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Redefining HMI in the intelligent age

Looking at how common smart technologies have become, it is hard to imagine that they have only came into existence in recent times. Impressive as it may seem, what we are witnessing is only the tip of the iceberg. Technology giants around the world are driving rapid developments, creating increasingly smarter systems to aid our decision-making processes and provide more active assistance in our everyday lives.

Experts anticipate that smart systems will evolve so significantly that they will soon be able to react in ways that exceed normal expectations, such as the ability to plan and react to unknown situations, and to learn and adapt over their life cycles. Combining incoming sensor data with knowledge about contexts and about their own internal workings, such systems can even attain powers of prediction outside of their set boundaries.

Such advancements move smart systems ever closer to the genesis of their design: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

HMI and Artificial Intelligence

As a concept that originated to enable machines to handle tasks that normally required human intelligence, AI changed people’s perception of machines and what they were capable of. More importantly, it transformed the way humans interacted with machines, and today it is the field of Human-Machine Interface (HMI) that has taken on a whole new level of importance with the meteoric rise of ever smarter systems.

The quality of HMI plays an integral part in the performance of smart systems, and that is why engineers are continually innovating for better, more intuitive designs. Human gesture controls and interfaces, intelligent displays, image recognition, voice controls, etc. These are just some of the evolving technologies of HMI, all of which are aimed at improving user friendliness and intuitiveness, and allowing humans to have better control and more efficient interaction with machines. 

The Future of HMI

Looking to the future, it is widely accepted that innovations in HMI will rise to become the core of advancements in smart technologies. As intelligent systems will not only replicate human capabilities, but also provide humans with additional capabilities that biological evolution has not imbued us with, the relationship between humans and machine will become even more intertwined and the interaction will undergo even greater changes. In fact, the degree in which human senses are used for technical interaction with machines will be a major driving force that determine how far advancements will go.

To this end, innovators of HMI are involving user experiences in smart system developments, and this is especially pertinent in the smart home sector where end users are usually lay people with no affinity towards technology. Good HMI design must allow users to understand the behaviors of the systems, which in turn must appear plausible to them. Soft factors, such as the system explaining itself or giving feedback to users during interaction, not only play a major role in improving the quality of interactions but also allow machines to imitate emotional behaviors that encourage acceptance and usage. 

Responsible Innovation

Breakthroughs in HMI will pave the way for greater innovations in intelligent technologies. But while that fascinating outcome will undoubtedly enhance our lives and well-being in dramatic ways, leading proponents from diverse fields are urging greater responsibility to prevent unintended consequences. Among them, world acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and technopreneur Elon Musk share the view that AI, in the form of self-learning systems in particular, is capable of rivalling and exceeding human intelligence in the very near future.

What is essential then is a set of ethical principles to guide innovators in their pursuits. Between responsible boundaries and the far limits of human imagination, we can be certain that the relationship human and machines will continue to grow stronger, and the very meaning of human-machine interaction will continue to be redefined. 

 

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