In part one of this series, we discussed the definition of an interface as the communicator between a sender and a receptor, and we discussed a few of the most basic interfaces we come into contact with every day.
In part two, we will be discussing advanced interfaces. If you haven’t read part one, you may want to go back a step before continuing.
What is an advanced interface?
Remember the seventh grade science class about simple and compound machines? Let’s keep the ideas from that lesson in mind. If you didn’t, for some really great reason, take seventh grade, a simple machine is one of six varieties of objects, like an inclined plane or a pulley, that make work (the scientific definition, at least) easier to do. Compound machines take two or more of these simple machines and combine them to create a new machine.
Basic and advanced interfaces are similar to simple and compound machines. While a basic interface is limited to singular input and analysis process, advanced interfaces take advantage of two or more different kinds of input and analysis processes.
Actual Environment Interfaces
Actual environment interfaces are based on actions in which you are interacting directly with your environment. All interfaces utilize actual environments to some degree; from simple kitchen appliances to remote controls, steering wheels in your car to elevator buttons in your office complex, actual environment action-based interfaces exist all around us on a daily basis.
Simulated Environment Interfaces
Simulated environment interfaces are based on a digital platform, such as a computer or ATM kiosk. A simulated environment would be the “world” that the screen is showing you. In an actual environment, you would use your hands to push buttons, open folders, write words, etcetera. In a simulated environment, you use an actual environment interface (usually a mouse, keyboard, trackpad, and/or a touchscreen) to “push” the buttons, open folders, and write (type) words that exist in a simulated environment. The popularity of simulated environments has reached an all-time high because of the exponential advancements in computing.
So naturally, as we’ve already mentioned one category of simulated environment interfaces is computers. Here we are speaking directly of the personal computer. You are more than likely using one right now. Virtually everyone at least has access to one. Personal computers are the building block of most other simulated environments, and have been the cause and subject of many advancements in technology that allow for more powerful, faster, smaller microchip processing. Microchip processing is the basis for almost every simulation we experience daily. This is not to mention the thousands of other venues in which microchip processing enhances a product. (That’s another post entirely.)
Some other common simulated environments include flight/vehicle simulators, in which the operator utilizes instrumental interfaces that look, feel, and react the same way as instruments in a vehicle would, and often show the response through one or more screens, as well as auditory simulation and “feeling” simulation (the shaking of a car or tilting during an airplane turn). Some of these simulators have been developed enough to use as training mechanisms for military personnel. Others are available as consumer software that often utilizes input devices, such as joysticks or steering wheels that plug in via USB.
Perhaps the most popular simulated environment platform is video games. The industry of video games has grown tremendously since it’s initial instatement. The realism of the newest gaming consoles, such as the XBOX 360 and Playstation3, has garnered the attention of younger and older gamers alike. (We won’t ever forget our roots, Atari owners!)
Let us not forget, perhaps the most widespread new simulated environment interfaces can be found on personal portable devices, such as cell phones and mp3 players. (Who else owns an iPhone?) Portable devices such as the iPhone and the new Palm Pre aren’t brand-new players in the game (PDA’s have technically been around since the 80’s), but have recently become more affordable and widespread, which has called for the industry to more competition to push the boundaries of the platform. With support from mobile networks that provide higher-speed wireless connection as well as Wi-Fi compatibility and Bluetooth advancements, portable devices have taken the limelight.
Lastly, we must observe the internet as a simulated interface. The internet contains a vast amount of information, and perhaps most importantly, can be accessed from almost anywhere thanks to advancing technology (do you see a pattern here?).
Okay, so there is no possible way we can list every kind of simulated environment here. We think you’re smart enough to get the idea though. :)
That’s a lot to take in (again). But let’s look at it simply put.
Basic interfaces include text and illustration, as well as our sensory analysis processes. Advanced interfaces take advantage of any combination of these basic interfaces. Advanced interfaces may include both actual and simulated environment interfaces, and deal with physical interfaces that the user interacts with, while simulated environment interfaces deal with an interface that the user seems to interact with by using an actual environment interface to control the simulation, such as a mouse and keyboard.
Make sure you check back to see the next installment of Interface 101! Also, leave a comment below to join the discussion!