As a designer, I have always dreamt of creating products that are not just an aesthetic cover for a technological content, but rather a real integration between form and technology, at the service of the tangible needs of the individual.
Man is the key to everything, the sun which designers should revolve around.
But very often we forget it during the design phase, and we create increasingly complex but hardly usable solutions, driven by the desire for beauty at any cost.
In SPII we have tried to go beyond the canonical technology-driven approach and towards a more judicious design-driven project, where the human is not only the recipient but also part of the entire development process. We had a clear goal: to create a product that could host the best technologies in the HMI field, but with a simplified interaction, an intelligent spatial distribution of commands, and maximum ergonomic comfort.
IntelliArm was born embracing this philosophy: it aims to be a mechatronic extension of the human arm.
An interface where the physical feedback to the user is as important as the digital feedback to the machine. Where comfort is used to satisfy the need to feel in command of the entire system. A dynamic and flexible human-machine interface, that adapts and recalibrates quickly and easily according to the customer and the target market.
The idea that drove the development of the IntelliArm architecture was to create a single structural platform which could implement different functions, according to the needs of the end customer.
Needs that range from the integration of different varieties of commands to the implementation of various HMI interfaces, to the search for a unique tailor-made shape and style.
The goal is to create each time the right combination, where shape welcomes ergonomics, and it is all strongly combined with technology.
Easy to install
For obvious reasons of space, the control desks are currently installed during the construction of the driver’s cabin: this entails technical risks and poor accessibility when maintenance is needed. Thanks to its simplified structure, which was optimised to reduce the size of the internal components, IntelliArm can be easily installed even after the completion of the cabin, and it grants total accessibility for maintenance.
The HCD (Human Centered Design) approach
IntelliArm has been entirely developed around the real needs of the main user, at the centre of any design decision.
We tried to combine the know-how acquired in years of design with the validation granted by usability tests carried out on train drivers, to correctly answer the ergonomic needs of a person while driving a train.
The spatial arrangement of the controls facilitates truly hands-on accessibility, and a dedicated study allowed us to position the most frequently used buttons in easy-reach areas.
Moreover, the bulky frontal components have been optimised to favour visibility for the driver. Improving driving comfort, the user accumulates less stress and remains more alert, thus increasing safety on board the train.
Efficiency and maintenance effectiveness
Reduced space requirements and a vertically developed structure mean that all internal components can be reached easily and without great difficulty. It is simple to disassemble, resulting in a drastic reduction in maintenance time, and therefore in unrivalled efficiency.
Technological progress brings real advantages only if different kind of users can easily understand and exploit it.
This is the reason why human-machine interfaces were created: to act as a bridge between the user’s senses and the intrinsic complexity of the machine.
Attempting to translate and simplify the complexity of a product without depriving it of its meaning is the most difficult phase of a project like this. Success is determined not only by the overall product efficiency and effectiveness, but also by the simplicity of use and the emotional experience it grants.
“Today we are trapped in a world created by technologists for other technologists. We have even been told that ‘being digital’ is a virtue. This is not true: individuals are analogue, not digital; biological, not mechanical.” cit. Donald Norman – The Invisible Computer.
For me, when I develop a product, this famous sentence by the American psychologist and engineer Donald Norman has become a sort of moral code. This is the standard to which I judge and review the design, after each completed HMI project.
If you end up complicating the experience, it means you haven’t understood the real purpose of this job: to navigate into an ocean of technological innovations, untangling their complexities in order to filter and combine them into a product easily understood by humans.
IntelliArm is the result of this process: it is the first control platform created with the user and engineered for the user, a true extension of its arm to bridge the gap to the complexity of the world around us.
See you next time,