Author Topic: Why is test equipment UX so awful?  (Read 3104 times)

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Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #50 on: October 23, 2017, 08:43:27 PM »
User interface can be so personal as well, some favor touch screens, some push buttons, other rotary controls etc etc. In other words the designers are bound not to please somebody whatever they do.
Who let Murphy in?
 

Online janoc

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #51 on: October 23, 2017, 08:47:44 PM »
You don't need to be a chef to criticize the meal. Otherwise all the people reviewing multimeters here would be guilty of the same issue, right? And Dave too--how many scopes has he designed?

You don't need to be a chef but unless you are actually a chef you are unlikely to understand (or even be aware of) a lot of the rationale that went into the design. Anyone can criticize, but the weight such criticism carries tends to be proportional to their experience ...

Furthermore, if you look at costs of COTS components, the fancy button panel and TFT LCD that John Kenny designed probably a) wasted a bunch of his valuable time b) cost more than taking a commodity capacitive tablet display and a few pots coupled with a common graphical UI c) can't be reused on any other tool without serious rework. All this means that despite him getting it designed down to cost, it's ultimately a one-off. Even he admits that Keysight has historically been quite bad at reuse.

I keep coming back to the r&s rtb2000 series because it clearly looks like R&S realized this and have developed a common chassis with touchscreen and a few multifunction knobs and buttons and can swap out the hardware to e.g. make that new spectrum analyzer. They can then use this commonality to drive a better graphical UI, and can put the economies of scale from having 1 display and 1 set of physical controls to use in paying for better components. Unfortunately they decided to piss on people in the UK and didn't offer their launch deal here otherwise I'd have been on it.

And, if they did it right, when the market demands 3d VR scopeview nextgen 5000+++ they can just swap out the display hardware rather than having it tightly coupled to their measurement engine, like with MegaZoom IV (seriously whoever decided that ought to be slapped, what a dumb move)

So you are comparing a custom panel with a COTS tablet. I guess you have totally missed the part when that product has been designed (5+ years ago) - how many cheap COTS tablets with capacitive touch have been available back then? First iPad that has introduced this technology to the mass market showed up in 2010, some 7 years ago. And requiring a high powered SoC to drive it thanks to the high speed interface. Not a problem on the iPad where you need it anyway but would you accept $200 extra cost on a multimeter or a power supply for this?

Also how long does a tablet screen typically remain on the market? 6-12 months? What will you do afterwards? Ditch your R&D and redo the product from scratch because the display isn't available anymore? E.g. their the HP 34401A bench meter stopped being officially supported only last year - after 24 years. And the replacement parts (e.g. to fix the dim VFD displays) are still available for it.

At our company we have been facing exactly this decision for a simulator screen. After realizing that we will certainly not be able to replace or update a tablet used for the screen once it breaks because it will not be available anymore, we have gone with much less fancy but more robust solution using an industrial touch screen that will be available even 10 years later.

This is why you won't see these tablet displays in products that are meant for industrial (as opposed to consumer) markets.

The R&S RTB2000 is a much newer product than the Keysights you are criticizing (which are on the market for years now and took another several before to develop). When the MegaZoom IV was developed it was pretty much the only way of doing things, considering the amount of high speed data you need to transfer. And again, hindsight is wonderful but one cannot design products with components that will only become available almost a decade later!

John Kenny even admits that NI does exactly this: they designed one really really really good voltmeter (I think) and then turn all their other measurement tools into frontends for that. They then spent time on making a decent (for t&m) software, labview (yes, i know) that they can sell for a much, much higher margin than any hardware.

He also said that Keysight is doing this (or going in that direction) too. Why do you think he spoke about unifying the front panels and transferring the know-how across the various departments? It is literally his job to ensure it.
 

Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #52 on: October 23, 2017, 09:09:11 PM »
You don't need to be a chef to criticize the meal. Otherwise all the people reviewing multimeters here would be guilty of the same issue, right? And Dave too--how many scopes has he designed?

You don't need to be a chef but unless you are actually a chef you are unlikely to understand (or even be aware of) a lot of the rationale that went into the design. Anyone can criticize, but the weight such criticism carries tends to be proportional to their experience ...

Furthermore, if you look at costs of COTS components, the fancy button panel and TFT LCD that John Kenny designed probably a) wasted a bunch of his valuable time b) cost more than taking a commodity capacitive tablet display and a few pots coupled with a common graphical UI c) can't be reused on any other tool without serious rework. All this means that despite him getting it designed down to cost, it's ultimately a one-off. Even he admits that Keysight has historically been quite bad at reuse.

I keep coming back to the r&s rtb2000 series because it clearly looks like R&S realized this and have developed a common chassis with touchscreen and a few multifunction knobs and buttons and can swap out the hardware to e.g. make that new spectrum analyzer. They can then use this commonality to drive a better graphical UI, and can put the economies of scale from having 1 display and 1 set of physical controls to use in paying for better components. Unfortunately they decided to piss on people in the UK and didn't offer their launch deal here otherwise I'd have been on it.

And, if they did it right, when the market demands 3d VR scopeview nextgen 5000+++ they can just swap out the display hardware rather than having it tightly coupled to their measurement engine, like with MegaZoom IV (seriously whoever decided that ought to be slapped, what a dumb move)

So you are comparing a custom panel with a COTS tablet. I guess you have totally missed the part when that product has been designed (5+ years ago) - how many cheap COTS tablets with capacitive touch have been available back then? First iPad that has introduced this technology to the mass market showed up in 2010, some 7 years ago. And requiring a high powered SoC to drive it thanks to the high speed interface. Not a problem on the iPad where you need it anyway but would you accept $200 extra cost on a multimeter or a power supply for this?

Also how long does a tablet screen typically remain on the market? 6-12 months? What will you do afterwards? Ditch your R&D and redo the product from scratch because the display isn't available anymore? E.g. their the HP 34401A bench meter stopped being officially supported only last year - after 24 years. And the replacement parts (e.g. to fix the dim VFD displays) are still available for it.

At our company we have been facing exactly this decision for a simulator screen. After realizing that we will certainly not be able to replace or update a tablet used for the screen once it breaks because it will not be available anymore, we have gone with much less fancy but more robust solution using an industrial touch screen that will be available even 10 years later.

This is why you won't see these tablet displays in products that are meant for industrial (as opposed to consumer) markets.

The R&S RTB2000 is a much newer product than the Keysights you are criticizing (which are on the market for years now and took another several before to develop). When the MegaZoom IV was developed it was pretty much the only way of doing things, considering the amount of high speed data you need to transfer. And again, hindsight is wonderful but one cannot design products with components that will only become available almost a decade later!

John Kenny even admits that NI does exactly this: they designed one really really really good voltmeter (I think) and then turn all their other measurement tools into frontends for that. They then spent time on making a decent (for t&m) software, labview (yes, i know) that they can sell for a much, much higher margin than any hardware.

He also said that Keysight is doing this (or going in that direction) too. Why do you think he spoke about unifying the front panels and transferring the know-how across the various departments? It is literally his job to ensure it.
All very valid points, also of course the more complicated interface such as a touch also means that the product becomes less of a DIY repairable item and more a RTB product once the warranty has expired and they are not as robust either. They also require the user to look at what they are doing rather using the tactile feel of a control, which is not always a good thing.

In the case of a car, it is becoming more popular to control more functions via a touch screen and that is without a doubt a users nightmare because it demands the driver (operator) has to their eyes off the thing they should be concentrating on, in order to operate something else...
Who let Murphy in?
 

Online Hydron

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #53 on: October 23, 2017, 10:46:25 PM »
Ugh, touchscreens in cars are the worst. OK sure for some features which you really must be stopped for anyway it's fine, but anything that is reasonable to do while driving should be available by a button/knob that can be found and operated without looking away from the road.

Given that higher end T&M equipment often uses Windows (plus custom drivers for acquisition boards etc) for a base, I'm wondering why nobody seems to use Android as a base for lower end ARM-based kit. It would give you highly optimised UI&touchscreen performance, networking/usb/storage stacks, a well-known user application development environment and a whole lot of other useful stuff for free.
Getting data into the Android system may not be straightforward (I don't know how much high speed peripheral connectivity the phone/tablet SoCs have, nor what sort of software access is possible) but I suspect at the very least that the camera port would allow for something to be done.
Pitfalls that I can see are network security, updating and hardware obsolescence (parts aimed at consumer electronics might not stick around long enough for T&M product cycles).

I'm interested to know if anyone is doing this sort of thing. Would be nice if T&M manufacturers could spend their time/money on building nice kit rather than re-inventing the wheel coding laggy touch UIs!
 

Offline technogeeky

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #54 on: October 23, 2017, 11:08:16 PM »
I was really impressed with some of the finer detail on the most recent Rhode and Schwartz scopes. Especially with how it handles decoding and associated text, even in small spaces.
 

Offline JPortici

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #55 on: October 23, 2017, 11:09:20 PM »
Ugh, touchscreens in cars are the worst. OK sure for some features which you really must be stopped for anyway it's fine, but anything that is reasonable to do while driving should be available by a button/knob that can be found and operated without looking away from the road.

don't worry, better brands like audi and VW still have all the physical buttons you need

(the full-screen dashboard in the new audi is astounding)

other manufacturers like renault not oly made retarded decisions in the controls (like wheel for changing radio station/tracks, start and end call and buttons for volume :palm: ) but you also have some of the functions like the navigator that are almost impossible to use without the touch screen.. and you can't use the touch screen while driving. It's not like you may have a passenger with you..
 

Offline MrW0lf

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #56 on: October 23, 2017, 11:29:56 PM »
don't worry, better brands like audi and VW still have all the physical buttons you need

Not for long. Premium also working hard at creating rolling smartphones:

Old Porsche Cayenne:
https://www.soft-in.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/head-unit-based-on-texas-instruments-jacinto-5-and-omap-4-soft-in.jpg
New one:
http://autoinfoquest.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/2019-Porsche-Cayenne-S-_17_.jpg
|O
Seems one has to look at center console now to find suspension settings etc. Good luck doing that at autobahn speed in autumn.

Not first time it is fashionable to f... up cars:
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/bb/33/60/bb3360a2813c25141a02ef2c1d6bb673.jpg

Think it is for good however. Now I can keep all the money for buying T&M stuff :phew: - these new tablets on wheels induce zero temptation.
 

Online Hydron

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #57 on: October 23, 2017, 11:48:22 PM »
ahahha i like the pics, especially the last one

I think i'd prefer a happy medium between the two Porsche dashes. The first looks like something vomited controls all over the interior (but is likely much easier to deal with while driving!).
 

Offline MrW0lf

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #58 on: October 23, 2017, 11:59:18 PM »
BTW they are at it in the sky too:
http://www.itv.com/news/2014-07-10/new-jet-fighter-plane-uses-syri-and-ipad-touch-screens/
Quote
The RAF's new F-35 fighter jet will use Siri-style voice control and iPad-style touch screens in its cockpit.
...
The cockpit runs on 8.6 million lines of computer code and has just two iPad-style touch screens.

What could go wrong :popcorn:
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #59 on: October 24, 2017, 12:03:00 AM »
Well if it's like my phone, every time I say "what cereal do you want?" in the morning it assumes I've said "hey siri".

So when you radio your wingman and ask "what sandwich?" it'll clearly interpret that as "launch sidewinders!"
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #60 on: October 24, 2017, 12:47:01 AM »
You don't need to be a chef but unless you are actually a chef you are unlikely to understand (or even be aware of) a lot of the rationale that went into the design. Anyone can criticize, but the weight such criticism carries tends to be proportional to their experience ...

Design experience obviously helps, but it does not define good reviewer. - If my meal tastes like a chit and I am not satisfied with it, then I don't care that other chefs possibly appreciate rationale put into it   :popcorn:
 

Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #61 on: October 24, 2017, 02:16:19 AM »
BTW they are at it in the sky too:
http://www.itv.com/news/2014-07-10/new-jet-fighter-plane-uses-syri-and-ipad-touch-screens/
Quote
The RAF's new F-35 fighter jet will use Siri-style voice control and iPad-style touch screens in its cockpit.
...
The cockpit runs on 8.6 million lines of computer code and has just two iPad-style touch screens.

What could go wrong :popcorn:
Thats not going to be easy to operate then with their gloves on is it. Touch screens can be difficult enough and unresponsive at times without gloves let alone with them.
Who let Murphy in?
 

Offline MrW0lf

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #62 on: October 24, 2017, 03:21:44 AM »
Quote
The pilot's tasks is not flying the jet any more

Think this explains it. Accurate business is over. Seems "pilot" job is just draw general area on the map to destroy and watch Simpsons while plane is dumping goods. Much same with cars - driving not important - just keep updating your status in FB and perhaps buy some s*it that they computed out of your in-car discussion. Now if getting back to T&M - measurement machine is much more helpless w/o human compared to car or fighter plane. So various "dumbuser" interface trends do not apply too well. Tek5 + "drag to basket" is prime example :rant:
 

Offline sarel.wagner

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #63 on: October 24, 2017, 04:53:32 AM »
So ARM Cortex and the like architectures are popular. Look at Smart devices. So how about Android or Linux. The UX for those have matured. Base the core of a design on the Cortex and O/S that makes sense. Use LCD or OLED touch screen, secure long term supply or buy volumes. Then add the buttons  for the oft use functions. By doing that and using the existing design tools, the development time can be reduced, the UX standardised and lots of money saved.... Screen form factors between Phones and tablets are mostly standard. Most of the new releases will fit one of those, also various manufacturers available, same for the Cortex.  :popcorn: Pays your monies for the license and shorten the expensive engineering time.

Online Kilo Tango

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #64 on: October 26, 2017, 10:04:36 AM »
Perhaps its time to take the whole interaction with instruments to a new level.

Forget all these silly controls, use an audio interface. Not just “ turn up the gain on channel 1”, take it further. We are heading to an era where AI systems are becoming the norm, so what you want will get is “ Hello Scope, channel 1 is the output of a Mini circuits VCO running at 235MHz, opinions please”. And the scope replies “ Certainly Dave, the output looks slightly overloaded, some 3rd harmonic distortion there, and the power supply is delivering more current than would be expected on the 5V rail. Would you like me to select a better buffer op amp for you ?”.

“ By the way the AE35 unit...” 

In this scenario you don’t even need a screen…….

Ken
 


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