What is HCI?
HCI is a type of cognitive engineering created by introducing computers into industries – from manufacturing to robotic surgery. The mental process has replaced many of the physical demands of operating and using machinery, tools, and devices. Brute strength, in some cases, has been substituted for intelligence. Cognitive technology must complement computational technology. Therefore, from a design and engineering perspective, the human takes center stage. How can the machine or system be developed to best suit human needs, be easy to learn to use, and work effectively? Enter cognitive science as a player in this scenario, which is the study of the human mind. It takes into account linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and computer science.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over 88% of all chartered planes and 50% of major airline crashes are due to pilot (human) error. For example, Southwest Flight 1455 from Las Vegas to Burbank, California, avoided a devastating impact on March 5, 2000. During landing, the pilots ignored the warning signals for flight speed and descent angle, causing the aircraft to overshoot the runway, plow through a fence, and rest near gasoline pumps—a classic case of human-computer lack of interaction.
From the above example, flight safety benefits HCI, as air travel safety has improved with more advanced cockpit computer systems. Regardless of how autonomous flight becomes with auto-pilots and in-flight diagnostics, humans remain crucial to the machine’s safe operation. The inadvertent nudge of controls resulted in China Eastern Airlines Flight 583 suddenly dropping 5,000 feet while en route from Shangai to Los Angeles.
The pilots can become too reliant on computers during the monotony of long flights and nap in shifts. A 2019 article in PsyPost reported that Canada and Australia allow the pilot and co-pilot to alternate taking controlled rest in position (CRIP) for 40 minutes maximum. Some airlines see brief naps as beneficial – as a means to boost alertness.
HCI and UX (user experience) are cousins with differences. HCI technicians and practitioners focus on the research to understand the user’s viewpoint. UX designers tend to apply the HCI analysis to develop and create a more user-friendly product. One concentrates on the mind, whereas the other (UX) hones in on the machine or device. There must be compatibility between the two. It serves no purpose if the HCI person proposes a brilliant idea for a computerized product, but the UX designer cannot make it. The HCI idea may not be cost-effective or be beyond the capability of the average user. The iPhone has had enormous success due to the ease of its human-computer interface.
On the coattails of design are three usability components – effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. The human-computer interaction should consider each of these to derive the most benefits from anything containing a computer chip.
Because of the billions of users, a smartphone is an excellent example. Humans want it to be effective, meaning it needs to perform the tasks according to its design. However, individuals want it to be efficient, meaning to function swiftly. Speed has to match the device’s effectiveness; otherwise, a warp-speed phone is not beneficial if it lacks efficiency. In this endeavor, the technicians and developers use psychology to meet the users’ expectations.
Apple has managed to captivate the buyers’ attention by creating an efficient and effective product, which results in customer satisfaction. Neglecting the latter will not generate new sales every time the iPhone receives upgrades. The majority of buyers own an iPhone when they purchase a more recent model. It has become a status symbol – other phones do the same, but it’s not an iPhone. The loyalty allowed Apple to capture almost 24% of the cell phone market in the fourth quarter of 2020 and $65.6 billion in sales! The company has mastered HCI.
Individuals who use Word, Excel, Google Docs, and other user-friendly software reap HCI benefits. When these products are in the development stages, the HCI practitioners analyze the average user. Make the software too difficult to use will lead to frustration. Microsoft Windows and Apple’s operating systems brought computer technology into homes. Children quickly adapted to these products as entertainment and education sources. Office personnel benefited by expanding productivity, communication, and efficiency. Laborious handwritten memos and spreadsheets became obsolete once computers performed these quicker and more professionally. User-centered design and user interface design married the human with the computer (product) for optimum benefit.
Whether the item is a vacuum cleaner or the da Vinci robotic surgical system, it must meet the user’s requirements. The da Vinci system requires extensive training and surgical skills, unlike the household vacuum. Both recognize the user’s benefits. For the surgeon, she/he performs delicate, precise surgeries aided by a high-definition 3D camera. The benefits are a greater range of motion, less infection, less blood loss, and faster recovery—a win-win for the patient and the physician.