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Integrating user needs in the development of industrial HMI

Retrospective on the Industrial usability day 2019

Automation, Industry 4.0, IOT, Digitalization. While the technological progress impacts the development of industrial HMI’s, the focus on the user needs and usability during development gains importance. In a complex work environment, a well-designed and adequate user interface can enable the user to work safely and efficiently, and even reduce service time and costs.

Therefore, we attended the Industrial Usability Day 2019 in Würzburg (Bavaria) and gathered interesting insights on new developments and the challenges of these industries in various expert talks and extensive networking sessions.

Integration of user research in the (agile) development process

One challenge addressed on the industrial usability day was the integration of user research in the development process. Since the development in most companies is still very technology driven, the focus on the users and their needs must be established first. Additionally, several contributions in the discussions we attended at the conference suggest that user-centered design methods and design thinking approaches with their emotional and creative spin can still seem new and unconventional to the rather rational industry of industrial engineering.

Furthermore, we frequently heard that there is a strong need to measure the positive effects of UX activities through UX KPI’s to convey the added value of UX to the management and to support the reasoning for investment in UX and usability research.

The transition from the classical development processes (e.g. waterfall) to agile and iterative approaches (e.g. Scrum and Kanban) with their advantages and challenges for the development team was addressed, but many participants stated doubt and even opposition to these methods as they are still mostly not well known.

New input methods allow new approaches to human-machine-interaction

Technological developments such as voice control, gesture control VR and eye tracking allow new ways of interaction and multimodal input methods. Yet, the touch display was integrated in industrial interfaces long after it was adopted in consumer technology, due to missing haptic feedback and safety requirements (e.g. constantly present emergency stop).

Also, the usage of new interaction methods such as voice control can be restricted due to the high noise in the production site, even if the ‘hands-free’ interaction would offer many advantages. Through augmented reality (AR) users can interact with a virtual screen, or AR can be used to allow engineers to maintain complex plants with only little training.

There was an inspiring talk by Isabella Hillmer from Berlin startup ‘ghost’ which develops haptic wearables that allow subconscious feedback. Through this technology, handicapped people can ‘feel’ their prothesis or car drivers can be nudged into positive behavior (e.g. look over the shoulder when changing lanes). These new technologies offer various options for innovative HMI’s, but the user and use context always needs to be considered to ensure a safe and pleasant user experience.

See you on the industrial usability day in 2020

We very much enjoyed the vibrant exchange and the inspiring insights and are looking forward to seeing you on the industrial usability day next year.

Don’t want to wait until next year? Visit our website to check out how we can support you in your project: https://www.uintent.com/industrial-ux


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