New human-computer interfaces
Although the computer has been an indispensable part of our lives for decades, the mouse/keyboard method of communicating with our devices is the one most of us still use.
Only recently have we been able to move on to more sophisticated methods of interacting with our devices:
- Smartphones have introduced new touchscreen techniques, now available now on large screen devices, as well.
- Many of us use “Android Voice” or “Siri,” artificial intelligence voice recognition assistants that answer questions, give us direction and much more. This technology has advanced to a level where your smartphone is now able to turn your voice messages into texts one with satisfying accuracy. Voice commands also work with a wide range of other applications, including many in our vehicles.
Unfortunately, there’s still much room for improvement with this technology, since our devices too often misunderstand what we’re saying and then either ignore us or give us incorrect information. Siri, for example, recently couldn’t understand a friend’s repeated attempts to get ‘her’ to recognize the name of a major metro area highway, insisting on giving directions to a location in South Africa!
Emerging and just on the horizon
Another promising new interface technology is Gestural Interface Technology (g-speak). This system uses cameras and Radiofrequency Identification Tags (RFID) to track your movements with special reflective gloves. This gives you the ability to control images on a screen without touching or coming near the device at all. RFID is the foundation for the exciting, widely praised new versions of virtual reality gaming.
More practical uses are on the horizon, e.g., helping you to prepare a meal when your Internet of Things interface (IoT) recognizes that your refrigerator contains the ingredients of five of your favorite meals. When you get home, you’ll find that your oven has been preheated and a printout of several new recipes that are consistent with your preferences as new options. On the downside, RFID tags–much like your smartphones–may be used to track people moving through any environment.
The most intriguing long-term computer interface is direct brain-device communication. This will require accurately mapping the signals of our brain neurons in order for us to communicate with and control external devices–simply by thinking a command. In reality, this will be a formidably complicated thing to accomplish.–First, because we don’t yet know how to detect brain activity without the invasive insertion of electrodes. Second, because the human brain is so incredibly complex and easily distracted. Such an interface would need to be able to distinguish between clear mental commands and all the background ‘noise’ that the brain makes. Nonetheless, we are witnessing amazing progress in this technology on a daily basis. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when in the future we send the keyboard and mouse combination to a more-than-deserved retirement.