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What is Human Computer Interaction? A Comprehensive Guide with Examples

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9th Jun, 2023
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What is Human Computer Interaction? A Comprehensive Guide with Examples

Technology has impacted every part of our lives in the modern world, from cell phones to smart houses. However, careful consideration of the user experience was necessary for technology to advance. Human-computer interaction (HCI) enters the picture in this situation. Human-computer interfaces (HCI) is a specialized area of study and research that focuses on developing interactive and user-friendly HCI. This article will try to cover everything from the basics of human-computer interaction to its examples, goals and scope.

What is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)?

The study of human-computer interaction, or HCI, focuses on how people use computers, particularly in relation to technological design. To create intuitive technologies and products, HCI is integrated with user-centered design, UI, and UX.

HCI experts think about how to design and implement computer systems that are user-friendly for humans. Most of this study is concerned with improving human-computer interaction by improving how users use and understand an interface. To get an understanding of HCI in detail, head over to Executive PG Program in Machine Learning & AI from IIITB.

The Meteoric Rise of HCI

The emergence of HCI coincided with the rise of personal computing in the 1980s, as devices like the Apple Macintosh, IBM PC 5150, and Commodore 64 began to appear in offices and homes in unprecedented quantities. The general public now had access to high-end electronic devices for uses like word processors, gaming consoles, and accountancy tools for the first time. Therefore, it became more and more important to design human-computer interaction that was equally simple and effective for less experienced users as computers were no longer room-sized, costly machinery that was only created for professionals in specialized areas. From its inception, HCI would grow to encompass a number of fields, including computer science, cognitive science, and human-factors engineering. 

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HCI immediately attracted significant scholarly attention. HCI researchers and practitioners see it as a key tool for popularizing the notion that user contact with computers should resemble an ongoing conversation between two people. Researchers in HCI first focussed on enhancing desktop computers’ usability (i.e., practitioners concentrated on how simple computers are to learn and use). However, as new technologies like the Internet and smartphones proliferated, computer use began to shift away from the desktop and towards mobile platforms. 

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The UX Value of HCI and Its Related Realms

User-centered design (UCD), user interface (UI) design, and user experience (UX) design are overlapping subfields of the large topic of human-computer interaction (HCI). HCI was the precursor to UX design in many aspects.

Nevertheless, there are still some distinctions between HCI and UX design. HCI practitioners frequently have a stronger academic focus. They engage in empirical user research and user understanding development. On the other hand, UX designers are basically always involved in creating products or services, such as websites and mobile apps. Despite this gap, the practical issues for products that UX designers care about are directly related to the research of HCI experts about users’ viewpoints. Although much of the research is still appropriate for academic audiences, UX designers have access to a wealth of materials thanks to the wider range of issues that HCI covers. Designers also don’t have the luxury of time that HCI professionals normally do. Designers must therefore go beyond the limitations imposed by their sector in order to get these more academic insights. When someone succeeds in doing that, they may use important insights to produce the greatest designs for their users. Designers can influence significant changes in the market and society by “collaborating” in this way with the HCI community. Understand the breakthrough of HCI and related topics by mastering Executive PG Program in Data Science & Machine Learning from university of Maryland.

Importance of HCI

Designing user-friendly interfaces that people with various skills and levels of expertise may easily use requires HCI. Most importantly, groups lacking formal training and knowledge on interfacing with certain computing systems might benefit from human-computer interaction.

Users do not have to think about the complexity and intricacies of using the computing system thanks to effective HCI designs. Clear, accurate, and natural user interactions are made possible through user-friendly interfaces.

Let’s examine the role that HCI plays in our daily lives.

1. HCI in daily lives

Technology today has affected our daily activities and seeped into our routine lives. One does not need to own or use a smartphone or computer to experience HCI technology. People invariably come into contact with HCI when they use an ATM, a vending machine that sells food, or a snack machine. This is due to the crucial role HCI plays in creating these systems’ user-friendly and effective interfaces.

2. Industry

HCI is frequently seen as a crucial business-driving force in industries that depend on computing technology for daily operations. Systems with effective design make sure that workers feel at ease utilizing them for daily tasks. Systems are simple to use with HCI, even for untrained workers.

Designing safety systems, such as those used in power plants or air traffic control (ATC), requires a strong understanding of HCI. In these instances, the goal of HCI is to ensure that any non-expert person can use the system and handle safety-critical situations if necessary.

3. Accessible to disabled

Designing systems that are accessible, useful, effective, and safe for everyone is the main goal of HCI. This suggests that systems created with HCI may be used with ease by people with a wide range of skills, knowledge, and abilities. It includes those with disabilities as well. In order to make systems usable for individuals with impairments, HCI frequently relies on user-centered methodologies and techniques.

4. An integral part of software success

HCI is a crucial component of businesses that create software for end users. These businesses create software products using HCI principles in order to make them usable. Following HCI principles are essential since the product’s usability determines whether or not it will be purchased since the end-user will ultimately utilize it.

5. Useful for untrained communities

User guides for common computer systems are now quite rare. User manuals are a rarity in modern, complicated computing systems. Users anticipate that the systems will be simple to use and provide them access to it after a few minutes of engaging with it. Here, HCI is a useful tool that designers may make use of to create user-friendly interfaces. The use of the systems is not complicated and does not call for specialized training thanks to HCI principles. HCI thus adapts computing systems to a society without formal training.

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Components of Human-Computer Interaction

Computing system design is influenced by a number of significant aspects. When examining a design or developing a new user interface for the intended audience, HCI researchers pose a variety of questions. To design effective HCI systems, every aspect must be carefully taken into account, including the audience type, their behaviors, and the technological and social constraints. The following are some of the most essential components in the design of HCI systems.

  • Users: Without a doubt, the design of every technology revolves around its users. Researchers invest a lot of time analyzing the needs and expectations of the target audience because the main goal of these technologies is to better the lives of people. Processes like user research assist in revealing crucial information regarding the user component of HCI. In order to create a user-centered design that ensures utility and usability, it is helpful to understand the requirements of the intended audience.
  • Tools : Without the proper tools, no technology, artifact, or interface can be made. Certain tools are required for the data collection, analysis, prototyping, and evaluation phases in the creation of modern HCI technologies. Several UI/UX tools are helpful in this process, aiding in the development of successful designs. It should be emphasized that the design of any technology or interface is an iterative process, thus the tools must be strong and adaptable enough to support iterations.
  • Tasks: It’s crucial to take into account both the requirements of a human user and the actions that they’ll often carry out with an interface. In order to comprehend the user journey, designers might utilize techniques like task analysis, where they generate multiple activities and scenarios. The architectural layout of user interfaces becomes more targeted and task-oriented once the user journey has been properly mapped.
  • Context: The observation of actual users interacting with technology in their own environments is very important to user researchers. People may use mobile devices, for instance, while lounging on a couch or riding the tube; the context affects how they use technology. Designers may gain insight into human emotions and behaviors by using methods like contextual inquiry and interviews. When it comes to context, HCI takes into account all the human and societal elements that may affect the type and degree of technological contact.
  • Interfaces: Another important element of HCI is the human-computer interface. User interactions are made possible by the interface itself, which aids users in utilizing the design to their advantage and achieving their objectives. The computer interface needs to be both clever and straightforward. The affordances and constraints of design must be clearly communicated whether it is a built-in interface or an external device connected to the HCI system.

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Examples of HCI

Below mentioned are the examples of HCI:

1. IoT technology

Our daily lives have been substantially touched by IoT devices and applications. Global IoT endpoints are anticipated to reach 14.4 billion in 2022 and increase to 27 billion (approximately) by 2025, according to a May 2022 analysis by IoT Analytics. Users of these gadgets have a tendency to collect data as they use them, which aids in understanding various user interaction patterns. IoT businesses have the ability to make important business decisions that will ultimately determine their future revenues and profits.

‘Paper ID’ is a further advancement in HCI. The paper serves as a touchscreen, senses its surroundings, recognises movements, and communicates with other Internet of Things devices. Fundamentally, it digitizes the paper and performs actions based on motions by emphasizing aspects related to Human-Computer Interaction.

2. Eye-tracking technology

Based on the gaze point, eye tracking determines where a person is looking. Eye-tracking technology uses cameras to record the user’s gaze as well as some built-in lighting for clarity. Additionally, for precise gaze recognition, these gadgets employ machine learning algorithms and image processing tools.

These eye-tracking devices can be used by businesses to keep track of their employees’ visual attentiveness. It can aid businesses in controlling staff distractions and improving their attention on the task. In this way, eye-tracking technology and HCI-enabled interactions might assist businesses in keeping tabs on the day-to-day activities of their staff members.

3. Speech recognition technology

Speech recognition software accomplishes the task for the user by interpreting human language, deriving meaning from it, and doing the task. Because of the development of chatbots and virtual assistants, this technology has recently experienced substantial growth in popularity.

For instance, speech recognition is used in products like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa to allow users to interact with their automobiles, devices, and other objects. 

4. AR/VR technology

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are immersive technologies that let people engage with the digital environment and get more done every day. Smart glasses, for instance, provide seamless and hands-free user engagement with computing systems. Take a chef as an example who wants to learn a new dish. The chef may learn and make the desired food at the same time thanks to smart glass technology.

Additionally, the method greatly lowers system downtime. This suggests that since some smart AR/VR glasses are supported by applications, system errors or issues can be fixed in real-time by maintenance teams.  As a result, AR/VR technology combined with HCI ensures that the task is completed with the fewest errors possible while also achieving improved precision and quality.

5. Cloud computing

Companies in a variety of industries are using remote task forces today.  Given the current trend, traditional workplaces will undergo a significant reorganization and complete transformation in a few decades. Such adaptable workspaces are now a reality because of cloud computing and human-computer interaction.

Additionally, by utilizing cloud-based SaaS services, a worker can access data on the cloud from any location in the world. Because of SaaS and HCI, the concept of conventional offices will eventually become obsolete.

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Goals of HCI

The main goal of HCI is to create useful systems that are efficient, safe, and usable for people. The developer community can accomplish this goal by meeting the requirements listed below:

  • Understanding of how users interact with computing systems.
  • Create strategies, tactics, and resources that let users access systems in accordance with their requirements.
  • Ensure that users are able to communicate or engage with the systems effectively by adjusting, testing, refining, and validating.
  • Always prioritize end users, and provide a solid HCI basis.

Developers must concentrate on two important areas: usability and user experience, in order to realize the aforementioned principles. Let’s take a closer look at each category:

Usability

The capacity of users of all types to quickly understand and operate computing systems is essential to HCI. A useable and applicable HCI system contains the following features:

  • How to use it: It should be simple for new and occasional users to learn and remember how to utilize this. For instance, user-friendly operating systems are simpler to comprehend than DOS operating systems.
  • Safe: A safe system defends users against unfavorable and hazardous circumstances. This could be a reference to users utilizing the system incorrectly, which could have serious repercussions. Users can fix this using HCI techniques. Systems may be created, for instance, to stop users from mistakenly pressing certain keys or buttons. A system’s effectiveness and ability to do the tasks it was designed to achieve are determined by how efficient it is. Additionally, it demonstrates how the system gives users the assistance they need to finish their activities.
  • Effectiveness: A useful system offers top-notch performance. It states whether the system is capable of achieving the required objectives.
  • Utility: The different tools and functionalities that the system offers to carry out the intended task are referred to as the utility. For instance, a reliable utility system provides an integrated development environment (IDE), which offers advice to programmers or users on occasion.

User Experience

The subjective quality of user experience focuses on how consumers perceive the computing system when they interact with it. Here, user emotions are examined on an individual basis so that development and customer service teams can focus on certain users to elicit favorable sensations from them while using the system.

In HCI systems, user interaction patterns are categorized into the following groups, and the system is then improved based on the identified pattern:

  • Desirable traits: pleasurable, motivating, or unexpected
  • Undesirable traits: Frustrating, unpleasant

Principles of HCI

A number of concepts have been established in the field of human-computer interaction by researchers and designers. These laws cover a wide range, including general standards, design principles, and guidance. Let’s examine the most important HCI rules.

  • Create with familiarity and learnability in mind 
  • Make the components comprehensible and understandable. 
  • Errors Tolerance 
  • Flexibility

Future Scope of HCI

Since the days of bulky computer systems and constrained user interfaces, HCI has advanced significantly. Human-computer interaction (HCI) is a crucial tool for changing how we live, work, and communicate today. But the future of HCI goes much beyond anything we could have predicted. With wearable, implantable, and multimodal interactions, as well as VR/AR and AI/ML technologies, HCI is on the verge of a technological revolution that will empower individuals and revolutionize lives.

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The following are some of the most recent prototypes developed by companies around the world using HCI theories: 

  • Dexta haptic gloves
  • Pre-touch sensing
  • PaperID

Conclusion 

Virtually every day, we engage with interactive computer interfaces. These technologies are ingrained in our social system, from the apps on our desktop computers and mobile devices to the self-checkout lanes at grocery stores. These days, their existence is so prevalent that we don’t even pause to consider if our routine duties include dealing with a human or a computer interface. Because of this, experts believe that human-computer interaction is crucial for users, designers, and organizations alike.

We discussed the foundational ideas of HCI in this post, along with its importance for UI/UX designers. It’s critical to gain a better knowledge of machine learning and artificial intelligence because they are significantly relied upon by contemporary designers and design systems. The Master of Science in Machine Learning & AI Programme at upGrad is a great place to start your ML & AI journey.  With a 4.5-star rating, it is the best-selling programme in India. Work on 12 industrial projects, many programming tools, and a dissertation while learning in-demand skills like Deep Learning, NLP, and Reinforcement Learning.

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Rohan Vats

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Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What exactly does human-computer interaction mean?

The branch of study known as human-computer interaction (HCI) tries to maximize how people and computers communicate by developing interactive computer interfaces that satisfy users demands.

2Why is the relationship between humans and computers crucial to our daily lives?

Technology has an impact on our daily activities and routines in the modern world. You can use HCI technology without owning or using a computer, smartphone, or other similar device. When someone uses an ATM, a snack vending machine, or a meal dispenser, HCI is always present.

3What are the three main components of HCI?

The users, tools, and context are the three main components of HCI.

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