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Table of Contents
I.       Introduction. 2
II.      Fundamentals. 2
A.     Human vs. Computer. 2
1.      Input and Output. 2
2.      Memory. 3
3.      Psychology. 3
B.      The History of Human Computer
Interaction. 3
1.      Start of the Interaction. 4
2.      Development Up Until Today. 4
III.         Design. 4
IV.         Relation to other Fields. 4
A.     Human Factors. 4
B.      Cognitive Science. 5
V.     Conclusion. 5
 

 

 

 

I.                  
Introduction

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                Human-Computer Interaction is the
area of study concerning the communication between humans and computers. The
main focus is design of products or programs for the comfort and ease-of-use
for all people.

The field of human-computer interaction (HCI) only started
in the late 70s to early 80s, as it was the start for ordinary people other
than professionals and scientists to use computers. For this reason, the use of
personal computers had to be simplified for the pleasure of users of all
backgrounds, as it was quite complicated. HCI is a derivation of the topic
human-machine interaction which has a richer history. The initiation of the
general idea was the Second World War, as there was a need for the study of the
ergonomics of machines and weapons. User performance had to be optimized to
make best use of current technology. Human factor had to be taken into
consideration, whether these where physical or cognitive.

This research is aimed at students in the engineering and
design departments especially ones interested in computer, design and human
factor. It is an introduction to this field, promoting the importance of
ergonomics and user interface. Because HCI is a multi-disciplinary territory,
my research therefore presents information in many other fields not only in the
engineering field but also in cognitive science and psychology.

Writing and discussing human-computer interaction increases
the overall concern about design in relation with computer engineering and
science. It is extremely important for ordinary students to expand their
knowledge in addition to their knowhow beyond what they learn as mandatory
subjects and classes in the field they are studying at schools and universities
as interdisciplinary subjects are the future.

II.                
 Fundamentals

                In order to explain the
interaction between humans and computers, one must learn about how each operate
separately in different aspects as well as how the interaction started and how
it developed throughout the years.

A.                
Human vs. Computer

                Computers
and humans are quite similar in the way they operate. Computer experts and
designers try to imitate basic procedures that happen in the human body in
creating computers. This requires the need of using sensors and other input
methods in place of human senses. Also important to mention are that there are
differences and additional properties that exist between them.

 

1.                  
Input and Output

                The
interaction of human beings with the world around them occurs through incoming
and outgoing information. The terms output and input are relative in the
interaction of humans with computers but usually, one corresponds to the other.
For instance, hands or fingers could be an input to a touch screen, while they
are output for the person wanting to interact with the screen. Similarly is the
voice; it is used for humans to communicate as an output method while the
computer receives the voice command as an input. Looking closely at the
interaction that occurs from the computer, design or what the user sees on
screen in general is an input method to the human eye and eventually the brain
-both extremely complex organs- which affects the perception of information.
This is why design a key factor in the implementation of Human Computer
Interaction (HCI), which will be discussed later on in the report.

 

2.                  
Memory

                The
memory process in humans is mainly divided into two parts; the short term
memory and the long term memory. The first is used in temporarily needed
information. Such information could be accessed rapidly however it would also
be lost fairly quickly which is why it is only efficient in a short period of
time. The second has the purpose of storing data for longer periods of time. Basic
characteristics of this type include the enormous capacity, slower access rate
and slower forgetting time. Both memory types can be enhanced and diminished by
practice of lack of it. As per mimicry in the technological field, computers
also have similar types of memory. The random access memory (RAM) has a fast
access rate while having a rather small capacity, while discs and drives have a
variably large capacity with slower access rate. The greatest difference
between memory and storage types in both humans and computers is the
psychological aspect to it. To explain further, the state of mind and emotion
of human beings usually plays a role in what we keep and what we forget.

 

3.                  
Psychology

                Although it is hard to imagine
what it would be like if computers experience emotions just as humans do, it is
quite likely that we would be hearing about that in the near future. By the
development of affective computing, scientists are trying to create an
emotional computer. This does not change the fact that humans are emotionally
driven beings, while machines generally only follow commands and orders from
users. Psychology greatly influences humans’ lives on a daily basis, it could
even affect the way a person may receive and process information. For instance,
if a group of people experience a certain incident, each of them would perceive
it differently and also interpret it differently based on their feelings,
opinions and previous knowledge and other relative factors. This is why the
neutrality of computers is a significant advantage and is the reason computers
are preferred in many scientific or mathematical calculations. In other words,
no matter what is going through a computer if a user gives it certain input and
processing formula, it will solve it fully objectively and without any outside
factors leading to coherent results.

 

B.                 
The History of Human
Computer Interaction

                In
spite of the fact that the field of Human computer interaction is relatively
new, it has been developing rapidly in the past 30 years. At first it was
founded as a branch out of a more general field but it reached a point where it
consists of many other research fields. Creating this direction of research was
the step required for the further development not only in informatics and
computer related fields but also in cognitive sciences.

 

1.                  
Start of the Interaction

                HCI is
basically derived from previously developed fields such as cognitive science
and human factors engineering, which both will be discussed later on in the
report. The importance of making personal computers available to the public,
especially those with barely any background in the field, forced the study of
HCI as a necessity. Just like how engineers discovered the significance of
designing weapons in the world war II suitable to their body, comfort,
preferences,  and needs, computer
scientists also made notice of such factors when developing computers to be
sold commercially rather than for educational purposes only. In the beginning,
scientists’ main concern were the physical features of machines and their
influence on users’ performances. This mainly included the mechanical side of
the design rather than the informatics behind it. Research in that field
affected the development of Information Technology greatly, as it later became a
huge influencing factor in creating a successful software.

 

2.                  
Development Up Until Today

                HCI has
become a very broad field of research with so many subtopics deriving from it
making it a multi-disciplinary topic. It generally optimizes the use of
computers in different fields. Using knowledge of the amplitude of human
beings’ mental, interpretational and problem-solving skills, experts can now
manipulate their perception of graphical interface for maximum efficiency and
ease of use. This requires a wide range of experts ranging from psychologists
and sociologist to computer scientists and engineers.

III.             
Design

IV.            
Relation to other Fields

                As previously mentioned, human
computer interaction is derived from other fairly wide fields, such as human
factors engineering and cognitive science. Both disciplines are not entirely
related to computer design created this field.

A.                
Human Factors

                According to techtarget.com
“human factors (also known as ergonomics) is the study of how humans behave
physically and psychologically in relation to particular environments, products
or services” (Rouse, 2005). This study contributes to HCI by setting
constraints on the design of computer interfaces, while also demonstrating
certain standards. Such standards apply mostly on the hardware of computers
rather than the graphical interface. Hardware design includes arrangements of
buttons and other controls based on physical features, position and state of
users. There are three different ways controls and displays are usually grouped
together; functional, where they are grouped together based on function,
sequential, where they are organized based on the sequence one uses them in,
and lastly frequency, where they are arranged based on the recurrence of usage.
Such organization and design methods require studying the targeted users for
any equipment designed according to their jobs, education and also position.
Aviation equipment, for example, have a lot of buttons and complicated display
that require special education and practice. What also has be taken into regard
is the health aspect, which includes the guidelines concerning time spent using
screens, physical positioning and comfort as well as noise levels. All above
mentioned rules serve as basis for the study of Human-Computer interaction.

B.                 
Cognitive Science

                There has been a debate dealing
with the definition of cognitive science as it includes many subdisciplines,
but generally speaking, it is science of the mind, which could either be
defined as the brain, a “representational system responsible for behavior,
language and thoughts”, as Ronald L. Boring mentioned in his paper, or the
central processing system(Boring, 2002). Cognitive science could explain many
mental phenomena, which the study of human computer interaction needs. Both
fields have common origin being human factors, which began in World War II,
when scientists were forced to study how the mind of the enemy works as well as
designing war equipment according to soldiers’ body and comfort. The reason why
human computer interaction needs cognitive science mainly to understand the
user, which is the most important factor in HCI. In addition to computer
scientists, cognitivist take up a huge sum of experts in HCI. They use processing
paradigms from cognitive science such as the model human processor and GOMS
(Goals, Operations, Methods, and Selection rules) model, which provide a
flowchart of processes in HCI. All in all, cognitive science represents the
mental side behind the study of human computer interaction, basically it always
answers the question “why” for every process or design change. For instance,
changing colors of certain software proving the effect of perception of certain
colors on the display, is a use of cognitive science in HCI.                                          (Boring,
2002)

V.               
Conclusion

                The study of human computer
interaction starts with learning how humans and computers operate individually.
Both computers and humans have input and output channels; for computers these
are sensors, keyboard and display screen while for humans these are represented
in the human senses and gestures. Inputs and outputs are opposites of each
other, in other words, each input to the computer is output from the user and
vice versa. The storage and memory are also similar as humans have their brains
as storage space with long term memory and short term memory, which computers
also have as RAM and hard drives. Concerning the third topic in comparing how
humans and computer perform, psychology, in humans, this plays a big role in
processing information based on previous experience and emotion. On the contrary
are computers, which usually follow commands blindly without contributing in
any way. With the exception of effective computing, computers do not have
emotions and are objective, which is an advantage.

Human-computer interaction has only been a research field
since the late 1970’s, which is regarded as a relatively new study. It started
when experts started producing personal computers to the public rather than to professionals
and skilled individuals. It wasn’t about getting the job done anymore but getting
it done efficiently with maximum comfort of users. This includes the size and
design, at first scientists were concerned with only hardware, but later on the
study included software and programs. Not only did human-computer interaction drastically
develop itself, but it has even reached a point where other subfields have
merged. Now HCI is used as the manipulation of a user’s perception of colors
and design.

 

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