Touchscreens, which are ideal for representing multiple user unterfaces in an intuitive way, but requiring constant visual contact are being replaced by a physical user interface that can be used by both touch, and memory?
Why was touchscreen ever even a consideration for controls you're not looking at?
Touchscreen is great for phones. It is awful for keyboards (see macbook pro). And if is even more awful for controls. Has nobody researched this before spending a few hundred million dollars?
Though, on a serious note, I work in industrial automation and user interfaces, aka HMI's have been touch oriented for quite some time. It was and still is common to see graphical elements which emulate the look of physical buttons used on machinery. This was done to help operators navigate touch screens who were used to panels full of buttons, knobs, and switches.
Recently I rebuilt a machine that was half analog and half digital controls to all digital control. I first started with a full touch interface with provisions for knobs and buttons. During testing operators hated, and I mean HATED the touch screen when it came to virtual potentiometers (one operator got up and walked away saying "this screen is a fucking piece of shit"). I installed encoder knobs to emulate potentiometers and it was a success. Everyone was happy.
Some things just can't be done with a screen. You need physical things to interact with.
IIRC the official explanation from the makers of Star Trek is that the displays look like simple touch screens, but they are actually overlaid with structured force fields, so for the users it feels like a physical button press.
By the way, are you "Le Jojo" of "Jojo on UI", or a different "that_jojo"? ;)
The high voltage needed makes it a no go for most/all portable devices.
I played with some other "cl controllable friction" tech but don't remember the basis of it. Iirc one actually made small indentations in the screen to simulate buttons. Had a bunch of limitations, I think the button placement was baked in at time of manufacturing, but it's been awhile and I don't trust my memory on the topic.
You can twist virtually with good precision. But, what is much harder is the feel, state of the knob, particularly when it is released and then gripped again.
Mechanically, the structure of the knob can take some energy input, and it serves as a mechanical pivot, or fulcrum, depending on how people use a knob.
Without all those physical things, people lack the complex frames of reference needed for fine, "thought is action" type control.
This is especially true in environments where gloves are worn.
Have you ever used an iPod (capacitive touchpad) scroll wheel?
A good physical knob is still better, but a touch wheel can be made pretty decent.
A bigger thing (for me) is being able to sense gaps/shapes without pressing anything and a fixed layout - touchscreens are about the change but that's only good for UI that you look at.
Something that creates physical feedback is for example that Disney VR project where they use air to create the feeling of resistance
There's really no need to force this decision to go in either direction. Ever since I first heard of capacitive multitouch, going back to the timeframe before the first iPhone announcement, I've been waiting for someone to build 'stick-on' encoder knobs that the touchscreen controller can read.
These would simply take the form of a knob with a metal leaf or other polygonal electrode in its base, whose rotation could be sensed by code similar to that used to implement crappy 'virtual potentiometers' on existing touchscreens. The fixed part of the knob base would be epoxied or otherwise bonded directly to the screen surface, or perhaps held in place with some sort of frame.
Doesn't seem to have happened yet despite being an incredibly obvious (and inexpensive!) thing to do. Seems like the MIDI community would be all over something like this, even if no one else considered it worthwhile.
Being able to set the dial on the screen and just turn it is a really good-feeling workflow, though likely not for something as mission-critical as the article is describing.
>On-screen detection: Touch digitizer reports the onscreen location through a capacitive pattern (Studio only)
I envision using cam levered suction cups to hold on rotary and linear sliders that had touch screen sensitive rubber tips. One could go as far to 3d print arbitrary interaction devices that could get attached to the face of the touch screen. You can use the multitouch sensor w/o the screen but still be able to configure arbitrary devices to go on the front.
I even had a design for joystick. Lots of analog opportunities when you have something like a back illuminated camera or a touch controller that can sense areas. You could also serially transfer data from the device to the touch screen, either using physical touches or electrically simulated touches.
I'd be surprised if the concept weren't already patented, though, just because the idea of a generalized capacitive control surface seems fairly obvious, and the patent office doesn't really apply an "obviousness" test. What definitely surprises me is that, patented or not, I can't just go out and buy these sorts of controls.
We would then be able to receive that pattern and understand how the knob is rotated.
What’s the resolution of todays touchscreen?
But for simple things, if possible without affecting the other parts of the screen, it'd be amazing to have a broadly supported, low bandwidth standard.
This might be as simple as "Here's my encoded position * frequency of sampling", but for a general interface you'd want something adaptable.
What if there were two dials on the control? Two dials and three buttons? One dial, four buttons, and a joystick?
Check this: http://huyle.de/2019/02/12/accessing-capacitive-images/ As you see, the sensor elements are huge, 4×4mm each, i.e. there’re only 15×27 sensors for the complete touch screen. On top of that, there’s high amount of noise in the signal of each sensor.
The reasons why it works OK in practice, fingers have very predictable shape, also a lot of software involved on all levels of the stack. Touch screen firmware filters out sensor noise and generates touch points. Higher level GUI frameworks “snap“ touches to virtual buttons, some platforms go as far as making virtual keyboard buttons different sizes, depending on which virtual keys are expected to be clicked next, according to predictive input software i.e. dictionaries.
What you propose probably can be done, by using a finger-like object, but I don’t expect the resolution will be great. At least not in comparison with hardware turning knobs, even cheap ones can be make extremely precise. See this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_encoder and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incremental_encoder for more info, both are used a lot in wide variety of applications. Old mice with a ball had 2 of them, the reason why ball mice sucked was not sensor precision, it was dirt accumulation, a minor issue for a knob.
 VR and AR Fundamentals: https://medium.com/@michaelnaimark/vr-ar-fundamentals-prolog...
 Other Senses (Touch, Smell, Taste, Mind): https://medium.com/@michaelnaimark/vr-ar-fundamentals-3-othe...
 Food Simulator: https://www.wired.com/2003/08/slideshow-wonders-aplenty-at-s... https://ars.electronica.art/center/en/food-simulator/ http://icat.vrsj.org/papers/2003/00876_00000.pdf
Hiroo Iwata is a brilliant mad scientist , and in a previous HN discussion about pie menus and haptic multitouch interfaces , I linked to his wonderful work on 3DOF Multitouch Haptic Interface with Movable Touchscreen.  
 Professor Hiroo IWATA: http://www.frontier.kyoto-u.ac.jp/te03/member/iwata/index.ht...
 HN discussion of pie menus and haptic multitouch interfaces: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17105984
 3DOF Multitouch Haptic Interface with Movable Touchscreen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCZPmj7NtSQ
 3DOF Multitouch Haptic Interface with Movable Touchscreen: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-4157-0_...
>Shun Takanaka, Hiroaki Yano, Hiroo Iwata, Presented at AsiaHaptics2016. This paper reports on the development of a multitouch haptic interface equipped with a movable touchscreen. When the relative position of two of a user’s fingertips is fixed on a touchscreen, the fingers can be considered a hand-shaped rigid object. In such situations, a reaction force can be exerted on each finger using a three degrees of freedom (3DOF) haptic interface. In this study, a prototype 3DOF haptic interface system comprising a touchscreen, a 6-axis force sensor, an X-Y stage, and a capstan drive system was developed. The developed system estimates the input force from fingers using sensor data and each finger’s position. Further, the system generates reaction forces from virtual objects to the user’s fingertips by controlling the static frictional force between each of the user’s fingertips and the screen. The system enables users to perceive the shape of two-dimensional virtual objects displayed on the screen and translate/rotate them with their fingers. Moreover, users can deform elastic virtual objects, and feel their rigidity.
There are some other really bizarre examples of haptic interfaces in the AsiaHaptics2016 conference videos! (Not all safe for work, depending on your chosen profession, predilection for palpation, and assessment of sphincter tone.) 
 AsiaHaptics2016: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8qMmIgmWhnQBeABjGlzGbg/vid...
So, Star Fleet made the same transition as the US Navy, from a touchscreen to 3D tactile controls.
The Galaxy class was the first class of ship with a saucer separation system that could be re-attached while in flight. I believe the Constitution class did have the ability to separate its saucer, but that was accomplished with explosive bolts and it couldn't re-attach without being in drydock.
Tactically that would only make sense if the engineering hull could keep an enemy ship entirely occupied, if there was more than one enemy ship engaging then its going to be difficult to keep them all from pursuing the saucer.
You are right though, if you did suffer a warp core breach you aren't going anywhere quickly. But in almost all situations help is only one subspace call away.
Huh? No way; whether you're in a battle with 3 cloaked Romulan warbirds, or have an imminent warp core breach, you have minutes, at most, to get help. Other starships aren't that close by.
I didn't watch Voyager much, and never saw that episode, but this is extremely disappointing. The ST:TNG Technical Manual (which came out before VOY) clearly addressed this issue, way way back in the early 90s. You can actually feel touchscreen controls, because they have miniature force fields/tractor beams that provide the same tactile sensation you get with mechanical controls. Didn't the writers of VOY ever read the TNG Tech Manual?
It's of course even more disappointing that a sci-fi TV show in the 80s/90s was able to address this important HMI issue in a book meant just for geeky fans, yet 25 years later people in the industry still don't get it. Of course, we don't have tractor beams or force fields to implement what they wrote about in the tech manual, but it does show the show's technical consultants were thinking about and aware of this issue back then, 15 years before slate-style smartphones were even invented, and that maybe we should not be using touchscreens for certain controls until we do have force fields or some other workaround.
>and I mean HATED the touch screen when it came to virtual potentiometers (one operator got up and walked away saying "this screen is a fucking piece of shit")
That operator was correct. Virtual potentiometers on a touchscreen are a horrible idea and miserable to use.
Nope, in fact they were expressly prohibited from writing about the technology. In the scripts, instead of doing their built-world-homework and writing that coherently into the story, they just had to put "[TECH]" in to the scripts. Then the technical consistency editors came along and filled that stuff in. Not even kidding. This led to some of the really disastrous (IMO) early scenes in Voyager such as one where two characters (Cpt. Janeway and B'Elanna, iirc) are bonding while solving an crisis technical issue... and the dialogue is a total hash because it was "co-written" using a completely insane method.
You can add all the haptic and UI flair you want in, but it's not going to make my nerves tingle in the way my brain expects.
video in german https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJjp-P9jZCk
Most industrial touchscreens I've seen are resistive which makes them much more difficult to use, especially for dragging motions, so that may be compounding the problem. Capacitive screens are generally much easier to use.
I bought an origami cover for the reader, so it can be put at an angle on the desk.
The combination of both mean that I need to turn it off, otherwise it would randomly switch pages when it is in my pocket.
I miss my first Kindle with its physical page turning buttons.
I'm not anti-touchscreen by any measure, but did you really find that surprising? It seems common knowledge to me that keyboard shortcuts are faster than touchscreens for most tasks.
That common knowledge is wrong, but it comes from an important truth: brand new users who are not yet committed to your product will get frustrated if the thing they need to do is hidden away as a key-binding or command-line command.
So successful products optimise for the UX of a user who doesn't yet know how to use the product well. And such users really love touchscreens.
If you look at the menu's in win3.1 for example you will see that nearly every menu item has both the alt-menu, keystroke, shortcut as well as the global keyboard shortcut to the right of the menu entry. AKA alt-f, s was save, but some applications might have also put another keyboard shortcut to the right say 'ctr-s' or something.
This means that your average user who kept clicking the file->save menu could see that alt-f,s (via the underlines) would perform the same function without the mouse, or just that there was a simple shortcut.
Windows gradually removed this, and in the xp timeframe you only saw the shortcuts when the alt key was pressed while the menus were active. This of course defeats the purpose of sticking the shortcut in the users face everytime they click the menu, and the concept has stuck around to the point where in win10 google is pretty much the only way to discover shortcuts if the even exist (which is hardly rare). This is part of the reason I stick to the classic interface in win7, with the right tweaks its still puts the keyboard shortcuts in your face.
I only wish that modern UI designers spent a day or two actually reading the human/computer guidelines/research before calling themselves experts..
I think the problem is that touchscreens get ported to applications where there should be a reasonable expectation that the end user is an expert in the system. For example, cars, and aircraft. Touchscreens are great when you have portable systems that have to condense a lot of functionality into a small device, but I don't want to be in a position where a pilot has to touch the correct button on a touchscreen in the middle of serious turbulence. Likewise, no driver should be taking their eyes off the road to navigate to the air-conditioning tab. Applying touchscreens in these situations is not only bad engineering, it's outright dangerous. You have to demonstrate competent control of a vehicle just to operate it, so we shouldn't be assuming operators are brand new users that aren't committed to the product.
All of that results in undiscoverable interfaces designed for first-time users and horrible for everything else, and thus cult of first mouse, now touchscreen.
The person you responded to wrote:
> custom control board with specialized buttons and keyboard
So we weren’t even talking about keyboard shortcuts in the ctrl-c sense, but that the specific action has a specific button.
How, indeed, could that have been a surprise.
Here’s a my stupid story:
On the laser cutter I operate there as no way to tell the machine “the stock / remnant / offcut I want to cut the parts from is located at x,y”.
The machine has a touch screen display which shows the cutting heads current location. So you put it in manual mode, drive the cutting head in to the start position as per your materials location, then type the coordinates it displays as a graphic in to two fields in a dialogue box.
There’s no button on the machine or touch screen to automate that.
This is why I think UX professionals will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.
Thankfully I’m aware of AutoHotKey, and Capture2Text, so I wrote a script to turn a keyboard shortcut in to a series of mousse movements, clicks, and OCR, to take the graphic display if numbers and turn them in to strings of numbers.
I still can’t believe there hasn’t been a software update to implement a feature I can build in to a compiled .exe that lotteralky took me 45 minutes to build from aware-the-tools-exist to implementation.
Someone give me a billion dollars already. I’m clearly a genius.
> You weren’t even talking about that.
> The person you responded to wrote:
> > custom control board with specialized buttons and keyboard
> So we weren’t even talking about keyboard shortcuts in the ctrl-c sense, but that the specific action has a specific button.
> How, indeed, could that have been a surprise.
I considered typing keypad or array of buttons, but I figured keyboard conveyed the intended meaning closely enough.
Yamaha has a nice idiom called "touch-and-turn" where there's an unassigned encoder right next the screen which manipulates whichever parameter you tap onscreen. Navigating the touchscreen is at least as nice as visually scanning a large format analog console to find the right handle, but a knob is the right way to actually tune it. It works well.
Your hands spend little if any time on the touchscreen during the show, but it helps you understand what's going on with the physical control surface and grab rarely accessed parameters, not worthy of dedicated console real estate, when needed.
Of _course_ they did.
But nobody listens to the UX/HCI researchers and academics, when the touchscreen vendor's sales team are inviting them to fully catered lunches on a tropical golf course...
Business as usual.
It happens with _everything_ else in this stupid industry, what're the chances of it not happening just the same when the tech industry targets the military industrial complex???
Unlike in business, military purchasing is, I think, generally run by people who were once users of the systems they were purchasing, and are not unlikely to rely on them again. Far more likely than, 'I don't care if the ensign standing watch on my next ship can do his job, this Mai Tai tastes great!' is 'wow, I see all these touch screens on TV shows, in movies and in the Tesla cars the print media tells me are the wave of the future; we need to get the New Hotness™ for our future combat systems too!' and 'hey everybody, look at this awesome futuristic 21st century cockpit my team designed!' They were, I think, completely well-intentioned and genuinely believed that they were doing a good job — and the few folks who opposed them probably sounded like cranky old guys ('why, in my day you had to get three stout sailors to man the rudder, and we liked it that way!').
Our entire culture is neophilic; military purchasers live in our culture; is it any surprise that they might be neophilic too?
Maybe that's just asking too much these days.
You could replace that with the more general "Humans as usual."
As pointed out in the article, this is not good human factors process when the key set of command options are fixed and unlikely to change. And that hard controls for similar functions across equipment gives better cost savings in human training time than the "soft" controls give at acquisition time.
I do think military acquisition folks can "fall in love" with "sci fi" interfaces but there has been a ton of excellent research at NASA Ames which disputes the utility of such interfaces.
(I despise Gizmodo, so it's a deep link for this one)
So if there's things you can do with the touchscreens it's likely to be a whole lot of small things you might want to do in rare non-emergency situations. That's a pretty good fit for a touch screen. You can potentially give the astronauts a huge amount of control over all aspects of the spacecraft without creating a mountain of buttons and knobs. It could even lead to better safety since you know that every single physical control you see is important, and there's less room for mistake when using only the physical interface.
I'm not an expert in this area, so I could be wrong, but my impression is that SpaceX has a pretty good design here. Not necessary better or worse than Boeings approach. It's not like NASA would let astronauts fly on it if they thought it was unsafe or hard to operate.
That said, it does look like they are prioritizing aesthetics over functionality of the control layout.
Like for smartwatches, I hate using touch controls to control it, I really prefer physical buttons since they provide multiple benefits
- keep the display smudge-free
- works with gloves (useful during winter)
- allow actions from touch-memory (ie: skip song without looking at it)
Having a thoughtful default UI along with the ability to display any control or status on the screen would seem like a better idea for central control station. A captain could pull up their own configuration for the control panel. During an emergency, they could fallback to a default view that could be referenced by operating procedure documents. Give the ability to delegate controls to other stations but do not allow multiple stations to control the same input, that seems like an idiotic idea.
Add labels on the display and use a set of generic controls and boom, you can use the same hardware for a ton of functions given the right abstractions.
This is how for example the interface of the 50k$ Arri Alexa looks like (the de facto standard in cinema cameras):
There were lower priced cameras like the Black Magic Production Camera which use only a toucscreen.
And you can guess why that Black Magic model is discontinued..
In fact the UI can be identical for a device with softkeys vs. one with a touchscreen. It causes a few DOH! moments when you are working with some instruments that work one way and some the other, but this isn't nearly as annoying as you might expect.
You still have to look at the screen though. Unless maybe you could 'lock' the UI into one mode (with no sub-menus), which might be a good compromise for vehicles.
The modular scene generally frowns upon systems that need deep menu diving, which is most of the time an indicator that your interface design is lacking.
I don't think it's that researchers think it's good. I think that executives and programmers do.
I am no expert on this, but from talking to people in the aviation industry I noticed slow a trend away from the cockpit-with-2,000 controls and towards using computer screens which switch between display multiple things. Or rather, there still are 2,000 controls, but thanks to the computer-screens, the number hasn't blown up to 200,000.
So my guess is the touchscreens in these ships replaced some computer screen where input (and mode switching) had been done by physical buttons. And now they are moving it back.
OTOH controls that you normally, and especially in a critical situation, reach and operate without looking, is a different thing. They should be stationary, and provide good tactile feedback.
For planes that means that controls required during normal flight can be touch controls. After all on Concord and TU-144 pilots didn’t even have visual. However during departure and landing, pilots need physics buttons and switches as it is visual flight.
Another conclusion is that fighter jets can’t have any touch controls, they are supposed to be in visual all the time.
No touchscreens for in-flight, though, although iPads became common as replacement for paper charts.
Touchscreens are vulnerable for fat fingering.
Every time i carry my touchscreenable laptop - it gets crazy because of accidental touches, moves, brushes and if i forget to lock the screen completely - this bordering with disaster, such as deleted files, moved folders, spradically launched apps, etc..
To be fair, though, the crucial controls are still under my feet and under my thumbs on the steering wheel, and those are all physical/tactile.
On a more serious note - the touch-screen is the greatest "generalist" UI configuration: A whole lot is possible, but no UI is any good, in the sense of having tactile elements.
Apple could still make it happen with a future version of their Taptic Engine. Preferably with hover haptic feedback, where you feel a "tingle" or something before touching the screen.
Touchscreens are the future™
However, I would not be certain if I could type well on a full-touch screen keyboard such as the Optimus Tactus . I do my typing blindly, having a touch screen would constantly require me to find the correct position for my fingers by look. While on a normal keyboard that is easy to do by touch.
I've never seen a MacBook Pro with a touchscreen keyboard. Can you point me at one?
It is caused by the glass's surface temperature being much lower than the air temperature inside the car. Humans are warm. The air we breath is warm. We're heating up the interior of the vehicle. When that warm air contacts the cold surface of the glass, the water droplets migrate from the air onto the surface.
In order to detect it you'd need to know the glass's surface temperature ideally in the middle (away from the car's body) and also know the interior temperature. The interior temp they already have. But figuring out the glass's temp is non-trivial. Infrared camera is the only thing I can imagine working (since a sensor wouldn't be transparent or wouldn't be replaced when the glass is) but that would likely give inaccurate readings due to the outside temperature.
It doesn't have to be perfect -- we can have it just turn on the defrost whenever the probability of window fogging is >10% or something.
When it's sort of cold, but not "ice on the car" cold, it works great as defogging. Way faster than waiting for the car to heat up. When there is ice on the car, you turn on the heaters and within a minute or two you can simply use your wipers to clear the window of ice.
Or, perhaps more simply, have an optical sensor that detects and reacts to the fogging itself sooner than a human would.
Not really. Many windshields already have elements embedded in them like the ultra-thin wire used for the AM radio antenna. Sensing temperature via the resistance of a wire like that is about as trivial as it gets.
It ain't broke, so stop trying to 'fix' it.
I honestly don't remember and my solution is "try both for a little bit while maintaining control of the car".
now in the winter you can sometimes do better than this by fixing the temperature differential itself. you can either lower the windows or cool the entire interior by blowing air with no heat. in reality, most people don't actually want to drive around in the winter with windows down or no heat, so the best tolerable option is usually to do as above: turn on AC and heat.
in the summer you can also get fogging on the outside of the windows. just use your wipers for this.
After reading this I am still not sure which one to use. They seem to both work.
When I get in the car in the morning, the air is already cold. No amount of more cold air from the vents will clear that. What's making it fog up, is the moisture I'm exhaling. More cold air is not going to fix that unless I drive with all windows down. So the only reasonable option since AC don't work at low temperature, is waiting for the car to heat up.
(Warm dry air evaporates water that's condensing on cold surfaces. That's very far from rocket science.)
Two: You are making a false choice: Automatic settings need not replace manual ones. Essentially what we are talking about is a spot on the dial that says "auto" which you are free to not use, much like headlight controls on higher end cars.
Well, they worked fine, but my A/C just went out, so getting dehumidified air is a problem these days.
Sure, but the marketing department had to fill a few blanks in the "bad weather options pack" (optional but casually installed on all cars in production that will be available in the next six-eight months) for a mere US$ 3,000:
1) self-learning wipers (using AI to set automatically an appropriate wiping speed, including economode, that only wipes the right side of the windscreen when you make a free turn on right at a traffic light)
2) intelligent defrost (computing the correct defrost temperature through analysis of real-time satellite heat maps)
3) heated and ventilated mats (that can dry your wet shoes and lower half of trousers independently from heating/confitioning settings)
Dry hot air to heat the windshield above the dew point avoids the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" choice of cold dry air to keep the inside from fogging up versus hot humid air to keep the outside from fogging up.
It's not a matter of temperature sensing on the windshield, but humidity sensing in the cabin air.
There is a max-demist button, which for me is the perfect automatic function - it says what I want, and lets the car get on with selecting max fan/heat/AC/flow to the demist vents. And I can find it with muscle memory when I need it.
Heat randomly turns on -> human is confused, maybe uncomfortable, and might think the car is broken/haunted.
Heat randomly turns on, car displays "Preventing windshield fogging" -> human is thankful car is thinking ahead.
It’s certainly not important enough to distract someone performing any delicate maneuver.
This is a false dichotomy.
Probably because it costs more money and nobody will pay for it. That's the best guess I have.
Personally I solved the problem by buying a lithium ion car starter for both of our cars. Works great, but I really would prefer the cars just had some redundancy built in.
I have been contemplating using the second one as an auxiliary battery after installing a fridge in the boot, though. Basically a matter of fitting a voltage monitor and a hefty relay.
Leaving the headlights on (~10A) as you leave the car in the evening will still let you start it in the morning, for example.
there are bad touch screen systems and there are good ones. just as there are badly laid out physical controls and good ones.
even muscle memory works with touch screens, to say otherwise is just a lie. however the biggest oversight people tend to ignore is, how little they actually interact with controls of their car other than the turn signals and such. Most modern cars have full climate controls which does include humidity and such, many have automatic lights and wipers, and some go as far as doing the driving.
nineteen to twenty four buttons on steering wheel is just fine and intuitive to some just like the same number on a center console yet these same people will complain about the simplicity of a properly design touch UI and fewer physical buttons as being too complex.
But for some routes it’s really easy and convenient. It just depends on where you are and where you’re going.
British trains are very expensive and unreliable at the best of times. Anyone who can drive, does.
And because he already owns a car?
The question is not whether you can operate the controls under normal circumstances. It's whether you can do it when task-saturated with more important tasks. Under such circumstances, I simply wouldn't have had any attention left for glancing at a touchscreen, but I did know and could hit all the manual controls rapidly without looking.
And if it's really, really bad, pull over. Don't be like those idiots who decide to stop in the middle of a highway with 75mph traffic around them, under an overpass to protect themselves from a hailstorm.
It’s also simply wrong: in California, I had to show use of turn signals – not anything else – and no other place I’ve driven since has ever made me pass a test again. Assuming that everyone reads the manual and practices with every new vehicle is unrealistic, so you’re looking at potentially half-century lags between what’s tested and what people are driving.
I actually wonder whether google maps / Waze integration would be a worthwhile improvement: self-driving cars are a good ways off but simply signaling the direction which the driver was just told to turn would be nice, and a majority of drivers seem to be using mapping apps these days.
if only s/he had to pass the same threshold to post on HN!
"Mazda is purging touchscreens from its vehicles"
The rotary navigation knob let me do everything on the screen, and all the buttons for everything else were in intuitive places. Also a great radar cruise control, simple yet highly functional HUD, and things like rear cross alert which is amazing when backing out of 45 degree parking spots next to some big trucks.
As much as I'd love a Tesla as my next car I'm not sure if their UI is where I want to go.
Presently riding to save my health, and money.
In fact, even on touchscreens there will often be some sort of audiovisual "click" effect, whether that's an icon lighting up, expanding, or making an audible click noise.
Agreed. I consider them dangerous, a threat to public safety, they should be banned by the NTSB, and some cars that use them should be under recall to retrofit them with mechanical controls.
Many states are now passing hands free laws that criminalize the use of phones or any other devices that use your hands while driving. The states provide exceptions for car touch screen use, but they shouldn't. They should criminalize the use of all touch screens when driving, not just some.
In one of the talks at Google I/O a few years ago a VP from Audi (or Volvo?) spoke in a thick and lofty German accent about how "ve haf completely oferhauled ze driver exzperienze". He played a sexy video clip showcasing their new Android infotainment system (something like https://youtu.be/h_7_fKJ0PNs), and the first thing I noticed is how they'd taken away my traditional temperature knobs and replaced them with digital touchscreen ones. They looked just like physical ones, and were in the exact same place you would expect (https://9to5google.com/2017/05/15/android-cars-audi/). So, I've gained absolutely nothing, and now I have to take my eyes off the road and look down at the stupid console just to change the temperature.
TLDR: Tacticle feedback is a Good Thing(tm) and designers should cultivate - not fight - muscle memory.
Modern, knob based, vehicle climate control systems actually bury a lot of functionality. For example Toyota's "automatic" AC you can either pick between fully automatic or a subset of manual controls. That's because they ran out of space/complexity headroom for more controls.
Touch screen climate control integrates better with voice (which you should be using while driving), offers better fine-grain control, more information (like CURRENT interior temp rather than just outside/target temp), and can offer new functionality (like profiles/pre-sets, additional automatic modes, memory climate, linked seat heat & cool/positional vents, etc).
I dislike several touch screen based climate control systems I've used. But that's because they're BAD. Car manufacturers are bad at making touch screen systems. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's a lot of good reasons to go that direction, car manufacturers just need to work on UX a lot.
Which is to say, I think you're significantly limiting what you believe is possible with physical UX.
For the rest of the population of this planet, voice controls are horrible; either the user doesn't speak the supported languages at all, or speaking the supported language doesn't come naturally and switching to it requires mental effort, or it's an infuriating experience to try to make the bloody machine correctly interpret what you're saying.
That's even ignoring the complete fucking shit show that is software trying to understand natural language and infer meaning, without just turning it into a tedious form of a command line interface.
Please count me out. I'm a non-native English speaker, with a strong accent, and I'd absolutely prefer voice control over having to:
1) Remove my right hand from the steering wheel, reaching forward where the controls are. There is a good reason all important controls (besides pedals) are on the steering column.
2) Either a) moving my eyes away from the road for a moment, looking for the knob; or b) trying to find the exact controls by touch and memory.
> an infuriating experience to try to make the bloody machine correctly interpret what you're saying
Machines are limited - and despite marketers wanting us to believe otherwise, I don't expect them to display comprehension natural human languages better than my cat does. Like I query search engines with keywords and special syntax, and not proper sentences, I expect to communicate with the machine in a special, non-natural language.
Restricted speech recognition with strict grammar and limited vocabulary works quite OK those days. It's the general-purpose voice recognition and "smart" assistants are things that suck hard.
Heck, maybe I'm a total weirdo, but I'd rather learn a special conlang than reach for AC controls by touch.
Sure, but irrational. One of the largest benefits of physical controls is physical feedback, like being about to feel if you've reached the max cold/hot ceilings or the state of the switches.
To make them voice compatible you have to remove that physical association (e.g. infinite spinners, or blind switches), which means now you need to take your eyes off the road to use them, which was major perk of physical controls.
Physical controls that have no physical state are the worst of both worlds. You've lost the physical and electronic control's advantages while adding the disadvantages to both.
This is so true.
I absolutely hate the AC knob in my car.
Apparantely, they thought it was good engineering to make it infinite.
It's awesome- I love that thing so much and have parts on the way to build my own.
I think the issue is more bad integration than it is a bad idea.
A VFD or 7-segment display next to a pair of buttons for up and down works quite well for temperature control, and lets you integrate it nicely with digital controls.
The issue here is not that it's impossible to integrate the analog physical and the digital aether- it's the implementation that's oft lacking.
Of course - the latter is the factor least likely to be present.
That's a false dichotomy. Tactile controls doesn't mean you can have electronic logic behind them, that you can talk to in alternative ways (e.g. through voice).
Also, I wouldn't say the whole BS added to modern "climate control" (i.e. bloated AC) systems is much of an improvement...
My old MP3 player with its physical buttons and weird control lever, well, I could work it by touch and muscle memory.
> inherently inferior / single-system
From the top of my head, maps work better on touchscreens. Navigating document trees. Making elements link together, group them. And there must be hundreds of uses not obvious now because we haven’t tried enough.
Actually I don’t see how any input system would not have some high-stake single system where it’s a perfect fit. That would just be failure of imagination in my opinion.
For managing permanent properties, I think mechanical interfaces are the best option, though of course vastly more costly.
Any control interface is by definition acting on something dynamic, so even pushing a physical button, we expect the some status to reflect the result instantly.
I think touchscreen could be best used as a step above joysticks, when an action cannot just be summed by a on/off (or +/-) state, or a vector in one direction.
Imagine in a military setting if you need to open a communication channel with 4 teams moving close to each other to warn them of a nearby enemy. Would you prefer to switch the “open communication” lever, check the team numbers, push the buttons 1, 5, 6, 12 and the “open channel” button. Or circle them directly on the map and click “open communication” on the right side panel?
I also think that a lot of touchscreen interface are immature and ill thought, but it would be the same issue with stupid buttons like we can find in so many cars for instance (why would the parking brake switch be next to the A/C on/off ?)
What I have: There's one button that toggles A/C on/off; when it's on, a green LED glows in the button (the button is flush at all times). There's an up/down lever that increases/ decreases the fan speed: hold it up, and the fan speed increases by a notch every second or two, and similarly for down. When you let go, the lever reverts to the middle position. The fan speed shows in a series of bars in a tiny display above that switch. There's another up/down lever that controls the temp setting, although exactly what that does depends on whether the A/C is on (I think). Its current setting shows as numbers above that switch. There's another controller that determines whether the air goes to the front seat only, or the front + back; the setting for that appears on the main console screen, but only for a few seconds after you change it--after that, the main console reverts to showing engine status or something, depending on how that's set. Whether it goes to the driver only, or to the driver + front seat passenger, is determined by whether the car thinks there's a passenger (which it determines by weight on the seat). There are two other controls that determine whether the defrosters are on; I can't remember how you tell what they're set for.
What I wish: two knobs to control temp and fan settings; clockwise would be higher/ faster. A lever to determine air to the front/back seats. A toggle switch to turn the A/C on/off; up is on. Toggle switches for the front/rear defrosters.
What I'm glad I don't have: touch screen controls for all this.
For a human to interface with anything digital, we need to drop what we’re doing and fully engage the touch interface.
Dangerous when driving, or similar.
With analog interfaces, our hands know exactly where to go and what to do just on feel, keeping attention elsewhere.
I’m glad the DOD made this decision and I hope others will follow.
Just because you can chip it doesn’t mean you should.
The FMVSS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Motor_Vehicle_Safety_S... ) probably has some rule that states a car has to have a physical steering wheel that operates in a particular way, as well as a brake pedal to the left of the accelerator, etc., although I haven't actually looked; I do know, however, that it requires automatic transmissions to have the PRNDL shift sequence.
With the iPod, I could manage sometimes but about half the time I ended up having to take it out and look at what i pressed because it just wasn't working by feel. I remember a couple mp3 players from the time made manual buttons with different sizes and placement and better feedback, but they weren't around for long.
Fruit gets larger and brighter, but the flavor and texture go down.
Acoustic paneled ceilings are removed in favor of exposed ductwork and beams, but noise transmission between floors and echoes on the same floor get much worse. (I am torn about this one though)
Buttons with tactile guidance feel great but look too 1990s so everything becomes a glass rectangle.
I would really really like to see and participate in a renaissance of design that accounts for all of the human senses in all their forms.
In the case of using Xbox controllers it’s actually a great idea - these controllers were designed & refined over decades of intensive use by all kinds of people around the world - you wouldn’t be able to do better even if you tried with a custom design. There are obvious concerns regarding reliability of the hardware, but the design itself is in my opinion flawless.
If I were designing a destroyer control, I would probably make the throttle be some sort of device where the position of the device indicates the throttle state. But I would certainly make the throttle be a single-purpose device that controls nothing else.
The UX terminology for what you're describing is a modal interface: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(user_interface)
... which is to say, an interface that works differently depending on what "mode" the interface is in.
A classic example of a modal interface is vi/vim, where you have to explicitly switch into "editing" mode in order to actually insert text into the document. And a classic demonstration of why modal interfaces are undesirable can be produced simply by taking someone who's never used vi/vim before, sitting them down in front of it, and telling them to enter a line of text. They will start typing, and immediately become confused when the words they typed don't actually show up anywhere. (Or worse, when they happen to have typed a keystroke that corresponds to a vi command and weird stuff they didn't expect starts happening.)
As you note, modal interfaces are particularly bad in situations where the user needs to operate the system under pressure -- such as (say) on a warship, where the life of the operator may literally depend on them being able to accomplish tasks quickly and accurately. Modal interfaces force the operator to first orient themselves as to what mode the system is currently in before they can do anything, which slows down even experienced operators, and pull away attention that could otherwise be applied elsewhere.
What does all that have to do with touchscreens? Because how a touchscreen operates can be modified with only some programming, they tend to lure developers into building modal interfaces in an effort to cram as many features into them as possible. From a feature-checklist perspective that's great, but from a usability perspective it's a disaster. Anyone who's experienced a modern car infotainment system will understand why -- paging through menu screens to find the one mode with the feature you want while piloting a two-ton hunk of metal at 75mph is a bad combination.
It does not take much work for a Photoshop operator to orient themselves to the current mode, because it is communicated by a number of cues, including the shape of the mouse pointer.
One problem with vi’s interface is that, in contrast to Photoshop, it’s not easy for a vi operator to discover the available modes.
Are there any paint programs without a modal interface?
> But what is the alternative?
It takes some outside-the-box thinking. Here's an article by Larry Tesler, of Xerox PARC and original-Macintosh-team fame, on how his desire to build a modeless text editor led to the invention of copy-and-paste: http://worrydream.com/refs/Tesler%20-%20A%20Personal%20Histo...
- with experienced users, e.g. people who are used to vim
- with a sharply limited number of modes, e.g. the three modes that vim has
It's just really easy to get carried away when you have the enormous number of combinations that touchscreens allow.
with experienced users, e.g. people who are used to vim
... though, is that it basically represents a surrender on the idea that UX is important at all. Given enough time and commitment on the part of the user, any interface can be learned well enough to be adequately useful. You could build an interface out of loaded guns and rotating knives, and a sufficiently committed user could eventually learn how to operate it without killing themselves. The challenge is that most users' time and commitment are not unlimited.
A stronger argument in favor of modal interfaces is that they enable the creation of complex interfaces that wouldn't be possible without modes. This is part of what appeals to so many vim users about vim -- once you've climbed the learning cliff it presents, you can do some things much more efficiently than you could in, say, a WYSIWYG editor. I personally don't agree with that tradeoff, but I recognize that a number of people see it as worthwhile.
Consumer-oriented UI is not the only UI! Users' time and commitment are not unlimited, but they are substantial when e.g. you are in the military and already need to be trained to understand the problem domain.
EDIT: A great example is the UI of the controls of a car. It's important to put commonly-used controls in ergonomic areas, follow the principle of least surprise, etc.; but it can still be built with the assumption that the user is a licensed driver and knows where the turn signal usually is, that up is left and down is right, what all the assorted symbolic labels mean, etc.
Too many medical devices are designed to be operated by fingers, rather than a foot. Touchscreens help the problem of hand-transferred contamination, but that is the wrong problem to fix. The problem is that hands are being forced to touch things unnecessarily. No one cares about what feet touch, because feet don't touch patients, and shoe-clad feet can step through a shallow disinfecting bath if necessary.