I think there is no other person writing about computers and interfaces who would make as many car analogies in their life as Don Norman did. But this is a thing of the past; since automobiles are totally computerized, there is hardly any chance to compare one to another.

Norman’s latest book The Design of Future Things introduces the state of today’s relations in between smart vehicles and their once smart drivers. And though he almost exclusively writes about automobiles, it reads like an outline for HCI in general. After all the automobile is a computers on wheels, and quite in front of other environments awaiting total augmentation. “What is in the automobile today will be in the kitchen, bathroom and living room tomorrow.” (p.157)

In Future Things Norman mentions the H-Metaphor. Here is a paper The H-Metaphor as a Guideline for Vehicle Automation and Interaction, delivered by the German Frank O. Flemisch during his research at NASA, that introduces and explains the new term. The H-metaphor stands for a new approach in user-vehicle interaction and vehicle automation, where the automobile instead of being computer on wheels is seen as a well trained horse, a horse on wheels — intelligent, aware, responsive constructions, that are more safe and more fun to drive.

That’s a very reasonable and promising concept. But a sad one as well. There are two things that are not right.

First: the Upper Case H, that for 50 years belonged to Human in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Human Computer Interaction, is going to be given to the Horse.

Second: Flemisch specifies: “It would be premature to think that we will be able to build something so wonderful and intelligent as a horse.” (p.11)
I think it’s really bitter. While we are still in hope that AI scientists will build a computer that will be as wonderful and intelligent as Human, they confess that they are not able to build a Horse.

Computer Horse

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