Human machine interfaces are used in nearly all industries, ranging from retail and banking to food service, manufacturing, telecommunications and more. To better understand HMIs and their importance in modern-day society, you should familiarize yourself with the following terms. While
Operator interface — this is just another name for a human machine interface. Some organizations and individuals refer to HMIs as “operator interfaces” because that’s essentially what they are: an interface through which a human operator controls a machine.
User interface — not to be confused with an operator interface, a user interface is essentially an interface on a computer or electronic device. While they share some similarities in terms of design and function, HMIs are not the same as user interfaces.
Membrane keypad — some HMIs are used in conjunction with membrane keypads, which is in stark contrast to traditional mechanical keypads. Membrane keypads feature a single components in which all of the keys are embedded. This promotes greater accuracy and user satisfaction, although at the cost of tactile feedback.
Backlighting — backlighting refers to the source of illumination used in an electronic display. If an HMI uses a touchscreen interface, chances are that it will also feature a backlight, such as LED for instance. Backlighting is essential for the function of electronic display interfaces, as it illuminates the keys so the operator can see them.
Direct manipulation interface — refers to a general class of user interfaces in which the operator manipulates the presented objects using actions that correspond to the physical world.
Tangible user interfaces — this is a type of interface that involves physical elements. A traditional keyboard, for instance, could be considered a tangible user interface, as it supports the use of touch-based commands via the keys.
Voice user interface — another self-explanatory type of interface is voice user. In a voice user interface, the operator provides input through his or her voice
Motion-tracking interface — one of the newer interfaces that are being used in HMIs is motion tracking. This type of interface is characterized by the use of motion controlling sensors that identify the operator’s movements and translate them into commands. Apple is currently pioneering the use of motion-tracking interfaces, although other companies have also expressed interest in the technology.
These are just a few notable terms associated with HMIs.