7. Feedback and Testing

Given the high degree of innovation expected by the project, the partners decided from the beginning to involve the archaeological community in the development of the ArchAIDE system, in order to create a tool that responded to user needs. For this reason, five 'Training Open Days' and two 'Multiplier Events' were held in order to effectively engage the project stakeholder communities, providing feedback, allowing users to test the functionality of the ArchAIDE tools and obtain information about technical specifications. These events were intended as one-day seminars with the aim of creating interaction between prospective ArchAIDE users and the project team before the completion of the expected results. These events also served as a first opportunity to encourage users with different archaeological backgrounds and interests to communicate effectively with each other, and to understand shared issues.

7.1 Training and feedback

Entrepreneurs and users from professional associations also shared their perspectives with researchers about what the labour market needs, while students and PhD candidates in archaeology or related areas had the opportunity to explore the versatility of a tool also designed to be used as a training tool for those archaeology students learning how to classify pottery. The 'Training Open Days' were held in Italy (Spoletino and Pisa), in the UK (Brighton), and in Germany (Bonn), whereas the Multiplier Events were held in the UK and in Spain.

The first multiplier event was organised on 7 December 2017 by the ADS at the University of York. The event took the form of a discussion workshop to explain the aims and activities of the project, and to show the first release of the app using appearance-based recognition (Figure 16). As this was near the mid-point of the project, it was a key opportunity to collect important feedback from the participants while there was a tangible output to demonstrate, but with enough time to make changes based on this feedback. Around 25 professional and academic archaeologists attended the event, resulting in a very fruitful discussion around different issues. Significant feedback was collected and can be found here.

Figure 16: Video of feedback from archaeologists participating in ArchAIDE workshops around Europe (3 mins 37 seconds) Taken from ArchAIDE consortium (2019)

On 3 December 2018, the University of Pisa organised the second multiplier event, with 29 specialists from different museums, research institutions and professionals (Figure 17). During the event, it was possible to test the ArchAIDE app, both with the image recognition tool using Montelupo pottery, and with the new shape recognition tool, using Terra Sigillata Italica, thanks to the Archaeological Archive of the Museu d'Història de Barcelona, whose staff made its pottery assemblages available for the event. The specialists were able to test the ArchAIDE app over two hours, allowing the project to receive important feedback leading to further refinement. This approach showed the ways that ArchAIDE seeks not to become a substitute for pottery specialists, but to provide a useful tool that automates only the time-consuming and repetitive activities, ensuring archaeologists are the ones to confirm the identification. This created a generally open-minded and positive mood towards ArchAIDE, although some scepticism persisted among senior archaeologists.

Figure 17
Figure 17: Professional and academic pottery specialists at the Pisa Workshop, 2018

7.2 Testing

The performance of the ArchAIDE tools was tested on both desktop and mobile devices. The performance checks were based on the following parameters:

These parameters were computed after testing the app numerous times on multiple different sherds, by following a randomisation procedure. The testing procedure allowed the identification of critical functions of the app, particularly during the first development phase, and helped to identify the main sources of errors and areas for improvement.

One of the main tasks of the project was devoted to creating two testing scenarios related to different applications. One type concerned small and medium sized enterprises (SME) involved in contract archaeology. These users are heavily constrained by constant digging activity, handling great volumes of material and having short timeframes for their research. The second type of user is Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and research centres. These users may also face restrictions similar to archaeological SMEs, especially during fieldwork seasons abroad or in remote/isolated areas. In many circumstances, however, academic users have facilities (research buildings) with suitable equipment for post-excavation. Moreover, the second user group is not constrained by needing to undertake constant digging activity, as fieldwork is only scheduled during certain periods of the year. Thus, the objective was to test the app in these two different scenarios.

Figure 18
Figure 18: One of the many testing events carried out in Spain, Italy and Germany

The goal of the testing events was to assess the design of the mobile and desktop apps for the acquisition and identification of sherds, and the search and retrieval component to automatically match and classify a sherd according to the digital comparative collections produced during the project (Figure 18). For archaeological SMEs the tests were developed in the field or during post-excavation, while in the HEIs testing was carried out in their facilities with a selection of well-studied exemplars. Testing was conducted on large numbers of specimens that were automatically classified according to typology (shape recognition) but also according to decoration (image recognition). All on-site testing was performed during the final year of the project and in different urban excavations in Palma (Can Coll, Plaça de Cort, Convent de Sant Bartomeu d'Inca and La Misericòrdia), Andratx (Tower of Sa Mola and Castell de Son Mas) and Toledo (Real Street and Cuesta de los Portugueses Street). Different pottery assemblages included types chosen as case studies by ArchAIDE, such as pottery from the Roman city of Pollentia, Castle of Capdepera, Roman city of Ercávica, Roman city of Laminium, Roman city of Libisosa, Roman villa in Cabañas de la Sagra and different assemblages stored at the Archaeological Archive of the Museu d'Història de Barcelona, belonging to survey excavations within the city of Barcelona (Figure 19).

Figure 19
Figure 19: Testing at the ArchAIDE final conference in Pisa, 2019


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