hmi-02Still trying to wrap your head around the concept of human machine interfaces (HMI) and how they work? Some people assume they are nothing more than standard computers. While certain computers can be classified as HMIs, there’s some key features that distinguish one from the other. So today we’re going to take a closer look at human machine interfaces, revealing their true meaning and definition.

In the most basic sense, an HMI can be defined as any device that allows for interaction between a human operator and a machine or another device. The device serves as an “interface” (hence the name), through which the human operator can enter commands. An HMI may consist of nothing more than an LCD touchscreen display mounted near a robotic arm on an assembly line. When the robotic arm needs to be controlled, the human operator may do so via the touchscreen display.

Of course, this is just one practical example of an HMI being used. Whether you’re familiar with the term or not, you’ve probably seen or even used other HMIs before. They are found in newly manufactured cars and trucks, such as touchscreen navigation/control panels, as well as entertainment centers, restaurants, retail stores, and more.

You might be wondering how HMIs are designed. Well, the exact design varies depending on a number of different factors, such as its function/purpose, the environment in which it is used, the materials, and the company who manufactured it. With that said, a standard HMI may consists of membrane switches, rubber keypads, and/or touchscreens. The operator controls the connected machine through either the touchscreen or rubber keypads.

Another element of an HMI that shouldn’t be overlooked is the software. While not all HMIs are equipped with software, the majority are. Software acts as a bridge between the physical components of the HMI and the machine itself. Microsoft windows, for instance, is often used in conjunction with HMIs, or in some cases, custom software is designed specifically for use in the HMI.

To recap, an HMI is simply a device through which a human operator can control a machine. Some HMIs are simple, featuring nothing more than a couple of buttons, whereas others are more complex and contain a visual touchscreen interface that’s complete with software.