User Interfaces & Robotics: Filling the Gaps

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With Jony Ive sending shockwaves through the tech world last week, announcing his departure from Apple after nearly thirty years with the company, design-related buzzwords such as “intuitive’’ and “gesture controls” have re-emerged in the national dialogue. Few designers have reached the kind of mainstream popularity that positioned Ive to educate the public on the human-technology relationship.  Over the last decade, a universal understanding and expectation have developed that each function and ability of a device or application should be clear and obvious from the very first interaction.

Design principles such as “Matching the System to the Real World” and prioritizing “Recognition Over Recall” both point to the importance that intuition plays in interface design. Intuitive design is the difference between successfully and unsuccessfully navigating yourself to a destination using a maps app, or helping speed up or slow down a busy line in a coffee shop while reloading your account balance to get your reward points. Or in the case of robotic control systems, the stakes of intuitive gesture-based controls are much higher. Few solutions encapsulate the functionality, minimalism, and ergonomics necessary for clear and easy control of UAV’s/UGV’s, but the user interfaces being developed at Tomahawk Robotics have embodied these qualities.

Less is More

It’s not uncommon for a professional requiring the use of robotic control systems to be engaged in a SWAT mission, surveying unstable terrain, or delivering a payload. None of these are circumstances in which a user can afford to be overwhelmed by a cluttered or convoluted interface. In the case of the Kinesis Mimic controller, minimalism is key; featuring a fully inertial based 6 DOF input augmented with the standard A B X Y diamond, a back/reverse button, power button, and analog trigger, this controller considers the user’s cognitive capacity with every feature.

In the mid-’50s, psychologist George Miller published his findings, which was eventually coined “Miller’s Law,” and it states that the average person’s capacity for processing information is limited to seven independent items at a time (+/– 2). Influenced by this understanding of human cognition, Mimic signifies its abilities to the user without requiring any extraneous thought or calculation, thus optimizing the decision making abilities of its user.

Come One, Come All

Flexibility and efficiency are constant throughout the varying interpretations of design principles. When walking around a guitar center, it doesn’t matter what kind of effect/amp they have displayed, I know how to play the opening riff of “Teen Spirit” (granted, that’s all I know how to play.) But I know an experienced musician can expertly twist and turns nobs and create a whole sonic soundscape with ease.

Designs within the Kinesis brand reflect the varying levels of technological literacy that their users possess. With Mimic, key features in the controller like vibrotactile haptic feedback, even novice users can interpret that stimulus to confirm system status and operation. Not only does Mimic cater to potentially inexperienced users, but also works natively with Kinesis Mobile to unlock advanced control features.

Consistency is Key

The robotics industry longed for a disruptive solution when it became clear that a control system could seamlessly be integrated into the pre-existing workflow, hardware, and mobile devices. Users in the middle of a mission that involves UAV surveillance, robotic arm manipulation, and incoming data which will inform a critical decision should not have to translate, decipher, or otherwise figure out what an icon, word, or behavior means. They definitely should not have to lug around multiple controllers for each system either.

The Kinesis UI was designed with familiar icons, language, and responses across your domains and devices. Ease-of-use is truly at the center of Kinesis Robotic IoT software, and we encourage you to explore for yourself the features of the world’s first enterprise-level robotic IoT control system.

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