettes of different sizes. Are we still allowing the technology to determine the display? Or are we selecting the image display to augment the operator in the analysis task?

In the meantime, I will be booking an optician’s appointment to augment my TV experience and be better able to read all the comments generated by this article.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Jacobs or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX, UK. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438301; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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