Very cool development and one that puts Freescale squarely ahead of a trend that I don't see any signs of stopping. With more and more people (overly) dependent on smart phones and tablets for everything related to both work and play, there's no doubt that people are expecting the same ease of use and intuitive user interface in every kind of electronics/appliance/piece of gear they touch. Why settle for less when the touch and gesture interface popularized by Apple is so pervasive. If I can intuitively use my smart phone to access my home security system, why shouldn't I be able to employ the same interface to control industrial automation system or my fridge. I think this trend will go gangbusters over the next year and Freescale's new multicore processor is only going to help.
I agree, Beth. Freescale, as well as other chip makers moving in the same direction, are on to something important. When you see a company like Cadillac use iPhone capabilities in their touch screens, then you know it must be solidly in the mainstream.
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
Interesting partitioning of tasks between the two processors, and one that makes a lot of sense. The HMI/GUI continues to get more complicated as a greater proportion of electronics users are consumers, and a smaller proportion are engineers, as the iPhonization of industrial applications continues. In the ancient old days of much lousier, less intuitive UIs we had to put up with quite a lot of confusing interactions. OTOH, some people (my husband included) find the command line interface a much more powerful way to interact with the machine. Well, yes, if you actually need to program the thing. Personally, I'd prefer a one-way non-vocal Siri: I talk, it listens, figures out what I want, and does it, with no talking back. Meanwhile I'm on to the next thought and task.
Oh that's classic Ann!! "...with no talking back." I don't want my 'hardware' to talk to me either! We each want a different UI according to what we like. And I like all my (non-audio) hardware silent and obedient! "STOP that BEEPing!!" I find a train of thought to be very fragile and noise is distracting.
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?
Charles, it seems that integration of two tasks in a chip, where real-time applications and domain specific applications. I think such hybrid model chips have to develop further, so that they are more compactable to the board and efforts can be minimize.
This sounds like a much better approach than conventional methods where HMI's either use one mutitasking processor for communication, screen updates and background processing or two seporate processors, one being used for communications alone. This all in one approach is bound to be much more effiecent.
Chuck, Excellent article. There's no question but that industrial HMIs will be providing all types of additional computing options from animations and video-based instruction manuals and other applications. As PCs in particular continue to provide additional processing power, and operating systems go to the next level, the Industrial HMI becomes the portal to the machine more and more. Thanks.
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.
Are they robots or androids? We're not exactly sure. Each talking, gesturing Geminoid looks exactly like a real individual, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.