Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Evolving user interfaces & the internet of things

Of the many things in the digital sphere I am fascinated by, the evolving nature of the interfaces by which we interact with technology has to be up there in the top 3.

The internet of things / connected home is becoming less conceptual and more and more of a tangible reality even if it's just beginner baby steps for most people as they start to use energy monitors as fuel cost increases as much as eco-conscience drive mainstream adoption and behavioural change.

Moving beyond the baby steps, the connected home, cloud based data access, and device neutral data interfaces are becoming less of a mental stretch as today's tablet fans start embracing the notion of companion devices and will become increasingly demanding about hardware neutrality.   With the launch of Siri and Iris (Apple & Android personal digital assistants respectively), the spoken interface has joined touch on the critical mass of credibility table, if only for the innovators and early adopters at present.  With the mainstream undoubtedly following close behind bringing true scale now is the time to start thinking about what interface change means for the way that consumers can and/or could interact with your brand in the future.  This could also have a significant impact on your business architecture for staff : organisational relationships as much as business : consumer ones, as this recent Gartner trends piece highlighted.  I wouldn't be so bold as to consider myself an expert in new UIs (user interfaces) yet but I do believe that there needs to be a happy marriage between insight, extrapolation of existing behaviours, imagination and experimentation with new technologies and interface alternatives so that learnings can be developed. Context as much as attitude will no doubt influence our interface preferences, much as they already do today but with greater inter-changeability between them than is currently present. I wouldn't choose to write anything of  significant length using my iPad, because even with my small hands the keyboard is cramped and the angle on my neck to see over the keyboard is awkward and pain inducing, but the touch / swipe / pinch we've all become used to is intuitive for browsing in all manner of scenarios. I've used voice dialling on my phone for years as it's handy in the car, and voice search is handy on occasions, and yet I'm still an enormous fan of the notebook, post-it and pencil for quick scribbles, or doodles to evolve my thinking. At the minute our range of interface options are often device capability limited but this is a barrier that I expect to erode over the medium term future.

With hints of the Corning Glass futures piece I posted previously, the Microsoft Envision Lab have produced this piece. Whether you believe it'll ever happen or not is up to you but I remind you that Minority Report was released in 2002, and much of the technology that seemed far distant and sci-fi then is already a reality.

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