Elizabeth Churchill

Senior Director of UX at Google

The past, present, and future of Human Computer Interaction

Abstract: Since computers were first developed, scholars have been working on how to make them more usable and more useful. The early days of human computer interaction (HCI) as a field of study focused on making computers more usable for technical users, not for everyday users. This led to the development of text-based command-line interfaces (CLIs) which are still very much in use today. As computers started appearing in offices and homes in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and were taken up by non-technical users, graphical user interfaces (GUIs) began to emerge. GUIs were much more intuitive and user-friendly than CLIs, and they quickly became the standard for interacting with computers.

GUIs are still the most used form of interaction for our everyday personal and work devices, but new modalities such as voice, gesture, and touch are becoming increasingly popular as new interactive devices emerge. These include wearables, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). Further, we are seeing that AI-driven, “under-the-hood” capabilities are changing the nature of interaction with digital information, which in turn will drive change in how we interact with our devices. As hardware and software continues to evolve, new ways of interacting with–indeed collaborating with–computers will emerge.

In this talk, I will offer a personal view of the past, present, and future of human computer interaction as a field of study. I will share some case studies from my own work, talk about what excites me about the future landscape, and will reflect on key challenges facing us all. In today’s world the study of human computer interaction is not just for scholars, it is everybody’s business.

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