User Interface - Terminology

Terminology

There is a difference between a user interface and an operator interface or a humanmachine interface.

  • The term "user interface" is often used in the context of (personal) computer systems and electronic devices
    • Where a network of equipment or computers are interlinked through an MES (Manufacturing Execution System)-or Host.
    • An HMI is typically local to one machine or piece of equipment, and is the interface method between the human and the equipment/machine. An Operator interface is the interface method by which multiple equipment that are linked by a host control system is accessed or controlled.
    • The system may expose several user interfaces to serve different kinds of users. For example, a computerized library database might provide two user interfaces, one for library patrons (limited set of functions, optimized for ease of use) and the other for library personnel (wide set of functions, optimized for efficiency).
  • The user interface of a mechanical system, a vehicle or an industrial installation is sometimes referred to as the human–machine interface (HMI). HMI is a modification of the original term MMI (man-machine interface). In practice, the abbreviation MMI is still frequently used although some may claim that MMI stands for something different now. Another abbreviation is HCI, but is more commonly used for human-computer interaction. Other terms used are operator interface console (OIC) and operator interface terminal (OIT). However it is abbreviated, the terms refer to the 'layer' that separates a human that is operating a machine from the machine itself.

In science fiction, HMI is sometimes used to refer to what is better described as direct neural interface. However, this latter usage is seeing increasing application in the real-life use of (medical) prostheses—the artificial extension that replaces a missing body part (e.g., cochlear implants).

In some circumstance computers might observe the user, and react according to their actions without specific commands. A means of tracking parts of the body is required, and sensors noting the position of the head, direction of gaze and so on have been used experimentally. This is particularly relevant to immersive interfaces.

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