Ahh yes, remember the dot com days when manufacturers were scrambling to web enable toasters, coffee pots, alarm clocks, and every appliance you can think of? This too shall pass. Certainly, a touch screen can be a powerful interface, but my toothbrush probably won't need one.
Your point about not having to open the manual goes right to the heart of Cadillac's effort to build a better touch screen. If you recall, they travelled with consumers (in one case joining them on vacation) to find out how people learn about their devices. Their discovery: Most consumers don't want to use their manuals. Surprise!
I think there are plenty of customers that share your sentiments. I definitely do. I think the HMIs done right will hand you the bells and whistles, but in a way that is dummy proof--that even the computing uninitated can figure out on their own. At the risk of being called an Apple zealot here, the iPhone/iPad interface is just like that. Even if you're not familar with the commands or have ever pursued high-level functionality, it's pretty simple to play around and find yourself doing something you never thought you would be able to do before. That's how appliances should function. You should not have to open the manual to figure out how to turn on the coffee or set the timer. If you have to, the interface is a failure, in my book.
That's one of the aspects of consumer demand I don't understand, Beth. Apparently, consumers demand more bells and whistles, and the devices invariably get harder to use. Are there no consumers left who want simplicity? I don't want to waste my time figuring out how to use all six buttons on my wristwatch (so I can display Greenwich Mean Time just in case I need it) and I'm always surprised that there apparently aren't more consumers who feel the same way.
I agree with you, Chuck. Every mainstream product will embrace the touch screen over the next few years. Some of those everyday appliances--dish washers, washers, dryers--are so much easier to use and feel so much more high-tech with those interfaces. But I think sometimes it's overkill. Who needs a coffee pot with too many bells and whistles or a toaster, for that matter. Designers have to apply the new interface technology when and where it makes sense.
I agree, Beth. And this is why every product -- stove, fridge, washer, dryer, television, etc -- will be using touchscreens in the near future. They'll have to in order to keep up with consumer expectations.
@Chuck: A four-year-old's dexterity with gestures and touch screen interaction is pretty incredible, but not surprising. I can't tell you how often I see kids--really small kids--glued to their parent's iPad whether it's on the grocery store check out line, the doctor's waiting room, or even in a restaurant as a source of distraction. These interfaces are ingrained in our kids from the earliest age and they will expect no less when it comes to operating any kind of product that they buy as consumer when they grow up.
Great point about the pervasiveness of iPad-type user interfaces, Beth. While I was doing the story, an engineer told me that his four-year-old son recently tried to use his fingers to manipulate a washing machine screen while the family was looking at products at Best Buy. The fact that a four-year-old is already conversant with touch screen technology tells us a lot about that pervasiveness that you mentioned.
Thanks, Craig. Glad you liked my humor and that someone else knows what I mean. "Silent and obedient"--yes! Sometimes my train of thought is fragile, and sometimes it's so fast that I hate wasting time interacting through such a slo-o-o-w medium as two-way full-duplex speech, or even just listening to a bunch of beeps. Besides, it's just a machine, a tool. I prefer to have conversations with actual living beings.
And you're right, there are several different preferences for UIs. So why do we get stuck with just one on a given machine?
One other question. A key trend for industrial factory HMIs is that they are often also serving as the main controller for the machine. Most are PC based architectures increasingly using Windows because of the flexibility. Does this approach also compete effectively with that approach? Can envision an appliance or other products might have entirely different HMI needs.
As manufacturers add new technologies to their products, designing for compliance becomes more difficult. Prepare for the certification testing process. Otherwise, you increase the risk of discovering a safety issue after a product leaves the assembly line. That will cause significant time-to-market delays, be much costlier to fix, and damage your brand in the eyes of customers.
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