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Muscle Memory & Interface

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Muscle Memory & Interface
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Space Pirate
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
2022-01-14, 09:31

I couldn't find a thread where I've discussed how I feel that some of today's designers don't take advantage of our biological use of muscle memory.

This belief in interface designs that employ physical interfaces (rather than pure reliance on voice interfaces) was buoyed by this quote from an interview with the authors of The Expanse book series (on which the streaming series is based):

“What we’re positing here is that these touchscreens and these kinds of interfaces are robust and work well in these kinds of conditions, where jacking into your brain, maybe not so much? Speech, yelling commands to the ship is cool, but it’s kind of a shitty interface in practice,” he adds.

“Humans interact with the world with their fingertips. There’s millions of years of evolution behind that — our fingers are connected to our brains differently than any other part of us,” Franck chimes in. “When we want to accomplish a thing, our first instinct is to reach out and touch something and manipulate it with their fingers ... so when I see something where people are no longer using their hands to do work, it feels false to me, it’s ignoring the realities of what humans do as biological entities.”


Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
Join Date: May 2004
Location: 🛸
2022-01-14, 09:40

I saw an article in the last couple of days about this, but I haven't watched Season 6 of The Expanse yet and the article had a big spoiler warning, so... I'll see if I can't retrace my footsteps and find it.

[edit]: Here 'tis.

No Expanse spoilers plz.

So it goes.
Dr. Bobsky
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: UK's most densely packed city. It's not London...
2022-01-20, 05:50

Originally Posted by 709 View Post
I saw an article in the last couple of days about this, but I haven't watched Season 6 of The Expanse yet and the article had a big spoiler warning, so... I'll see if I can't retrace my footsteps and find it.

[edit]: Here 'tis.

No Expanse spoilers plz.
Not much to spoil honestly...
Join Date: May 2004
Location: near Bremen, Germany
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2022-01-20, 06:05

I mean, the original iPhone kind of answered this: as Steve explained, a touch screen allows for more flexibility than physical buttons — and yet, the iPhone did ship with multiple physical buttons, for critical functionality: home, lock, volume up/down, silent switch. I'm sure there were internal arguments to have those be virtual as well (and indeed, one of them, the home button, eventually become virtual), and for multiple key functions, "no, we need this to be tactile and always in the same place" won out.

That's what cars that go all-in on touchscreens get wrong.
Space Pirate
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
2022-01-20, 06:25

The argument for soft menus is strong. Unlimited options is kind of hard to beat. But there is no tool that is all encompassing.

Offloading crucial functions to dedicated controls is just practical, in my opinion.

The interface between human and machine requires a certain amount of mechanical interaction, glass being one of them.

People who love driving manual transmission vehicles are in it for the experience of melding with the machine.

Musicians form a connection with their instrument, making it an extension of themselves.

They don't have to look at anything to make it work.

In a world where people have their faces buried in a screen, a renaissance in mechanical interfaces would be refreshing.

Selfish Heathen
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
2022-01-20, 12:25

Originally Posted by chucker View Post
That's what cars that go all-in on touchscreens get wrong.
This this this. A thousand times this.

I fucking loathe the trend to make every car control into a touchscreen. This absolutely influenced my decision to buy a new car a couple years ago, as it easily ruled out several major car makers. If I can't adjust the climate controls or turn down the volume purely by sense of touch without looking at a screen, your design has completely failed.

Some controls don't need flashy UIs with glowing gradients and sound effects, not to mention the boot time and input lag. They just need to work quickly and easily and consistently everywhere all the time.

I look forward to the logical conclusion of this trend where the steering wheel becomes a touchscreen you have to navigate with one finger (multi-touch input screens are obviously too expensive for a machine that already costs many tens of thousands of dollars) and you have to navigate to a different view to access the accelerator and brake interface.

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The Ban Hammer
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
2022-01-20, 14:00

Yep. Knobs and dials were never "broken". In fact, they never "broke" until they were replaced with *not* knobs and dials.

I can climb into my truck on any given day and have the heater or A/C working inside of 1 second. In my wife's car (which isn't even touch-screen, mind you) it takes a lot of looking* and feeling* to sort out the multitude of over-thought clicky things. My truck has three large knobs for the entirety of the climate control system, and just two of them provide 99% of the functionality. My wife's car has two knobs and 8 buttons for the same features*, and none of them are intuitive.

Touch screens make this mess even worse.

* The *only* system on planet Earth that I can sort out where this sort of fidgety makes sense is a woman's body!

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