Thomas B. Sheridan


HCI investigations in this category were not quite true to the original study goals. This was at least in part because the JTEC panel was unable to arrange meetings with meaningful numbers of Japanese companies applying HCI in industrial and transportation industries. The panel did not investigate human-computer aspects of manufacturing to any significant extent, although there are a number of things about Japanese robotics to report that relate to manufacturing. The only process control industry that the panel sampled was the nuclear industry. In the transportation sector, panelists spoke only to East Japan Rail. On the other hand, there are some relevant human-computer developments that apply, in a sense, to all of these. Fuzzy logic is an example discussed extensively below.

This chapter, therefore, reviews four topics: (1) human-machine research in nuclear power, (2) industrial robotics and telerobotics in manufacturing and service industries, (3) human-computer interaction in rail transportation, and (4) fuzzy logic and the influences of culture.

An important qualitative difference between human-computer interaction in business and game applications and HCI in industrial and transportation applications is that in the former case, the temporal pacing is at the convenience of the user. The user can arbitrarily stop for a break. In the latter case, the system of interest has its own time constants and continuity requirements; human attention cannot be stopped at the whim of the user. Examples of the latter are nuclear or fossil fuel electrical generating plants, chemical or other industrial processes, discrete parts manufacturing, and rail or highway transportation. In such systems, arbitrary work stoppage at the convenience of the user is just not possible. The computer, in effect, is only a mediator between the human operator and a myriad of other machines and people. This makes the nature of the HCI quite different in the two cases, though the displays and software may have very similar features otherwise.

Published: March 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian