Interfaces allow us to interact with machines — and reap their benefits. If your product’s user experience design makes that interaction more natural, or human-like, it’s easier for people to access everything your product has to offer. New technologies are positioning these human-to-machine interfaces (HMI) to simplify communications, deliver critical information — and, ultimately, help people make the right decisions, faster.
Incorporating these kinds of advanced HMI technologies into products promises a safer, more productive world. But doing it successfully is a highly complex task. A design-led manufacturing partner with strong HMI capabilities can help you properly integrate physical and digital components, customize your product, and scale successfully.
Humanizing machine interaction in a rapidly changing world
Advancements in electronic controls, sensors, connectivity, and decorative finish processes are driving a new generation of HMI solutions with multi-modal functions. Verbal cues, sound, sight, gesture, and touch are providing new ways to interact that increase users’ productivity and satisfaction. Innovations are happening across industries, from automotive to lifestyle to healthcare to industrial. In a connected car, for example, Time of Flight (ToF) sensors enable gesture recognition, giving the driver touchless access to trip metrics or other controls.
Advances in HMI also help reduce pathogen transmission. Smooth, unibody surfaces allow for easier, more frequent disinfecting. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the push for touchless interfaces, particularly in commercial spaces. Touchless or completely smooth surfaces ease sanitation, which is especially important in a medical setting. Holographic 3D displays are another way for businesses to eliminate contact transmission altogether.
Look and feel is the experience
Advanced finishing techniques like in-mold electronics, dead fronting, and touch-through metal can create a whole new look and feel for products. For the consumer lifestyle industry, that’s the difference between a stale user experience and a differentiated offering.
A distinctive look and feel has the potential to elevate a product’s appeal. For example, Roctool creates micro undulations on hard plastic surfaces that feel soft to the hand. Backlighting technology for metal surfaces provides a clean look and feel without intrusive knobs and buttons. This technique allows industrial designers to imagine whole new systems using stainless steel that previously weren’t possible. And this technique is giving culinary appliances a sleek, sophisticated look.
Successful HMI designs from one industry can be incorporated into products for other industries. For example, by drawing inspiration from sound bars in the audio industry, we envision a time when fitness equipment will have sophisticated, visually appealing displays with high-quality sound, instead of the basic displays that are common today. Connected medical devices will be able to talk to and listen to patients at home with clear and precise sound. And the driving experience, already utilizing voice control, will become more natural and increase driver safety.
It’s all in the integration
People want to interact with devices more readily and effortlessly. Creating this type of experience through HMI requires a precise integration of sensors, controllers, and connectivity with physical elements, such as ergonomics, lighting, and finishes.
To do this successfully, you need to:
- Meld form, structure, and appearance into a differentiated product
- Connect commands to haptic and sensory responses
- Imbed power, lighting, and connectivity solutions into the work surface
- Bring together metals, plastics, and tooling
Scalable design and manufacturing
Let’s say you’ve designed and developed a product with an intuitive user interface. Can you afford to deliver it successfully at scale? Within what timeframe? A manufacturing partner with HMI expertise can help position you for success on both fronts.
When selecting your partner, consider the following key questions:
- Can they help you make key design adjustments for manufacturability during the prototyping and testing phases, so you can avoid costly delays later on?
- Do they have cross-industry design expertise to help you bring your product to market faster?
- What quality controls are in place to make sure you consistently deliver reliable products?
Partner with Flex
You have the vision of what you want your product to do, how it should look, and how satisfying the user experience will be. We have the know-how to make your vision a reality. As your partner, we can engage with you in the early design stages, helping you choose the right technologies and manufacturing processes for your specific product — from PCBs to flexible circuits and decorative finishes. Need a natural verbal interface? We offer pre-packaged voice and audio enablement systems that include a self-contained audio reference design, tested software features, and customization options.
What if you aren’t sure how to deliver a more appealing user experience? We’re here to help you act fast on ideas no one else has imagined yet. Through our “Inspirations” series, we regularly ideate new applications for HMI technologies, concepting and prototyping industrial designs — so you’re well on your way to the next game-changing system or product from day one.
When you are ready to manufacture your product, we can help you integrate all the different components and HMI design elements you’ve chosen. We’ll help you make key design adjustments for manufacturability, so you can manufacture at scale. And we build quality controls into our manufacturing processes, so you can deliver reliable products. With our strong supplier partnerships and regional manufacturing sites, we can help you build your products in the regions where you want to be.
Set your product apart with advanced HMI
When you customize and differentiate your product’s interface, you set it apart in the market. By leveraging our cross-industry design and manufacturing expertise, we can help you deliver products with the latest technologies and design innovations. And help you realize your vision of delivering value through better user experiences.
From automotive to healthcare to lifestyle to industrial products, explore the growing possibilities of HMI — and map your path to success.