The Future Of Human/Machine Interaction Is Personal

The implications of technology in an age of pervasive accessibility.

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What comes to mind when you think of a human/machine interface? Something close at hand like your smartphone’s GPS and the ATMs at your bank? Something futuristic like flying cars and jetpacks? Something dangerous like menacing cyborgs? As technology becomes more pervasive in our everyday activities, there are a growing number of human/machine interfaces. They also are becoming more personal.

With smaller handheld devices, longer battery life and the ability to connect virtually anywhere in the world, the “Information Age” has evolved into an “Age of Accessibility,” with virtually all information available online anywhere at any time. In this age, pre-school children can get a running start on their education through exposure to online content. Fans watching sporting events can get real-time analytics on everything from the defensive efficiency of the Golden State Warriors to the percentage of shots on goal that result in scores for Chelsea F.C. And we’re on the cusp of being able to ingest a smart pill capable of diagnosing health issues, pinpointing their sources and even administering the correct dosage of drugs to treat them.

At the heart of all these applications is the progressive march of semiconductor technology, which continues to boost the functionality of new ICs. At the same time, advances in test solutions and methodologies are helping to reduce the prices of new electronic devices and ensure their availability in sufficient volumes for mass markets.

What began decades ago with the introduction of a few computer terminals in the workplace quickly led to the explosive growth of personal computers at home. Today, it’s commonplace to have robots in our homes. We can operate our DVRs remotely from a smart phone. Siri and Alexa provide personal assistance at the sound of a voice. Smart homes help us manage everything from meal preparations and entertainment to thermostat regulations and security. Whether you give that command by voice, remote control, tablet or smartphone, the home responds.

Human/machine interaction has changed how we move around outside our homes as well. With “Ride-on-Demand” services available in cities worldwide from Charleston, South Carolina, to Tokyo, Japan, will most of us still own cars in 20 years? Think beyond cars for the moment; by next year, will we even need drivers? Same-day delivery service from Amazon, which recently expanded its offerings by acquiring Whole Foods, could make milk and bread runs to the grocery store obsolete. And how soon will it be before we don’t need Uber or Lyft? In Dubai, autonomous air taxis – pilotless drone vehicles – are being tested for a scheduled roll out by the end of this calendar year.

From communication and travel to dating behavior and scientific research, the evolution of human/machine interaction continues. Today’s greater connectivity has allowed us to expand our networks of friends and colleagues from across campus to around the globe. Of course, there are downsides to having such vast volumes of information available anytime from any mobile device. Securing our private lives, our finances and our communication platforms from identity theft has become a key concern.

Still, the growth in human/machine interactions is highly promising. In the next installment in this series of six blogs, I’ll dive deeper into various ways that interfacing with machines can and will impact how we live our personal lives.



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