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Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in the Year 2020

Published by under AI / CI / Computing,News categories on April 14, 2008

HCI device taken between the handsWorld’s leading computer researchers sees human-centred design as Key to Successful Innovation; the vital ingredient in successfully harnessing technology’s huge potential by 2020.

Related report explores new technologies and examines their potential impact, both positive and negative, on human behaviour and environments. It makes clear recommendations that aim to set human experience at the heart of progress to ensure that the computer’s increasing influence in society is a positive one.

According to the report, advances in interfaces – the physical way we interact with computers – will supplement the role of the traditional keyboard and mouse. Our hyperconnected world gives us the ability to interact with people from around the globe, sharing information ever-more effectively and liberating ourselves from fixed telephone lines, desks and offices. At the same time advances in robotics led by the computer’s ability to learn from, and make decisions based on, experience provide the opportunity to protect humans from dangerous situations, assist the physically impaired and even provide companionship in the shape of artificial pets.

“New computing technology is tremendously exciting,” said one the report’s editors Tom Rodden, professor of Interactive Systems at the University of Nottingham, “but the interaction between humans and computers is evolving into a complex ecosystem where small changes can have far-reaching consequences.

While new interfaces and hyperconnectivity mean we are increasingly mobile, we can also see that they are blurring the line between work and personal space. Huge storage capabilities raise fundamental privacy issues around what we should be recording and what we should not. The potential of machine learning might well result in computers increasingly making decisions on our behalf. It is imperative we combine technological innovations with an understanding of their impact on people.

The report argues that without proper oversight it is possible that we – both individually and collectively – may no longer be in control of ourselves or the world around us. This potentially places the computer on a collision course with basic human values and concepts such as personal space, society, identity, independence, perception, intelligence and privacy. These are questions HCI needs to consider now. The report gives seven recommendations for the HCI community to adopt to ensure that human values inform future development.

These include recommendations to educate young people so that they understand HCI and the impact of computer advances early on; to engage with governments, policy-makers and society as a whole to provide counsel and give advance warning of emerging implications of new computing ecosystems; to set the boundaries of HCI’s remit and recognise when specialists from other disciplines (eg, psychology, sociology and the arts) offer more insightful perspectives; and to recognise the need for other disciplines to be part of the research community inventing these systems.

“This report makes important recommendations that will help us to decide collectively when, how, why and where technology impacts upon humanity, rather than reacting to unforeseen change,” Sellen, senior researcher of micrsoft, concluded. “The final recommendation is something towards which we should all aspire: by 2020 HCI will be able to design for and support differences in human value, irrespective of the economic means of those seeking those values. In this way, the future can be different and diverse because people want it to be.”

The report, “Being Human: Human Computer Interaction in the Year 2020”, and a short readers’ guide are available from Microsoft research


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