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Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)

1. What is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)?

HCI is focused essentially on developing practical understandings between users and computers. The concept of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) needs to remain very broad, as it now encompasses almost all types of Information Technology (IT). HCI is the study of designing computers and machines so they best serve their users ( humans). It is linked to the field of User Experience (UX) design and is recognized by many as the forefather of this modern approach. HCI is mainly focused on academics, whereas, UX designers will mainly be focused with forming new human-focused applications, products, or services. This means HCI is focused mainly on developing practical understandings of users, which can then serve to acquaint the work of on-the-ground UX designers.

2. Why does HCI matter?

HCI is the study of how computers and machines can serve us adequately. It might sound simple, but this field is so fast-moving and interesting in the 21st century that it’s encouraged to bring around some of our proudest inventions, like self-driving cars, virtual and augmented reality, and touch screen technology.

The information that HCI researchers compile is used to constantly improvise the world of UX design. The notion of intuitive machine usability will stagnate without constant polling, testing, and data collection. IT products, such as laptops and phones, will continue to be produced in ways that will stop serving the end-user.

Human-Computer Interaction allows User Interface (UI) and UX designers to design better, more user-focused computers, helping every consumer of that product or service. From ensuring machines continue to operate in safe, secure, and user-friendly ways, to allow users of all abilities to interact with computers, HCI is valuable in making sure that computers are designed for successful and spontaneous human use.

3. How did HCI develop and evolve?

The field of Human-Computer Interaction has evolved tremendously since its inception. The first personal computers (PCs) originally required extensive training to use them properly, and unsurprisingly suffered from a large amount of end-user experience flaws. Easy tasks, such as moving the cursor or deleting text, were never-before-seen difficulties presented to users, all of which presented significant hurdles to the usability of the computer. This is when HCI came to study how and why machines could be made more user-friendly in the early 1980s. The field of study rapidly grew to cover almost all forms of IT. While it originally addressed issues that only first-time users of products would face, HCI evolved to include considerations for qualities such as:

  • Fun/user enjoyment.
  • Well-being (i.e. a system that encourages addiction or otherwise causes too much dependence on it will be deemed bad for the well-being of a user).
  • Collective efficiency (meaning that “the assurance a person places in his or her team affects the team’s overall performance”).
  • Flow (basically how users make use of and/or move through an interface).
  • Support for human development.

Although the field of Human-Computer Interaction has grown remarkably since its inception, it will continue to evolve as more is discovered about both users and computers. This is because HCI can only be so good as our understanding of ourselves is, as philosophers and behavior psychologists investigate deeper into understanding how and why we as humans act, HCI can unfold accordingly, to create devices and machines that are ever more closely connected to our human psyches.

4. What is the future of Human-Computer Interaction?

HCI wants technology, which provides a window into a seemingly advanced future, to be as natural and available in our everyday lives as possible. The latest prototypes, for which companies around the world are using HCI theories to develop, are:

a. To simulate contact sensations of softness, stiffness, springiness, and more when using virtual reality, dexta haptic gloves were invented. The gloves mimic these sensations by locking and unlocking the joints of the user's fingers to varying degrees as they communicate with their VR and come in contact with objects.

b. Pre-touch recognition allows the smartphone to read your mind. Pre-touch phones should be able to grasp how the user is treating them as soon as they launch or whose fingers are touching the screen, to anticipate the user’s intentions. This would offer the impression that before you even give your phone a simple order, your phone can read your mind as you perform actions.

c. PaperID is the next attempt at digitizing paper, by making it into a touchscreen. This new technology supposedly will give the paper “the ability to sense its surroundings and respond to gesture commands, as well as connect to the IoT (Internet of Things)”. The idea is to link the physical and the digital world together, for example, imagine - a page of sheet music that can detect the motion of a conductor’s wand being waved over it!

That's just a small glimpse into what, when we adopt HCI, the future of technology could look like.

Technology's architecture is continually driven to new heights. Computers need to be more thoughtfully built than ever due to the rapidly evolving nature of technology in the 21st century. In every consumer's view, a poor user interface would stand out. Via HCI, we see the construction of intuitive technology, virtual reality, and more powerful robots, using our origins as human beings, to allow technology to better serve us. Human-computer interaction, above all, opens up new possibilities in the modern world.

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