There are few places where ergonomic principles are more crucial than in man-machine interfaces. Lives can depend on how clearly and quickly an operator interprets crucial information on a display and comprehends and manipulates machine controls. An industry has grown out of the demand for interface solutions that are as one step ahead of today’s machines, and three recent product news releases hint at where the specialty is headed.
The first promotes the new Peugeot 908 RC, a luxury car that its French automaker likens to a cat. There’s no need on this auto to fumble around the dashboard to turn up the air conditioner or the music, or struggle to read the satellite navigation screen. The 908 RC has these facilities and more grouped in one highly visible and accessible place. The radio, MP3 player, satellite navigation and four-zone air-conditioning can all be operated from a large touch screen. Peugeot describes the facility as Man/Machine Interface (MMI), and it is also accessible to rear passengers through a multimedia screen on the centre console that separates the two rear seats.
A second new product tackles the need for better interfaces in the aviation industry with a training tool for interface designers. SAE International, a consortium of eight corporations around the world, has developed a standard for the human factors that must be taken into account when designing a flight deck. The company says the ultimate goal is the development of the “most cost- effective, safe and acceptable flight crew interface system possible.”
The SAE Aerospace Recommended Practice (ARP) 5056 – “Flight Crew Interface Considerations in the Flight Deck Design Process” defines flight crew interface design processes and methods for new flight deck designs and modification designs for all commercial planes.
The brain-machine interface could find a place in aviation and similar industries in the future because it promises to unite thought and action. For the present its ergonomic promise is emerging as enabling technology