Devices. From Computers to Control Rooms

There are several types of interactive devices, that are used by most users and for which the UX design actiivities are applied.

We can sort these devices  in some kind of circle,  if we position them on the plane with two scales — the first is from more “computer-like” devices to less “computer-like” tools and the second is from less complex to more complex devices.

Types of devices by complexity and computer-likeliness

  • Desktop PC Workstation. Typical desktop computer with single or several monitors. Typical input devices are keyboard and mouse. Mostly used in comfortable stationary office conditions.
  • Laptop PC Workstation. Just an average notebook. Single monitor for output and keyboard with touchpad as input devices. These workstations are more mobile, but are still used mostly indoors in more or less comfortable conditions.
  • Tablet. Tablets combine single display with multitouch control surface above it. Almost as mobile, as smartphones, but larger screen allows more output and interaction possibilities.
  • Mobile smartphone. As it is. Can be used almost everywhere, except special environments, like underwater, space and so on. But can be too universal and limited for some business tasks.
  • Portable device. Special mobile unit for special purposes and/or environmental conditions. Typical example is pocket calculator (do you remember classic Kraftwerk song?), but photo and video cameras, measurement devices can also be mentioned. These devices widely use physical buttons, knobs and other controls for faster interaction.
  • Professional tools. More stationary devices, like sound synthesizers,  ultrasound medical units, car diagnostics tools and so on. Combine both digital outputs and traditional physical controls.
  • Stationary equipment. Large scale devices and systems, like maritime radar workstations, multipurpose X-ray and magnetic resonance medical systems and so on. Typically have multiple outputs and inputs to operate with multiple workstations.
  • Control surface. Control surfaces are some kind of tables dedicated to operate and control complex equipment, like vessel engine and steering system, unmanned drone and so on. Typically combine multiple physical special controls with more traditional indicators, buttons and other inputs and digital multifunctional displays.
  • Command room. Combination of control surfaces and other special devices to control and operate equipment, transport and so on. Typical examples are vessel bridge, airplane cockpit and so on.
  • Monitoring and control center. This is a large-scaled command room. Combines both desktop PC workstations, shared large-scale display surfaces, specialized workstations and so on. Typical examples — control centers of Nasa and other space agencies, military situational centers, railways control rooms, etc.

All these devices are very different, but use the same interaction principles and means of interaction. So, let’s move to the next part to make a review of devices inputs and outputs.

Next: Devices inputs and outputs