The Human-Computer Interface:
Human Computer Interface (HCI), is the study of how humans interact with computers, and it uses productivity, entertainment and safety to ensure the fulfillment of human-computer activities. HCI focuses more on finding methods and techniques that support the ways people interact with computer systems, and is categorized into two broad spheres of study i.e. usability and user experience. Usability focuses on the product being functionally helpful and easy to use while user experience focuses more on interactions such as enjoyment, engagement, and aesthetic pleasure while using the computer system.
Haptic Feedback: Uses and importance:
This is an interfacing technology that uses sense of touch to provide response to users of some computing devices by means of vibrations, forces or motions thus making user experience more real. The two types of haptic feedback technologies available are tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (force) feedback. Tactile feedback is technology embedded in appliances that operate through touch sensation e.g. smartphones to simulate the sensation of tapping on the screen, but it does not interfere with the system functions.
Kinesthetic feedback makes use of muscles and tendons to produce a sensation of force being applied on the user of the system. Force feedback is mostly used in devices that use robotic manipulators to apply forces corresponding to the operating environment against the user. It involves an effector device that produces desired change in an object in response to a given command. The technology is usually applied in virtual reality gaming to provide a better gaming experience.
Haptic feedback is widely used technology in modern computing devices such as smart phones, gaming consoles and other hand-held devices. It is extensively applied in assistive technologies for persons with disabilities and impairments. For example, haptic mice help visually impaired users to use their computer while medical training centers use haptic feedback to teach surgeons how to perform minimally invasive and remote surgical procedures.
Human Memory and its impact on HCI:
There are three types of human memory, namely, long term, short term and sensory memory. Sensory memory is the shortest since it gets its information from the five human senses of touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing, and is kept for a short time period before it is discarded. Short term memory is the second stage in memory and it gets information from humans paying attention to what they perceive. Short term memory only lasts until we pay attention to something else e.g. we see many different objects everyday but we are only able to remember a limited number of them at the end. These objects are the ones stored in the short term memory. Long term memory refers to the continued storage of information with time. This information usually consists of associated events and objects that are stored in the brain for a prolonged amount of time.
System designers and engineers use the knowledge of how human memory works to get better ways of designing interfaces that are easy to use, grasp and recall for continuous and repetitive use. This ensures affordance, creates interest, and draws the user’s attention to the task being performed on the application.
Consistency and potential impacts of not using it in HCI:
Consistency allows users of the application interfaces to transfer their knowledge from one application to another and not feel the need to relearn anything in the system e.g. Microsoft offers a standard way of closing windows applications, icons that can be clicked to perform specific tasks, and these features are consistent through all their applications. The potential impact of not using consistency in HCI is that it may lead to unpredictability since users do not know what to expect from the application after performing an action. Confusion can also occur e.g. changing metaphors can confuse a user as to what the metaphor means, and errors will start to occur since the user does not know what the system expects of them.
The user-centric design process:
This is a process geared towards making interactive systems more usable by incorporating human factors, usability knowledge and techniques. It also requires that users participate in the entire process. The first step in this process is requirements gathering where the designer has to visualize the design concept as a solution to a market problem. It involves performing conducting research on the target users to know their tasks and goals. This helps the designer to figure out how the proposed interface will help users perform their tasks better. The second step is designing a prototype of the proposed system from the information gathered during the requirement analysis. The prototype which is a working model of the system, is shown to the user/client for evaluation and at this stage, the user can make suggestions on the possible improvements that can be made on the prototype.
The third step after coming up with a working prototype is to construct the main application system using information added during the design stage. This process is done iteratively until all user requirements are met. The testing stage comes right after constructing the main design and it involves the designer testing the interface for errors, and also gives them an opportunity to fix bugs that may crop up when the interface has been deployed. Users are also involved in this stage since it affords them an opportunity to check if their expectations are met. The process is iterative since the user can still propose new changes over time, and the designers can also fix bugs and flaws discovered during testing.
The last step is in this process is implementation/deployment of the final system interface and it involves installing the system and training users how to interact with it. Further steps at this stage include maintenance, repairs in the eventuality of errors, and performing upgrades.
Role of human motion in HCI design:
Technological advancements have made it possible to develop systems that translate human motions into computer reactions. Such systems are able to assess human motions using a customized set of codes to display appropriate responses on the user interface. Examples of such devices, systems and applications include mobile phones, gaming consoles, and media players. The systems have sensors that track human motion or gestures which are then recognized by the machine, and an appropriate response is shown. For example, Leap Motion Company produced a product that monitors user movements, derives their meaning, and performs a certain function such as drawing on a screen or navigating websites. This technology uses a mounted camera to continuously check and track user motion.
Another example is the Cybernet system used by the United State government for counter terrorism and defense surveillance. It is used in fields such as voice recognition, terrain monitoring, and vision tracking. Systems that use human motion have also been utilized as assistive technologies in the medical field to help disabled persons interact with their computers and other systems using gestures such as head movements, or speech. The Naval Research Laboratory has also conducted research on human motion and designed robots that emulate human behavior. In this case, users can indicate the direction for the machine to move through speech or gestures such as pointing.
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