Human-Computer Interaction emerged in the 1980s with the advent of personal computing, when computers began to appear in offices and homes. This concept started as game units, word processors or numerical aids. Thus, the need arose to create tools for less experienced users, i.e. it was timely to create easier human-computer interaction. Therefore, HCI expanded to incorporate different disciplines such as computer science or cognitive science.
This field of study became a crucial tool for interacting with a computer, to make the interaction as human-like as possible. Initially, HCI focused on making desktop computers more usable, easier to use and easier to learn.
With the advent of the internet and smartphones, the use of computing moved further and further away from desktop computers to facilitate the use of mobiles and smart devices. Today, HCI is a very broad field of study working with areas such as user-centred design, user interface design and user experience design.
In the future, user interfaces are expected to be integrated into everyday life, not just on screens, and are intended to be customisable and ubiquitous. The result will be a world where all senses interact with computing, not just through a screen.
This change is beginning to be experienced over the last decade, and is reflected in the great technological advances of tablets and smartphones, which have generated a multitude of new interactions. An example of this is that a current phone has more power than the whole of NASA in 1969.
Touch screens or the use of voice to interact with devices are examples of how HCI is also evolving. The ability to schedule appointments, search the internet or manage tasks by voice is only a small part of the potential of this type of interaction.
More specifically, human-computer interaction (HCI) is a multidisciplinary field of study that looks at computer technology design and human-computer interaction, covering all forms of information technology design.
HCI is a field based on computer technology and design, where researchers try to look at the way humans interact with computers in order to design technologies that allow them to interact in a more human and novel way.
Today, this field lies between computer science, behavioural science, design and media studies. The term tries to convey that computers and computational devices have many uses and always involve an open dialogue between user and computer, which is to be compared to the interaction between humans, a very important analogy for theoretical and future considerations in this science.
In the past, the use of physical devices such as the mouse or keyboard were the HCI tools, but they hindered intuition and naturalness of the interface, and this was a barrier to exploiting the user’s potential with the computer. Therefore, being able to interact with the system as naturally as possible is fundamental and increasingly important in this discipline. For example, the use of hands as an input device is an attractive method of providing natural interactions, rather than text-based user interfaces.
In the case of voice interaction, the adoption rate of this technology is expected to be more than 80% in the next five years. This is because it is a technology that is easy to use by everyone, fast and effective. Touch will probably remain the most widely used form of interaction, but the use of voice is gaining ground, although not all options have yet been exploited because it is a more profound method of interacting with devices.
Also, virtual reality and augmented reality are expected to grow rapidly in the next decade. Facebook and Microsoft have bought Oculus and have entered the virtual reality field with HoloLens. This means that as large companies enter the field, the investment will be greater and therefore breakthroughs will begin to emerge.
These new virtual reality technologies will change the way user interfaces are designed and even the way systems are interacted with, just as smartphones once did. Interfaces will no longer be on screens, but around the world around us in 3D. This transition is expected to be gradual, but designers will need to familiarise themselves with new 3D design techniques to increasingly drive virtual reality and augmented reality.
Wearables, on the other hand, are advancing by leaps and bounds. For example, the Apple Watch has recently introduced unique interactions such as the ability to see another person’s heart rate or the digital crown, just like on your phone. Over the next few years, these devices will become cheaper, more functional and independent of the smartphone.
Most likely, the wearables market will change so much in the coming decades that it won’t even be like the one we know today, where there are already smart watches and rings or shoes. Eventually, a process has begun where this technology can be introduced into our bodies, to monitor the most important vital signs, giving the wearer a constant and accurate record of their physical state. The benefits to human health that this would bring if it were to begin to be realised on a mass scale would be enormous.
Tests have also been initiated for the design of interfaces based on hand gestures. However, building a robust hand gesture recognition system is a challenge for traditional approaches. The idea is to be able to build a hand gesture recognition system that can efficiently register static and dynamic gestures, in order to obtain a system that is intuitive and natural for users when they use their devices. This system translates the detected gesture into actions such as opening websites or launching applications, among others, with minimal hardware.
An ideal and simple future method for the user would be the gaze, because this interaction is very intuitive. This would require the use of a head-mounted display (HMD) of the user, which is basically a wearable interactive display device that can track eye movement as a means of interaction. This technique would be a breakthrough as it is very effective and effortless for the user as humans can easily control their eye movements. Eye-tracking technology is an ideal and advanced method for HCI.
The last mentioned method is the simplest and most effective method for HCI with HDM. This system that achieves HDM-based gaze interaction using a webcam in order to detect and track gaze direction in real time at close range and analyse what the user wants to say. This trend, although it may seem future and distant, is already being studied and is growing rapidly.
In short, HCI is research into new ways of interacting between people and new technological systems, which seeks to create practical and operational systems that meet the needs of the people who use them.
This type of interaction seeks to reduce the physical and mental effort required to operate new technologies. In such a way that the efficiency of a system is directly affected by its ease of use. Thus, HCI seeks simplicity and convenience for users, seeking to be as efficient as possible.
The human aspect refers to the specific users of a particular system. Meanwhile, the computer concept is any form of electronic system or device that accepts, processes and sends data through software or hardware programming. The relationship between the two concepts is referred to as interaction.
Great advances in this field of study are expected in the near future, thanks to new technologies such as voice search or eye-tracking, always aiming for greater overall usability and an improvement in the quality of life of users.