light-bulb-1358917_960_7202We’ve covered a lot of terms associated with human machine interfaces (HMIs), touchscreens and other engineering technology here at Nelson Miller. Something that we’ve yet to discuss, however, is intelligent user interfaces.

Also known as an interface agent, an intelligent user interfaces (IUI) is a special type of HMI that includes some aspect of artificial intelligent or computational intelligence. It may sound like something straight of a science fiction movie, but IUIs are already being used. In fact, you’ve probably encountered or have even used on at some point. They’ve found their way into a wide variety of industries, ranging from retail and manufacturing to healthcare and aerospace. Microsoft even has a IUI that’s used to answer questions and provide help to Office users. Dubbed “Clippy,” it was used extensively in the company’s long-running Office suite.

As explained on the official Wikipedia page for intelligent user interfaces, this UI is characterized by the use of a computer-side software or system that possesses a “sophisticated knowledge of the domain and/or a model of the user.” In turn, this allows the UI to understand the operator’s directions with better accuracy. And with this increased accuracy comes better results. IUIs don’t posses the same level of intelligence and responsiveness as an actual human — not yet, at least — but they are still intelligent enough to provided customized responses based on the operator’s input.

One of the first examples of a working IUI was the Intelligent Computer Assisted Instruction community. This community came to be during the 1960s, lasting throughout the 1980s, during which computer programmers developed a working AI that was named WIZARD. Microsoft’s Clippy is another example of a working-model IUI.

But there’s still some dependency regarding what exactly is defined as “intelligent.” The term interface is defined simply as a device or electronic device through which a human operator controls a machine. Adding the word “intelligent” to an interface, however, modifies the term greatly. Intelligent is somewhat of a relative term; what’s intelligent to someone may not be to someone else. Regardless, IUIs remain classified as a user interface with some type of artificial intelligent or computational intelligence. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of IUIs and how they are being used.