Few fields today tantalize the imagination, or represent cutting-edge STEM work, to the same extent as human computer interaction. On the forefront of the digital technology and AI industries, professionals within this discipline works to refine and streamline the ways in which humans interact with modern computer systems. The goal is to make computers easy to use, and more intuitive to operate, without reducing their functionality. With current research extending into advanced, near-human forms of artificial intelligence, this discipline offers more challenges and opportunities than at any other point since the dawn of the computer age.
Here are five of the best jobs available in the field of human computer interaction today. These positions offer growing opportunities and compensation, and will never go away. Instead, their application promises to expand indefinitely as computer systems become more powerful and more complicated.
A big part of this field is what is called the “user interface,” which represents the software through which a person accesses a computer system. In an old DOS system, the UI was a blinking cursor next to an arrow, by which a computer user could type commands and access files and programs. Modern systems have graphical user interfaces, which is commonly abbreviated to GUI; a frequent drawback of GUI-based systems is that their use is often restricted by what can be translated directed to visual interaction. The job of the visual designer is to create more advanced and powerful visual components for user interfaces, without sacrificing the interface’s ease of use.
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In between what the computer does, and how users might interact with it, you have all of the software which carries out its individual functions. Some of these work behind the scenes to ensure a system’s smooth operation, while others work to provide active functionality to the user. Software engineers are an integral part of the human computer interaction process. They work with the engineers who develop user interfaces, and with the researchers who collect and refine user feedback, to better develop software which meets its users’ needs in an efficient and easy-to-understand way.
User Experience Researcher
The process of gathering and refining information in this field is so complex that the various professions are broken down even more than what is typical in a research and development environment. One example of this is the user experience researcher, who gathers input and information from users who have worked with existing and prototype computer. They solicit information actively, and refine the process by which it is gathered (through consumer feedback surveys, and so on). They distill the feedback into core general opinions, then pass on usable, actionable information to the engineers in charge of directly refining the computer system itself.
One of the major areas of focus of the interaction field, from a technical point of view, is the refinement of the interface from a human perspective. A computer interface needs to be powerful, in terms of what it allows a user to do, but it also needs to be accessible. Ideally, a human computer interface needs to be as intuitive and easy to comprehend as possible, without sacrificing functionality. The perfect system, in this regard, would be one that doesn’t require an instruction book — just as we don’t need instructions for how to look at something with our eyes. Accessibility engineers focus specifically on this aspect of computer interaction, confronting and overcoming some of the fundamental challenges facing computer users in virtually every industry today.
Cognitive Systems Engineer
Cognitive systems engineering is at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. Its focus lies in the development and improvement of artificial cognitive systems, the processes responsible for such hitherto humanocentric activities as perceiving one’s surroundings, learning and adaptation, making reasoned decisions, communicating with other intelligent beings, and taking independent actions. A cognitive systems engineer seeks to further advance the practical application of such systems, while making them more comfortable to use and easy to interact with.
Would You Like to Learn More?
The interaction between humans and computers is a broad field, and the number of different, equally integral human roles within it is increasing all the time. Whether your strong point is academic research or practical engineering, or even a little bit of both, there are multiple career opportunities within this discipline which would be very rewarding in terms of career prospects, while working to challenge and increase your skills on a daily basis.