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The evolution of the human machine interface

Human Machine Interface | Visione Artificiale

The evolution of the Human-Machine Interface, often referred to by the acronym HMI, has certainly been influenced by the ever-increasing development of mobile devices, computers and especially tablets and smartphones.

In fact, these tools require a practical and simple interface that allows users to interact with the machine, i.e. with the computer or telephone, in order to ensure practical and functional use.

When we talk about HMI, we must be careful not to think that it is a new term or, in any case, something born along with computers or telephones. In fact, in recent years, the HMI has certainly evolved but, it can be said, that it was born along with first machines: even a simple switch on a household appliance can be considered as a Human-Machine Interface.

Furthermore, it is good to distinguish among commonly used HMIs, such as those of smartphones and those for specific use, i.e. for instruments and machines that require qualified personnel to be used.

Which means Human-Machine Interface

Beyond the simplifying examples that can allow you to better understand the meaning of Human-Machine Interface, it should be specified that an HMI is not only characterized by a simple lever or button, but also by a software that allows communication between the user and the machine.

In the case of a computer, for example, the mouse and keyboard represent the Human-Machine interfaces, as they allow the transmission of information which is then processed and managed by software.

The most common HMIs are those that are easily understandable, intuitive from the point of view of use, manageable and practical. On the other hand, it is precisely the legislation on the use of HMIs that requires that they are easily usable by everyone, to always guarantee the correct operation of the machine to which they refer.

In a laboratory, for example, the HMIs are above all buttons and commands, which must be interpretable by everyone, even by those who speak other languages, in order to be sure that no errors are made in the understanding by the operator.

For this reason, the 2006 Directive number 42 / EC defines that the characteristics of a Human-Machine Interface must follow certain parameters and obligations, including that of not causing fatigue in the operator who uses it or guaranteeing adequate ergonomics to the type of work that needs to be carried out.

Create simple and human-sized interfaces

As you can easily understand, not all HMIs are the same. In fact, there is a real classification of the HMIs that allows to recognize the different needs of use of the machine according to the disciplines for which it is used.

In the most common case, namely that of computers, tablets and smartphones, HMIs increasingly have an easy-to-impact appearance and use, such as to be defined as user friendly. Of course, we are not talking about the aesthetic aspect, but above all about ergonomics, which allows the user to operate the machine quickly.

The manageability of a technological product is, in fact, essential to guarantee its success. Precisely for this reason, for example, different sizes are created for smartphones: children and adults have different needs, different dexterities and above all, different sizes of hands, so they can find one model more comfortable than another.

For them, the touch-screen function can also be different, depending on whether more or less resistive screens are chosen, a necessity dictated by having different fingers’ size and strength.

The colors of the device, of course, are also fundamental for a correct use and for practical and convenient management. In this case, the possibility of choosing between different colors is certainly a blow for those who work in the field of HMI.

How HMI can evolve

The evolution of technology in recent years has undergone a rapid surge, allowing solutions to be realized in a short time, things that a couple of decades ago were almost science fiction. The same has happened for Human-Machine Interfaces which, in recent years, have made great strides.

Think of the ease with which you open and close folders and programs on computers by simply using icons on the desktop or how easily you use a complex technological element such as a smartphone, by simply touching the screen and selecting the function you need.

Being able to foresee further improvements and evolutions of these systems is probably very complex, however, many experts in the sector are talking about further evolutions in the Human-Machine Interface thanks to the introduction, for example, of capacitive multi-touch-screen,able to speed up the commands of the functions and, above all, to access the various icons on the desktop more easily.

It goes without saying that the evolution of Human-Machine Interface would improve not only the ease with which you can use your mobile devices, but also improve the use of more complex systems, such as machine vision systems, for example.

The HMI in computer vision

The main purpose of machine vision is to reproduce the human sight by creating a three-dimensional model to be produced starting from a two-dimensional model.

For this reason, the relationship between the machines that operate for the transition from 2D to 3D and the men who have to work on the final product is fundamental: we cannot speak of machine vision if we do not also speak of HMI.

The Human Machine Interface in a machine vision system is fundamental, just as the other elements that make up this system, namely the different cameras, the acquisition system or the image processing software.

Just like for the HMI, also for the machine vision systems, the uses can be different, that is they can be of common use or limited to specialists of certain sectors.

For example, in automation and control systems, machine vision represents an important means of identifying defective productions. In this case, the operation of the artificial vision system could be improved thanks to a practical and functional Human-Machine Interface, which would allow monitoring and providing the right commands to the cameras and sensors of the visual system.

We can therefore speak of a real integration of control instruments, for an increase in the precision and speed of the work to be carried out. To ensure the correct functioning of these two systems, it is essential that the hardware and software support are made in such a way as to ensure maximum compatibility between the different devices.

For this reason, it is necessary, if not essential, to select the right Human-Machine Interface to be used along with the different Machine Vision systems.

Conclusions

Being able to predict the direction taken by HMIs and, in particular, the possible and future uses they may have in the various sectors and systems, including those of Machine Vision, is certainly very difficult.

However, taking into account the high progresses achieved in recent years, it is not difficult to hypothesize an increasingly accentuated improvement and, above all, an extended compatibility to different systems.