This week on the show, we talk about how a new study suggests Buttons in Cars Are Safer and Quicker to Use Than Touchscreens. We also answer some questions from the community about knowing when to leave your job, typical Tech Stacks in HF and UX, and what to look for in a company before joining.
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Welcome to Human Factors Cast, your weekly podcast for human factors psychology and design.
Yes, it's episode 258. Welcome to Human Factors Cast. We're recording episode live on September 15, 2022. I'm your host, Nick Rome. I am joined today by Mr. Barry Kirby. Hey, great to be back. Good to have you back. Actually, you were back last week, but kind of sort of it was different, but we'll talk about that. We got a great show for you tonight. We're going to be talking about how a new study suggests that buttons and cars are safer and quicker to use than touch screens. And later, we're going to cover some answer some questions from the community about knowing when to leave your job, typical tech stacks in Human Factors and UX and what to look for in a company before joining them. But first, we got some programming notes. Hey, if you have been with the show for a while, thank you. We have upcoming here later this month, actually on the 27th, Tuesday, we're going to sit down, have a town hall. Once again, it's that time of the year. Have our quarterly town hall with the folks at HFES. Join us Tuesday, September 27 at 04:00 p.m.. It's not a Friday this time, it's a Tuesday. Some scheduling things. Anyway, join us there. It'll be a great talk. You also get that in your podcast feed right here. But Barry, what's going on over at twelve two? So, twelve two, we should have had a new episode out on Monday, but we've taken a period out of respect to the death of the Queen here in the UK. So that is now going to go out a week on Monday and we're going to be talking about the Dirty Dozen with Gordon Dupont. And the interview, as I think I mentioned on the last episode, is actually not conducted by me. I'd like to hand over the reins. I was asked if I could hand over the reins to Michael Bates, who is a lecturer at the University of South Wales here in the UK. And he wanted to interview Gordon to provide material for his lectures for his students. And they gracefully said that I could use it as podcast material as well. So I let somebody else in the twelve or two studio to play with the twelve or two bits and pieces with me just producing it all in the background. So that felt a bit awkward, but I was gracious enough to let it happen. So that will go live a week on Monday and hopefully will dial into that one. I'm honestly a little bit jealous. I would love to just sit back and do a producer role. But anyway, you're here for the news, so let's get into the news.
Yes, this is the part of the show all about human Factors news. Now, this is normally where I'd hand it over to Barry, but I just want to do a little bit of preamble. Last week, we actually started our first ever recast, which is sort of a repackaging of one of our older elements or one of our older shows and putting it out there as a placeholder in our programming schedule. Since Barry wasn't able to join us, it was last minute, couldn't find a replacement. So we put that out there as a primer for this episode. Now, I know the topics are not quite the same. Today we're talking about buttons, controls, displays. Last time or in the recast episode, we were talking about artificial intelligence and how it might know the status of its passengers and how that might impact some things going forward in the future. Thought that was a good tie into this. So in the future, you may see a couple more of those interesting little tidbits where we bring in a recast as a primer for an upcoming episode or as a placeholder in relation to what came the prior week. So just be aware that's what's going on. That's why you saw maybe an older episode in your feed last week. But Barry, we're here to talk about buttons and controls and displays in cars. What is the story this week? So the story is, as you quite rightly say, study finds that buttons in cars are safer and quicker to use than touchscreens. So many car manufacturers are swapping out traditional buttons and switches in favor of touchscreen systems that cover all aspects of car control, from what you listen to on the radio through to driving settings and driving modes. But new evidence now shows that those touchscreens are potentially far less safe and efficient than the old school alternative. According to findings of a Swedish car magazine, the magazine conducted tests across twelve models of cars. Eleven modern, along with one 2005 Volvo with more physical controls allow test drivers to get to know the ins and outs of the vehicles. The tests themselves were quite simple. Drivers were instructed to cruise down an empty air strip at 68 miles an hour and were timed on the completion of four infotainment tasks, ranging from adjusting the air conditioning to messing with the radio. The magazine found that the 2005 Volvo far outperformed the modern infotainment screen equipped cars with a driver completed all four tasks in just 10 seconds and a thousand feet traveled. Meanwhile, the best time the modern cars were nearly 14 seconds. But even these speeds were relative outliers because the majority of infotainment equipped vehicles took well over 20 seconds and at least 2000ft to conduct the tasks. So, Nick, how do you feel about cars evolving to have more income with the smartphone than a traditional American muscle car? My reaction isn't to your question. My reaction is to the article. Let's see here. I think look to have more in common with a smartphone. In some ways it's good. In other ways, yeah, it's not going to be great. But my reaction to the article is shocked. Pikachu face.
Yeah. In other news what's up? But I do want to mention this is a great study. I guess there's just a couple of things with the study and the science that I have an issue with in terms of using one control vehicle as the button vehicle. It just seems like you couldn't find any other vehicles with just buttons to test it against. Is this an ad for Volvo? I don't know. That to me, is what it comes across as is. Like, we compared all of these high tech cars to this one 2005 Volvo ad for Volvo. So aside from the issues with the study itself and using two different groups, I think this confirms a lot of people's suspicions, at least in the human factors world. So not really a surprise to me. Barry, are you surprised at all by this?
No. I think your point about the study methodology, this is not done as a truly scientific study. It's done as a what
does it do? It would be more interesting if they compare the 2005 Volvo with a Volvo because they've evolved and that type of thing. But fundamentally, I kind of think we're getting a bit greedy or a bit demanding in the fact that we expect everything to work exactly as it should do right now, straight away, because all technology evolves. We know this. So it's good, so it's bad. I think we're still on the cusp of this Smart Car epoch, the Smart Car period. We're hitting the extremes because I think there is a bounce to be hard. We know that there is one manufacturer that has gone down the route of a single display in the center of the car, which I think for all sorts is terrible and screams to me, safety issues and all that sort of stuff. But I think there is a balance to be had because it's providing us more information. But we need to lean back. And I think we'll come into this in the discussion about why control is important. What is it about them that gives us things that maybe a touchscreen doesn't? And I think I probably should declare here that I'm going to lean into my own experiences of my two days of owning an electric vehicle with a big screen in the center of it, or certainly a screen in the center of it. And so that has certainly provided me a bit more insight than perhaps I would have had this time last week. So she would just get into it. I want to ask you before we even jump into anything, is it just a big screen in the center or there's still some physical controls around? Give me sort of the layout of your new vehicle. So it isn't just a big screen. So it has a standard steering wheel with controls on that. It has a small screen. It's not just a screener but it's a small screen behind it that gives you your displays of your speed and what I would say your key indicators. At that point. You still got obviously physical controls for indicators and put on your windscreen washers. It does have a physical light button, but the touch screen then gets used for everything from radio. But you can set up a lot of driver settings and things like that as well. And interestingly today I had an experience where I was showing some of the colleagues at work the car and when it comes to the big screen, didn't work. And I was like, immediately we have to send it back already, and they said, but actually we found out how to reset the screen, that was fine, but I could still drive the car without the screen because I still had some of these smaller bits of information, which was great. But if you had just not just a single screen you wouldn't have been able to do that, I don't think. But yeah, there's a whole lot of stuff around it that I've really enjoyed using with it. I guess in some ways what the biggest revelation to me was it's just like driving a car? It is just fundamentally a car. I don't know quite necessarily what I was expecting. There is a lot of stuff, a lot of queues that I guess I would normally use that are missing. So normally you'd use the red frequency of the engine subliminally to know, to have an indication what sort of speed you're doing well, that just doesn't exist. And these cars, the car is quite powerful. It's probably the most powerful car I've ever owned. And being able to get up to, let's say up towards the speed limit happens very quickly indeed, which I'm not necessarily used to. So because you haven't got like the river of the engine to help, I guess you sync that in. That's taking a bit of getting used to. There is also the level of automation that you have. So this car has a sort of it doesn't have full auto drive like say Tesla would. So that's all that it's not Tesla, but it does have steering assist, it does have lane assist, it does have a level of auto drive as long as you keep your hand somewhere near the steering wheel and that type of thing getting used to trusting that me a while. It's actually quite good at subtly queueing you back into if you let your not necessarily grasping the steering wheel with enough that it can detect it, it sort of sits there and goes, touch the wheel, touch the wheel, put your hand on the wheel, put your hand on the wheel, put your hand on the wheel. And then just says, right, I'm out, I'm done. And I like the way it does that. It's not completely in your face because we do know that some of the alerting with some systems can go a bit mad. It's, well, subtly cued. There's some elements as well of the way that it, I guess the way that you are learning how to engage with the range. I guess the elephant in the room is range anxiety. So people always sort of have said you're always worrying about how am I going to get to where I am with the number of miles I've got, with the battery charge I've got, and I've got a car with actually quite a decent amount of range on it. But I could see if you had sort of a small thing to put around town in, I could see why that would be a problem. But you have to think about the way that you deal with your energy differently, so you're not just thinking about filling up a tank of fuel and then, you know, there's infrastructure there. Chances are you'll come across a petrol station or gas station before you need to worry about it. The EV infrastructure here in the UK isn't quite brilliant and so you have to think a bit more about now, thankfully, the car, it would have got me because I went on a long trip yesterday, or longish trip yesterday, and he would have got back no problem without a charge. But I wanted to try the public network to see how it worked because I'm nosy and a bit geeky once I did it, actually, it was that simple. But there was still some nuances around that which there's a training element there that we are a cultural element, an auto behavioral one as well, that we are going to use EVs properly to focus on them. We are going to have to deal with a lot more than I anticipated that we would. Wow. Well, for comparison, I'm driving a 2015 Toyota Corolla and it's got a small little screen for media, which I never use and it's got a bunch of physical buttons that I use all the time. And so that's our frame of reference for today's conversation. Barry, I want to start just generally you're starting to comment on really the culture. I want to talk about the aging population to start with. I think we just take it from the top here because you're right, there's all these different sort of expectations that folks need to get accustomed to as they get access to these new paradigms of thinking and these new ways of interacting with vehicles. So you have that whole conversation about digital natives versus basically the folks who need to learn things as they come through. And you have these younger generations growing up needing to learn how to operate these vehicles. And in some cases, will it even matter? I mean, some day it may or may not even matter that they have these full screen controls in the car where it's a fully automated vehicle. Someone who doesn't have a license, doesn't even need to be aware of those things. And I think that's very true. We are going to go through an evolution, I think even as I've just described the evolution of me three days ago, having never truly driven an EV to getting in one and not only do the engagement with a new vehicle, but also the Gadgets that are involved in it as well. So there is a step change in technology when my children, in fact my elderly, starting to learn to drive now, but when they come to driving, then autonomy and the autonomous Gadgets or the driver support Gadgets for us, I feel that they are still a nice cool Gadget to have, but not necessity, whereas they are going to be relying on them a lot more. I can see them being like driving EVs as a first vehicle and then maybe the Ice vehicle, the petrol gas driven vehicle being more of a subtlety than the main thing. So as we get older and there will be a time when we'll look at them and go, oh well, when we first started on the EV revolution and they'll be like, what? You actually drove them? You actually physically drove them. You didn't just get in and tell you where you wanted it to go and you parked it yourself. And I think we'll definitely get to that. Yeah, I agree. Let's talk a little bit about training because that leads right into that generational aspect. They're going to need to learn potentially at some point learn those controls. And if they don't, then it's going to be a different thing about most of us here and now who need to learn controls of these cars that we get into that are different. I don't know if you've ever rented a vehicle or anyone listening ever rented the vehicle and got into it. Just I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. This is not what I'm used to and it just doesn't work the way I'm expecting it to. What happens then is they'll have to get used to it. You have to get used to what's going on in this rental vehicle. And when you finally get it, then it gets better because it just gets better. By the end of the time that you have with the vehicle, then you've almost grown accustomed to it. You brought up the point of adjusting to some of the automation bits where it's lame distance between you and the car ahead of you for cruise controller thing like that. And for me, I had an experience recently, a couple of months ago where I was in a vehicle that had those and I was like, okay, well, Jesus, take the wheel. And ultimately was able to do that and give up my control within reason and trust the system because I got used to it over time. And my whole point with this is that whenever you get into a vehicle, it never feels entirely intuitive. I feel like there's some learning curve to any vehicle that you get into, screen or buttons aside. No, I think that is absolutely true, because you go through I guess I can see it from the point of the manufacturers, they want to differentiate themselves from each other. Quite rightly. But having been in a similar situation as you described around getting into different vehicles, then I had to say I have a different vehicle every week for a period of about four or five years. And there were some elements that you were sort of sitting there going, well, actually, sometimes the indicators are on the wrong side of the steering wheel, so you have to learn with that. Where are your lights? I remember one time, I think this was a VW that couldn't actually work out how to start the vehicle. And when you feel like you have to dive into the book, the instruction manual on how to just start the vehicle, then you know you're on a non starter. And so that's where we assume practitioners are sitting there going, right, well, we need standardization, you need standardized symbols, you need standardized controls. Everything needs to work in the same way. But of course, it's getting that balance right between what we want and what car manufacturers want to get to. And it's at this point I'd quite like to bring in one of our social thoughts, if that's okay with you, because this kind of fits. And this is from a friend of mine, Todd Lockley is head of technology at EU Automation, and he said in one of the comments before we do the show, wow, it's a tough subject. I don't think anyone is truly nailed yet. The closest I've come across the Pulse Star two interface, but it's limited on features. They still do have a few physical buttons dials for the common usage, but you can't beat tactile feedback. I really want to explore touch screens UXUI in vehicles one day. I think I'll add that car manufacturers chase features rather than good user experience. So the Cramming lot, which has a negative effect, feature sell car. I think that's quite nicely sums up what I was saying is around they want to drive, they want to be seen. It's a bit like phones now, isn't it, as well? Who's got the best features? You've got the slimmers phone, the worst slim camera, etc, etc. E. Rather than doing anything for the I guess the common good. But yeah, I think that's interesting. Do you want to hit maybe some of the engineering pits? Well, I'll add an additional piece here. There's somebody else on social said it's IOU, said they bring up this comment about a Tesla. So to activate the wipers in a Tesla, you can press the left turn signal stock once for a quick wiped, long press, long press for a spray and wipe. Not as good as a regular control, but removes the need to use the screen. And this is kind of going against the grain where you have no physical controls or very minimal physical controls in a car, especially in a Tesla. You're looking at that situation where perhaps they need to learn those additional, I guess, sets of controls, where in this case you're long pressing or pressing the turnstock in a different way that you might be used to for these types of interactions. So, yeah, I can jump into engineering now. You're right, these car manufacturers going into sort of these features. And that's not to say that it's not being considered by human factor practitioners on the job at these car companies because I'm sure and I've heard about this anecdotally that they're pushing back quite frequently on some of these things. It's like the users don't need this, they don't need this. And it's one of those sort of moral ethical dilemmas about
ethical. It's one of those things where it's just like, I know this is not great for the user and I am being forced by management to put it in and make it work the best it can. So with that, you have these people working at car manufacturers who are looking at the design of the controls and the components and the tactile feel of some of these in older days and even to this day, there's some design around tactile touch interfaces that haven't quite hit mainstream yet that could be a solution to this touch screen situation. There was a piece of technology that we talked about, I think even on the show a couple of years ago. I don't remember what exactly the story was, but it's essentially these capacitive touchscreens that had the ability to inflate part of the screen. So that way it acted like almost a bubble button that you pressed and it was capacitive, so you still get that tactile feedback. It clicked like a bubble wood pop or something like that. You have technology like that that could potentially take hold someday, but that's something that we need, especially when it comes to those non set up earlier things like air conditioning, the things like dusting, things like that, where maybe not mission critical, but you need to know where they're at so that way you're not afraid from your screen. And in fact, we talked about this in the preshow a little bit. I was talking about how I have my streaming, where I have right here and the notes right here. And sorry for the audio listeners, I have them right in the center of my screen, side by side, so that way I don't have to go off to one side and look off to another side and look, they're all right there in one place. But if I do need some controls off to the side, like right now, apparently we're having some network connectivity issues. And so I have a local copy running over here and if I need to get to those controls. They're there, but I can't do them not cited. They're just there if I need them and I have to look over and look away from engaging with the audience. And so there's all these other types of things that you need to consider when you're interacting with these nonsighted controls. Especially for something like. I don't know that you don't really have stick shifts much anymore. But if you need to operate a stick shift. It would be quite difficult to do with touch buttons rather than a stick shift or even switching modes from automatic to neutral or something along those lines. So that's some of the bits around controls and displays I will bring up one more point here. Pencil bump says I can't stand touchscreens in cars. They make no sense. You have to look at them to press, whereas a physical button or knob, you get the general idea of where it is and can feel to make sure, all right, Barry, where do you think controls and displays are going in cars? We talked a little bit about the tactile feel. So in the grand scheme of things, I think a lot of this is going to fall down to where we're at in terms of looking at it as an entire system. We need to be able to get back to fundamentally what are all the systems there to do? We need to be doing things we know we like big buttons to be able to press and do that sort of stuff. If you're designing touchscreens themselves, you know, you need not only the sort of eleven mil square button that we designed, you need a decent bidder real estate to be able to press and understand. And that's been one of my experiences this week with the ability to adjust the screen, to be able to deal with how big or small you want these buttons and things like that. I think it's very easy to do down the software and not really look at the advantages of it, but let's look at the advantages of the touch screens, as what has been said in one of the one of the social thoughts by Trevor Dobbins. Two screens are cheap. The quality buttons to do something that's really tactile and only serves one function is really expensive. A physical button you can't then redesign, you can't really upgrade it in flight, you can't do that. So over the air updates is now becoming such a useful thing. That's where one of the advantages are. We learn stuff, we develop a better human machine interface, and therefore we can send an update and actually give that update to people, which people are now really used to because of the whole smartphone thing. But there is still something to get something to getting that balance right. So what I found is there are still some manual controls that you need to do to control the car and some things that we've talked about in terms of safety, in terms of can you still control a car if the big screen doesn't go, but then what value does the big screen give you? And there's two advantages that I identified today that I think are brilliant, because there's so many times you have physical controls in a car that goes back to what we said before about higher cars and stuff, that you don't necessarily know what it does. And because you don't know what it does, you don't touch it, because you don't have got to look at it up in the book, because that'd be cheating. There's some settings that I've had in my car. So driving mode, for example, it's got three different driving modes and because I didn't know what they were, it's got the little icon beside it, which means you can press that and it will describe it to you and tell you what it is that you're actually going to select. Which is brilliant, because that means that it's allowing for them different types of user. You got your novice user and it's giving you that information that you want, but for your experience, standard user, actually, it's hidden away, you don't need to worry about it. You can't do that with physical controls. When you then update the updated screen, as we said, you can then incorporate the latest updates. Hardware stays the same, but the latest thing, you can bring that through. The other bit that I thought was really good was the level of customization and being able to build all that stuff into place. You can actually make the interior of the car by the use of because it does take up a large bit of real estate on some cars, it's not just one touchscreen. There are things like, I think the Kia EV Six actually has two different touchscreens that you can customize and engage with, so it's actually making it more your own and how you do, which you just wouldn't be able to do with standard touchscreen. So, yeah, I think there are some advantages to this that we possibly don't want to do away with. It's about how do we get the allocation of function right, how do we make sure that we don't just get ourselves into that state of affairs where I alluded to at the beginning, where you got everything has to be touched, and we took it all, touched the answer to everything, because fundamentally, when that fails, then you've got absolutely nothing. I was lucky. I was able to do a quick Google search about what happens to reset my screen. I found that solution. In fact, I didn't find it, a colleague found it and we had it sorted within minutes. It wasn't a problem. But actually, if I didn't know how to do that or what, it just completely failed. That would have been quite disastrous. Yeah. I'm going to bring up another point here. You brought up Trevor's point about touch screens being cheap. Extra also brought this up, saying they make perfect sense, they're cheaper to manufacture and produce. Buttons are expensive to engineer and design. Proper long lasting ones cannot change the text image function at the last section, second, versus a touch screen where literally they can change it after the car has been delivered via software. This is exactly what you're talking about, Barry. Add to that, somehow manufacturers manage to convince consumers that touch screens are more luxurious than buttons. Unfortunately, they're here to stay. So let's talk about touchscreens being here to stay, because you're right, they do offer some of those advantages that we might want to take advantage of and have long term. In terms of more. If you think about it, the advantage here is more real estate for displays and it can provide some of those high level information pieces at a glance, but I don't know if they're optimal for controls. Now the question is, would bigger touch screens with larger controls and Haptic feedback solve some of the issues? If you think about Fitz Law, for example, if you make the target bigger for some of these key critical operations in a vehicle, could that potentially solve the issue? And if not, how can we solve these issues? Is it possible to design a touch screen system that performs better than physical controls? And what might that look like? These are all questions that I have. I know you don't have the answers today, but there's got to be a way, right? Well, there is. I mean, the biggest thing I have with Haptics are really good things. We know that there are technologies out there where they're trying to put we have it on our mobile phones, don't we? Now that you can press it and the screen vibrates so you know you've got that, they start to put more clicks in there, they start to put more of that sort of next, so we know it's beginning to be possible. And there are some technologies out there that come into pass that you can get a sort of a texture on a screen. You alluded to that earlier, but for me, this is about anchoring, about where you anchor your hand in order to be able to be sure of where you're pressing. So when you're dealing with a physical control, you know that you might well two step process. If it's unsighted, if it's sighted, you know where it is. You don't press it, you put your hand over it. You have that reference back to saying, it feels like what I'm meant to be pressing. It's where I expect it to be, therefore it is the button I want. And then you activate it. And if it's something that's a bit flatter, you will anchor your hand alongside that to make sure your hand stays steady whilst you're activating the button. If it's maybe not like a rotary switch or whatever. You just can't do that with a touchscreen. You have to look at the touchscreen to make it work because you need to confirm, you need to be able to look at I'm going to go and touch there and then be able to put your finger on it and then get the reference back that you've actually pressed it. Even with a vibration there, that's not going to help guide your hand into it. So I think this goes back to this idea of the allocation function. I think the screen is great as long as you're putting the stuff onto it. That is not necessarily crucial. Put quite important stuff in there, but it's not completely crucial for operation. Anything that you need to be able to do unsighted. And that could be things that maybe not as important, but I guess in depth I'm trying to think of. So my center console is where I have the dial to turn it from, drive into reverse, et cetera, et cetera. I know where that is and I know I can get it into Parkinson's sighted if I'm going. And I could probably get in to reverse unsighted as well, which are quite important to drive. That's quite a thing. So you need to be able to see that to do it. And it's nice. Rotary gives me a nice clicky sensation. I know when it's gone from one to another, so I could do it without worrying about it and tells me in front of me what I've selected. So I don't need to look at that to change it. It's going to take me a bit of practice to do that because I'm still used to a manual shifter. But with this, with the touch screen, I just don't see where you can't, halfway through the journey, put your hand on the touchscreen and use that as an point to be able to then control the touchscreen in any way. You're dangling your hand in midair and you've got vibration of the vehicle, all that sort of stuff. That means that you cannot guarantee where you're going to hit, which is probably the sentence I should have said at the beginning instead of babbling along. But it's just that whole contraceptive effort. So to go back to my frame of reference for this is cockpits, and particularly fast check cockpits. And they have so many important buttons around button switches, rotary switches that are maybe like down by the sides, almost like beside the thighs and things like that. And they're things like they're maybe not necessarily completely flight critical, but they are mission critical. So it's been able to select the right radios, it's been able to know that you're in the right sort of mode. And there's so much thought going into making sure that no two knobs feel the same. They've got different textures that maybe like three sided fourside, five sided. They rotate in different ways. They've got really strong feedback on what you're doing and you've got a positive selection and things like that. And you could argue that some of it isn't as important in the car, but then there are so many more cars and actually there's some things that you do need to have that way. If we could get really good, if we could get Haptics into the screens, then that's cool. But actually, I think they are there. I think, as you said, they are going to be there today and they do offer a lot of value. I think it's easy to look at them and go, I know they're rubbish modern technological stuff, but they do add value. I think there's just things there that we still got a fair way to go. You can see that battle that we saw described earlier between the human factors and UX designers going, right, we need to do this and it needs to do this. And then somebody else said, but I've seen another company do this, and so we need one of them and we need it bigger and we need it better and we need it in silver. Whatever you can see, that almost the positive tension there, which isn't necessarily a bad thing because that's clearly how this all counts, between good usability, good engagement, good systems thinking, to good marketing, and just somebody come up with it. I've got some really cool gadgets that we need to throw into this. Yeah, I want to comment on you brought up the anchoring and trying to do all these operations unsighted film grain another social thought here. Oh, my goodness. It's ridiculous, right? When the user has to tap through multiple screens with pinpoint precision at different points on a massive display while it's pouring outside. Seems like such an oversight. Not a fan of Tesla's. UX in general, they outperform the industry in so many ways, but I find myself getting frustrated whenever I sit in one. More evidence to me that analog controls in general provide better experience than digital touch screens. I think this goes a little far away from your point. There's a happy meeting between the two, but I think it is an important question to talk about what types of controls do better than others and which ones are better suited for those cited versus unsighted types of interactions. Right. For me, there's anecdotal evidence here, but like, volume controls is one thing that I both control from my steering wheel and when I go to unsighted control, turn it down or turn it up. And you're right, I have that anchor there. I reach over and it feels a certain way. I know by the size of the knob what it does. And then for AC, volume controls and AC or the biggest ones that I need unsighted, aside from the whole what are you laughing at? The catio here. So those are the big ones, aside from the actual car controls, and so is that ultimately what they come down on is everything that's not. That because like I said, my media center controls are touchscreen, but they're pressure sensitive, not Capacitive. And so sometimes I'll sit there going, where is this part of this thing that I need to click on and press? And then I need to really hard press it sometimes and take my focus away from the road because it won't go in a certain way. And if it was capacitive, maybe that fixes the issue, but it's still at the same time I have to click through and do the bluetooth connection thing and all that stuff and it's just where is the optimal solution. And ideally you'd be doing navigation before you get started with the car, but sometimes it's just not possible. You got to navigate while you're in the car because you made a wrong turn and you decided that you needed to go somewhere else. So there's just a bunch of things to think about. And as we're thinking about these types of different ways to interact with things, there's a question here from Christie on YouTube. Do you think that voice controls will get better and help with some of these challenges? Barry, what is your opinion on voice controls and how can those augment some of these issues that we have with touch screen controls and the trade off between physical buttons and the touchscreens? So I'm pleased you brought this up because I've got a love hate relationship with voice control to a certain extent. I've been involved with voice interaction for quite a long time, from early days when you have to hard code it into hardware rather than being software controlled and things, and then early software versions. I think in vehicles now, if you can do things by voice controls, then yes, it will work. But for me, in terms of different people coming to using the cars, you've got to have an almost that unstructured hierarchy of control. So a bit like what we do now with smart speakers, and we've spoken about smart speakers quite a lot. So you need to be able to, in natural language, tell it what you want it, to, do it, and it find it. So if you need to find out information like where's my next charger navigate me home, then sort of simple things are good and really useful, assuming that they work. Where I have a problem with voice controls, where a lot of operators implement them, is almost the same issue as I've got with some of the touchscreen design as well. And that is control hierarchy. It's what I found with the voice control of the car I'm using, as well as the hierarchy of the touchscreen, is you have to learn it. You need to know the access points for getting to settings and some of them crossover, some of them as an example that I've got. So to get to the parking sensors and pull up parking cameras. I can go like three different ways to get to the same screen. I've got a physical control, I've got an access point, and I've got to put it into reverse itself. But then other things, you only access one way and you have to learn the route to get to it. And it's meant to learn as you do it, and they'll bring them up to the top. But if the voice control has a hierarchy that, again, unless it's easy to learn, then you just won't use it because there are very few prompts. It's like a smart speaker. You've got few prompts to tell you where you're at the tree and whether it's actually going to do it properly. And it's something you're going to use when you're stressed and that type of thing, because you're variably at that point, I need help. So therefore you're going to reach out to the vehicle to give you assistance. So as much as I think voice controls are cool, I don't think they're going to help. I don't think they're really going to help with the challenges. I think they've got to be an extra gadget. They're not ready for it. Certainly, I think as NLP Natural Language Processing does, that becomes more intuitive and better understood by some of these companies. Like the big one that everyone is putting into the cars is the one that starts with A or the one that starts with G. No, they're basically kind of contracting out those voice services to those companies without actually building them from the ground up for the cars, for the vehicles. And when they do it, in that case, there's oftentimes you don't have the same level of, I guess, R and D behind those commands. And yes, they're very focused commands, but they don't necessarily plug into some of the other parts of your ecosystem. So like, hey, open my garage door. That might be something useful for you to do. So you don't have to reach up and click the button. Right now, I don't think we're ready. But in the future, if somebody were to do a prompt like, hey, show me the rear camera, and it just pops it up, that might be a cool feature, right? If it understands the intent or if it's potentially a destructive action, like, hey, put me in park, I'm going 60 mph, are you sure you want to do that? There's some confirmation there. And I think really it comes down to understanding the driver's intent behind that. Like, when would you use a conversational interface? Like turn down the volume? Can it even hear you when you have the volume Blaring? Turn the AC down or turn the fan down, those types of things. Because I could say either one of those. Turn the AC down, turn the fan down. And I'd want that to do the same thing. I don't necessarily want when I say turn the AC down, I'm not telling you to turn the temperature up, I'm telling you to reduce the fan speed. So that way it's not as. But when it's cold in here, like warm it up or something like that, it needs to be able to understand your intent better. Yeah, I think there is a level of that goes hand in hand with automation. So when you can get higher level commands so take me to work and it drives you to work. It does all the stuff there. It's the engage cruise control. So setting high level functions and then letting it do its thing, that's where voice controls will be really good because it's simple, it's giving it direction. There would no doubt be a bit of feedback using. You've got Apple and Android car Plays both riot is they have a level of voice control which actually works relatively well. But again, it's not critical to the task you're carrying out, it's critical to your entertainment system. So read out my text messages or play my music and things like that and it'll do all that, that's fine because it's not critical to the operation. So we'll see how that develops over time. Maybe in 100 episodes of time we can come back and refresh it and see where we're at. What is that? That's two years. So, yeah, maybe we do got to move on. But I do want to make sure that we talk about one more point here about safety. There's huge safety implications outlined here in this article. You're talking about the difference between like twice as long for somebody to interact with something when they're looking at a touch screen versus doing the unsighted controls with buttons and displays. Physical controls were almost half as fast as touchscreen controls and it would be curious to see how voice controls actually held up performance wise. So I do want to just kind of in there. Do you have any other last thoughts on this before we move on? I think I would just caveat that last comment that we made with actually the tasks that they were being asked to do. Going back to you with your setup of the experiment, we're not so critical. They were messing up with the AC and messing up with the radio. So be interesting to see. I'm not saying that what they did was wrong, but it would be interesting to see if you have to do some driving tasks, not just, I guess, comfort tasks, to see if there will be a difference in performance in that respect. But we're not going to argue with the fact we know that physical controls work better for set tasks. Yeah. Well, thank you to our patrons this week for selecting our topic and thank you to our friends over at Futurism for our new story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post the links to all the original articles on our weekly roundups on our blog. Also join us on our Discord for more discussion on these articles. We're going to take a quick break and then we'll be back to see what's going on in the Human Factors community right after this. Human Factors Cast brings you the best in Human Factors news, interviews, conference coverage, and overall fun conversations into each and every episode we produce. But we can't do it without you. The human factors. 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It's a good community to reach out to with a bunch of like minded Human Factors folks. So if you're not already a member of our Discord Channel Discord Server, please go check it out. Say hi to us. We are there all week, so if you want to actually talk to us and not just have us talk to you in your ear, you can do that there. It's kind of cool actually to hear from people who listen to the show. Anyway, let's get into this next part of the show. We like to go
that's right. It came from it came from that's. It part of the show where we search all over the Internet to bring you topics the community is talking about. If you find any of these answers useful, give us a like. Wherever you're watching, listening, absorbing, what other ways can you ingest? Is this like a dining experience? Whatever, just give us a like to help other people find this type of thing because it might be helpful for them too. We got three tonight. This first one here is by Iron Omen. On the user experience subreddit, they write Do I stay or not? I have been in UX for ten years, often wearing many hats. I get into UX and UI design because it seemed pretty clear cut. Experiment, follow the evidence, gradually make a product and process better. Most of the time I spend fighting against practices and phrases such as we already know what the user wants, we can fix it after release, just make it look good. You don't need to test with users, we've never done that. And on and on and so it has been, in one form or another, a constant breaking or ignoring of rules. I'm so tired of getting punched in the throat for pointing out the evidence that goes against the good Idea fairy. I'm tired of you is that break simple rules of design and make a product harder to use. Are there any companies out there that are not continually hostile to UX and the process? Barry, have you worked for a company that's hostile to UX? Do you feel like this is the norm? And what do you do in this situation? Do you leave if someone is experiencing this? Yes and no. I think that's the order. So yes, I think there is a difference here, I think between being absolutely hostile to UX and human factors approaches and there being positive attention. I think if I sort of started suggesting stuff and the entire rest of the project team just turn around, said, yeah, of course, crack on, I might then be more worried about why would they let me get away with it? Equally, I think where a lot of people struggle with seeing HF and UX as an equal partner at the table, if you think about the entire project table, so you've got engineering, you've got marketing, you've got comms, you've got product management, you've got HF, you've got things. I think we struggle quite a lot of the time to get the appropriate seat to the top table and that can be quite frustrating. But I do feel that part of what we do is as well as doing the good stuff, be that UX design, be that good physical design, good organizational influence and things like that. We do do politics, that small piece of politics around the project, around the organization, because we fundamentally we are at that piece where we have no other agenda except for making sure the user can use the product. We perhaps don't necessarily realize that actually maybe software engineers or other engineers or other parts of the project, their actual influence isn't necessarily the same as ours. We think it's really obvious that the main thing you want to do is to make your product usable. But actually some of the software engineers wanted to make sure that the software is safe, as safe as it possibly can be. And we constantly believe that critical software engineers can believe that actually the user is the worst thing. We want to not let them anywhere near or give them as little control as possible because actually in some domains you're taught that the only way that the safest way the system can be is to have no user interaction at all because the user is the cause of all pain. So we've got to have a balance there. But I do feel the pain of, yes, these excuses that people come up with, particularly we already know what the user needs. We don't need to ask them, it's fine because we know or I know how to do it best and change me to say, but I see that coming from some HF designers as well. So I do say coming from within our profession as well as without of it. So I do sympathize with that one, but I see it's part of the job. We don't call it fighting the good fight for nothing. Yeah, I'm of a similar mind to you. I think hopefully there will be a day when UX does not have to advocate for themselves. Hopefully they'll just get it. And I feel like there's slowly a turn on that to where we do have that seat at the table more and more. Maybe not as often as we'd like, but it's getting to that point where people are really starting to see the value in what we do. And so I don't know, keep pushing through it. You're right. There's a difference between hostility and friendly sort of tension where there's competing objectives, where our objective is to make something usable and easy for somebody to do and somebody else, like you said, security might be don't give them access to this, make it safe. Somebody else might have like a developer might do this in the most efficient way possible from a code perspective, but that might also run into some issues for what's possible in the UI. And so you have that competing perspective too. And really I think Barry, you said it good. We're kind of the negotiator between all these different types of parties where we're going to advocate for the user in the process and ultimately if we get our way, which is the user's way, then hopefully that will be reflected in the final product, but maybe not because another objective wins out. In that case, it could just be that the risk for exposing these controls to the user is too great for security reasons. So that wins out. It's just we got to come to the table. If it's a hostile environment, get out of there. I mean, that's all I have to say. That Barry, this one's going to be a little bit easier. This one's from Greenstream 761. On the humanfactors subreddit they write typical human factors tech stack. So this is things like data modeling, UX reference material, what do you use in your day to day tech stack or what have you used? That type of thing, all of that. Yeah, when I'm doing day to day work for the military domain, my fallback is always the standards that we're using. So particularly defense standards. If our defense standard here in the UK for Human Facts integration has just gone through a revision and got rereleased at the back end of last year. So site coming to real use to start this year and that's actually gone through a really nice review where it's actually I'm not saying the one before wasn't terribly usable, but it wasn't terribly usable. This one is a one volume and you can actually give it to a non HF person and say this is what I'm working too and this is what I'm requiring out of everybody. And the team that's done this has made it really quite digestible and focused, which I really like. In terms of everything else. I haven't said it depends so far the session. So this is good. Tends basically what we're doing. But pull out everything from past experience to current data. Where's the user data that you're playing with. What engagement with your users. That type of thing always takes priority for me that the closer the data to the target. What I'm trying to do takes priority over ancient data that hasn't been around. Yeah, it just kind of depends. I don't think I have a typical stack that I would go to as such, but I do have more of a generic stack, I think. But it's fundamentally I always try and base my stuff in the standards and use them as the guide because everyone else does and therefore you're delivering that common view. You're not giving anybody any surprises in terms of what to expect and when. Yeah, I'm going to approach this from two different perspectives. So there's like the things that we use from a human factors perspective, which I think it will largely depend there. I go on the domain in which you're grounded in. So you can go with industry standards, you can go with a bunch of other things. I'm going to tackle this from a different perspective, like the tools that we use every day, like a true tech stack for communication, things like Slack or in our lab we use Discord, but that's not industry. There's microsoft teams. Microsoft Suite. That's something that you use. And so when we talk about things like data, Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, right, those are the types of things in which we're storing data in because those are the. Things that are available to us at most places. When you look at modeling, that will also depend on what type of problem you're looking at. There's different tools for different industries, and so I can't speak to every industry, but people have built spreadsheets that have models in them. And if you're already using Google Sheets and Excel, then why not do KLM in Excel? In terms of UX, there's a bunch of different tools out there. There's not really any standard tool for design. You might have the big ones, figma XD, but in terms of UX, there's a bunch of tools out there, and it really depends on which one is going to fit your purpose the best. I know some people who do everything in house and don't really do external tools. It's just going to depend. Reference material. Again, same thing. So it depends. That's it. I would say actually just we start to mess around with figuring, which I find quite interesting. But PowerPoint is such an underrated tool. It really is designed and particularly able to send stuff out to stakeholders because most people have access to either PowerPoint or PowerPoint view. And it's just brilliant people who are way better, more UX designers that I sort of engage with. What do you mean you're not using that? How can you use PowerPoint to do it? Well, it does the job. I do have a soft spot for it. I will go to my grave saying that PowerPoint is the best design tool ever created. Ubiquity. It really is. All right,
people have clicked off already. All right, let's see here. One more here. What do you guys look for in a company before joining? This is by Kavatsale User Experience Subreddit at this point, it's getting frustrating me. I quit five days ago because it was a horrible experience. The company was so development focused, they didn't care about design. I am in the initial phase of my career, and I feel like I'm making the same mistakes again and again. I want to work with a company that understands values design. Sorry, I don't do this often, but I'm laughing at the question. Sorry. I want to work with a company that understands and values design. How do you guys decide to work for a company? Like, what are the things that you all look for in a company? What are must haves? Please help. Barry, what do you look for in a company? People. Absolutely people. It's got to be, hasn't it? Here in the UK, I think the HR float is brilliant because it's such a small domain in the grand scheme of things. And we sort of said this before, even like, worldwide, relatively small domain. But in the UK, I preach this all one degree of freedom. I might not directly know. I definitely don't know everybody in the HF domain. I don't know everybody in the HF defense domain. Because even though that's my primary domain, but we all generally know one person within it. So you've always got that one degree of freedom. What I quite like about and one of the things that really tracks me with the human practice piece is nobody is really truly awful. And the people who are generally don't last very long. So I could go along to say, a new client or new partner or whatever, and we might not necessarily know each other, but you can generally still get along. You can still work with people. And even if you go from business to business, so you move from one business to another, there's no real negativity around that because it's almost like what goes around comes around. It's such a small ecosystem in that respect. And that's why I love it. That's why I think it's really neat. So the way I would then go and look for another company, it's exactly what I do. What I'm looking for companies to partner with is who's involved. It's not what capability do they have, which is important, but actually it's who is it? And there's some really good people in some small, medium and large companies that, you know, you can go to and say, I'm not going to talk to you as the company, but I'm coming to talk to you, Bob, or Mary or whoever. I'm looking to do this. Do we want to work together? Is it worth me coming to come to work with you? And so that primary focus has got to be go and talk to the people who are working there. If they say it's great, chances are they tell the truth, especially if they're still there. Leave five minutes later then. But go and do that. Generally, most people will front up and tell you if it's actually not worth, if it's not going to work for you. Because fundamentally it's not in their interest to get you along if they're not going to work together. Not going to work together. Well, so look at the people. If the people give you the ick feeling, then don't do it on money. Money helps. Yeah, but not makes you the money's. Right. But the people are most important. Yeah, I was going to say salary, work life balance. And the third point I had just kind of along the lines of people is eagerness to learn and collaborate. That is kind of the big one for me, which are character traits of people. So I guess kind of the same. But yeah, salary and work life balance, you don't have enough to pay for the things that you deem necessary, or if you don't have the time to do the things that you enjoy outside of work. Like if there's ever a job that told me I couldn't podcast, or that I couldn't, or kept me so busy that I felt like I couldn't do it, then it would be a deal breaker for me. So those are kind of my big ones. I think we kind of got our bases covered there. And now it's time for just one more thing. Barry, I am so excited about your One More thing this week because you teased it and I'm really curious as to what it is. So I had an interview today, or a workshop if you will, around marketing because we are doing some work around my company. We talk human factors very well, but actually talking to other people about human factors who are not in the human factors community or not in domains that do that. How do you sell human facts? It's that age old thing. So I was speaking to this marketing person and she was brilliant and she turned around. So we've been developing like sort of postcards and we've got brochures in print and all and I've been really struggling about what is it you put in there? We want it to be simple, effective. What have other people done? So we do all the things what I would consider, use, send an approach. What is my message that I'm trying to get out there? And she turned around and said, Why are you doing that? Because rather than saying what is it you are trying to get out there? Why are you not saying what is it my potential customer wants to hear? And I was like, you know what? You just don't like have the mic drop moment. And I'm like, hold on a second. You're talking about how the user uses my stuff. I do this for a day job and I didn't get that. It was just such a simple reorientation. It just goes to prove on many levels that I've been working, been in HF now for what, 20 years? And I didn't get that. You learn stuff we all need reminded to make sure that we've got the perception the right way around and we can easily all fall over just because it's in a different domain, just because it's in a different thing. And as soon as she sort of said it, I just couldn't help but laugh. I couldn't help but in that whole ironic, I'm a moron type of way because it just clicked. It made so much sense when she said it and it was unreal. That was my lesson of the day. Even though we do this as a day job, it doesn't mean you don't get it wrong. Yeah, I feel that. And you have just given me an idea for something we should talk about offline. Okay, yeah, take that offline. My One More thing this week is I'm still deciding which one to talk about. I'll talk about the automation wins. I have had a breakthrough in some automation that I've been working on behind the scenes that is going to save me hours of time and it feels so good. I've talked about getting these automated things done in the past and this is one that I've tried and tried and tried and bang my head against. For months, this has been plaguing my existence. I'm like, I know this thing is coming up. I need to figure out how to do it. I need to figure out how to do it. Thankfully, I still have a couple of months left before it's, like, really a thing. But that gives me a bunch of lead time to perfect this automation now working. It's working and I can't quite tell you what it is that I'm automating yet. It's for the podcast. I just can't tell you yet. And there will be an announcement at some point, don't worry. But it's good. It saves me so much time. It saves me probably like 20 minutes a week, which it doesn't sound like much. Actually, it probably saves me like 30 minutes a week. And that doesn't sound like much, but when I'm doing all this other stuff for the podcast and other things, it really does make a difference. That's 30 more minutes I can spend with my wife and kid. Anyway, small wins. And that's one more thing. So that's it for today, everyone. Let us know what you guys think of the story this week. If you enjoy some of the discussion about the future of cars, I'll encourage you to go listen to last week's recap. How will cars of the future understand their passengers comment wherever you're listening with what you think of the story this week. For more in depth discussion, you can always join us on our Discord community reminder. There's a bunch of people over there willing to talk. Visit our official website. Sign up for our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest human factors news. If you like what you hear, you want to support the show, there's a couple of things that you can do. One, go and leave us a five star review. Wherever you're listening or watching right now, that is free for you to do. Two, you can tell your friends and colleagues about us. That really helps show grow say, hey, these guys are talking about buttons and cars. Might lead to an article in the Ergonomous. Who knows? And three, if you have the money, you might want to throw it our way, because we make some really cool stuff with the stuff that our Patreon supporters help support the show with. So that might be something you can contribute to if you're financially able. As always, links to all of our socials on our website are in the description of this episode. Mr. Barry Kirby, thank you for being on the show today. Where can our listeners go and find you if they want to talk about you and your new car? If you want to find out about my new car, then you need to go and find my socials, because I'm all over that. So on Twitter and Facebook and the other ones I'm at score. If you want to go listen to some of the interviews that will be recommencing in a week on Monday, then come and listen at twelve or two. Humanfactorspodcast twelvecast.com. As for me, I've been hosting Rome you can find me on our discord. Once again, another plug for there and across social media at Nickrome. Thanks again for tuning in to Human Factors Cast. Until next time.