Man-machine interfaces can be found in many areas of our lives. We use them every time we operate a machine. However, these days we generally use the term interface in the narrower sense to refer to the interactive exchange of information between humans and artificial systems.
Optimum design of these contact points is becoming an increasingly important factor as computerised technology gradually invades all aspects of our daily lives. At the dawn of computer development, the emphasis was on the machine's functionality, with great efforts required to master its operation. The options engendered by human awareness and action were hardly taken into account at all. And despite the latest technical advances, we still use our eyes and hands today to communicate with the computer via display, keyboard and mouse.
The development of new interfaces is not only geared towards enhancing working conditions for the user, but also towards substantially improving the speed and efficiency of data transfer in comparison with conventional methods, such as keyboard and mouse. This entails making communication between humans and machines as convenient and as individual as possible, with the technology adapted to human requirements and abilities. Natural and intuitive interaction with artificial systems has to appeal directly both to human senses and to the means by which humans communicate, such as voice, facial expression and gestures. Before long, new interfaces should be able to recognise and interpret these human capabilities, and react to them accordingly. Image and voice processing systems or haptic interfaces are already being deployed on a commercial basis.
The efforts of the Internet and the entertainment industry to facilitate movement and haptic experiences in virtual space should not be underestimated as additional driving forces behind the development of multifunctional interfaces.