Before you enroll in a graduate school program in human-computer interaction – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – you should understand the goals of this field of practice and research. Short-term practice-oriented goals of human-computer interaction professionals may be to make sure that an individual software program, wearable form of “smart” technology or other project currently in development aligns with best practices for usability. However, human-computer interaction also has long-term goals, especially in regard to the research aspect of the field. Some long-term goals you might encounter in a career in human-computer interaction include creating computer systems that better match the human mind and expanding the use of computer technology.
Design Computer Systems That Are Closer Match for Human Cognitive Processes
The artificial neural networks used in computer technology and artificial intelligence are generally based on the organic neural networks found in the human brain. However, there are significant differences between the way humans and computers process and communicate information.
Have you ever felt dissatisfied or frustrated with your interactions with an automated chatbot or an interaction with an artificial intelligence-based smart assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home? If so, you know that human thoughts and communications don’t always translate flawlessly to computer technology.
Improving the way computers understand humans is a big component of improving interactions. In terms of accessibility, developing computers that are better able to process human requests and understand intuitive human communication is a better solution than requiring the user to learn to adapt their behavior to match the computer. Otherwise, the use of technology regresses to the days before personal computing existed, when only individuals trained to develop specific technical skills were able to use computers fluently.
How can professionals in the field of human-computer interaction and related areas of computer science and engineering develop technologies that better match the workings of the human mind? One way to accomplish this is to alter the algorithms artificial intelligence systems use for machine learning. When computers can learn and retain information in ways more similar to a human, they are also better equipped to understand the requests and meet the needs of their human users.
A related goal of human-computer interaction research is to design computer technologies to facilitate the development of long-term relationships between users and computers based on relational agents that mimic the factors involved in relationships between humans.
Expand the Use of Computers
It may seem like computers are already a part of every aspect of life. However, one goal in the field of human-computer interaction is to continue to identify opportunities to use computer technology. Professionals in the field are working to expand human interaction with computers by both improving the functionality and usability of technology currently on the market and creating new products and interfaces. They are also constantly looking at the tasks and challenges that could be performed – often faster, more accurately and more easily – by computer software instead of humans.
Although it might seem like the purpose of this goal is simply to expand the use of computers for its own sake, that’s not the case. When deciding how or whether to undertake the process of enhancing or developing computer technology, professionals in human-computer interaction should look at the different factors that make up a technology’s usability. These factors include how effective the technology is, how easy it is to use and learn, how efficient it is, how memorable it is, how safe its use is and how much utility it offers.
It would make very little sense to spend the time, money and resources to develop software that takes longer to achieve the same outcome that humans can achieve without the technology. A technological breakthrough is no breakthrough at all if it is so difficult to learn to use and to remember how to use that these aspects of learnability and memorability get in the way of functionality. The goal isn’t to computerize everything to the point that humans must use technology to get through their lives, regardless of its convenience (or lack thereof), but instead to weave computer technology seamlessly into daily life for the purposes of improving human life.
An additional factor to consider in assessing a technology’s usability is that of user satisfaction. The user’s perspective of usability, and the different factors that make up usability, is important in determining whether users employ the technology regularly.