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Human Machine Interface Decoded

31 July, 2017

'Human machine interface (HMI)' is a buzzword that has been used extensively in tech blogs, car magazines and auto shows. But what indeed is HMI? Read on to find out:

Interpreting HMI

Simply put, human machine interface means any technology that facilitates information exchange between a user and his machine. It is the operator's control panel from where he inputs commands and the information is presented to him through a graphical user interface (GUI).

It's actually not as complex as it sounds. Come to think of it, you have a good example of HMI right in your pocket. That's right, your smartphone! The gamut of this technology covers interfaces as simple as the screen of your smart phone to as complex as the controls console on a fighter jet.

A driver's best friend

In automobiles, HMI software is designed to provide an enhanced driving experience. Thanks to its constant evolution, vehicle dashboards no longer look the way they used to ten years ago. Cars today boast dynamic dashboards with a variety of sensors, driver assistance systems, voice control and more. Sophisticated automotive HMIs are designed to enable safe and distraction free driving, better navigation and generally a more enjoyable ride. For instance, the head-up display projects critical data in the driver's sight line i.e. on the windshield, through a transparent display so that he/she doesn't have to look away from the road whilst looking for information. How very Minority Report, right?

A future shaped by HMI

As automotive technologies evolve, the way vehicles communicate with their drivers is also set to change dramatically. The challenge however will be to keep the interaction as simple and intuitive as possible with minimum effort from the drivers' side. Considering the goal is to make the driving experience smooth and distraction free, a console boasting 50 flashing buttons might be a tad counterproductive.

HMIs of tomorrow would instead involve hands free software that detect when the driver's eyes are turned away from the road and gently redirect his/her attention to avoid a collision. Or interfaces that read hand movements, so a driver can change the radio station with a hand wave. Since the number one cause of distracted driving amongst the 'always-on' generation is cell phones, smart phone integration would also play a huge role in the shaping of the technology.

With fully autonomous cars expected to take to the roads by 2020, the future of automotive HMI seems incredibly exciting.

So what do you think would be the coolest feature of HMIs in the future? Tell us in the comments.

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