Tag Archives: future

Time to look beyond screens

blog first appeared on experiencesutra.com

As a technologist, I have always been fascinated by the subject of Human-Machine interfaces. I believe technology is as good as its application in real world. One of the greatest aspirations of experience technologist is to build human centric experiences. I advocate for a need to look beyond our fixation with Screen Only experiences to achieve that goal.

In 1999, I bought myself a cellular phone (as it was called back in those days), my first thoughts, holding the device in my hands were of disbelief – it occurred to me that computing had finally been out of computers. Here was a “Smart” device – lot more than a telephone, less than a computer but powerful enough to process complex instructions. I could chat (messaging), organize and store my contacts, play games (albeit simpler ones) and obviously make calls on the move. It boasted of a small (relative to today’s phones) black and white screen with a large hardware keypad that would act as an interface. It was a smart marriage of calculator and cordless phones, however, it boasted of an Operating System that would process instructions, run operations and spit out information. It had enough tricks to keep a technology enthusiast like me interested and intrigued about the possibilities.  In last two decades, our generation went through two decades of learning to master the interfaces that could hardly be termed intuitive and natural.

Rise of the Smart Screen:

In 2007, Apple launched its flagship Smart Phone – iPhone,  that just reshaped mobile phone industry. iPhone was a masterpiece in all departments of Hardware and Software design. It would forever redefine intuitive interface by introducing multi touch screens. A mobile phone just became way of life.

Smart Screen phenomenon just took off, for the next few years every other device (PCs included) wanted to be a touch interface. Every Brand wanted to build a digital experience that was designed around Smart Screens.  The large public interactive installations were designed as glorified and magnified touch based Smart Screens.

Need for look beyond Screens:

Touch screens helped us move away from Machine centric user experiences those were driven by Mouse and Keyboards, but to conclude that touch based interfaces are the answer to Human centric experiences is far from being the truth. There has been an over-dependence (and justifiably so) of on Smart Screen in building all the digital experiences since the launch of iPhone to cash on the always on bandwagon.

There is a widespread view that technology needs to integrate seamlessly into natural human environment. It needs to augment and enhance our everyday experiences, which are very organic in nature. Usage of Screens  should not  be-all end-all  for all digital experiences.

One of the solutions would be to invest in Ambient Intelligence, where in the environment and everyday mundane objects could also participate in our experiences. Amazon Echo is a great example of leveraging Natural Language processing to make ambient intelligent enough to participate in your everyday experiences.

There has been a sure in innovative products that are re-imagining human experiences beyond a Screen and are integrating Digital into our environment and everyday objects.

Vessyl – a connected mug automatically identifies the ingredient, records the calories and passively keeps a record. It doesn’t ask you to use your smartphone to record your meals.

Vanhawks – a connected bike that  has built in sensors and feedback to assist you in your trips.

What will drive the change

There is a huge opportunity as consumers increasingly live their lives across physical and digital to also elevate our experiences to leverage emerging technology and trends to build Human Experiences.

Sensors & Data:

We need to build contextual and relevant experiences for our Consumers in Physical world. As an example, as a retailer I would like to offer dynamic pricing on the stock thats due for refresh and is in the aisles where foot falls have been lesser through the day. Sensors that collect data about people, places and things coupled with real time data analytics could help business realize such a scenario in a real physical world.

Sensors are going to be backbone for Ambient Intelligence and Data based analytics will be the brain behind the contextual experiences.

Connected world:

As we get into “Internet of Things” era, every day objects would get smarter. Our environments would become connected and smarter. I would think that our interactions with all the smarter objects would increase significantly. That would also mean that reliance on the screen would go down for day to day experiences.

An umbrella with an integrated ambient light is a natural way of alerting consumers about the possibility of rain.

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It would be much more natural for a pill bottle to remind you about taking your medicine on time.

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More wearables:

Future of experience technology platforms would be lot close to YOU, you and I will be wearing a lot of technology. Our  smartphone will get disintegrated into tens of different devices that we wear. This would result in new ways of integrated interactions between consumers and technology.

Here is a smart t-shirt that keeps heart rate check, acts as a pedometer, keeps track of your activities and also provides you feedback when its time for you to exercise.

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A framework to consider:

As David Rose (researcher at MIT Medialabs) writes in his book – Enchanted objects (www.enchantedobjects.com) is a possible way to build experiences that don’t have a bias for Screen only experiences. He goes on to talk about a framework to build human centric experiences by advocating for a seven attributes Enchanted Objects (picture below).

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Conclusion:

Screens are going no where and would continue to be a key channel for digital experiences. I believe, in near future Screens would  evolve to play a niche role in experience ecosystem.  As new consumer technologies mature and adoption picks up, Brands and Experience designers would have to rethink how we build experiences that are natural and would be part of consumers life experiences.

cave walls to facebook walls, why share?

When you have focus problems and need continuous distractions as a means to focus back on your mainstream work – you end up answering a lot of questions for yourself. Let’s say that I am able to do that for myself.

I have always asked myself a question – why would anyone have the need to leave their footprints (not literally) on this world? I have been fascinated by sumerian tablets, to cave wall paintings to ancient writings (scribblings mostly) and now facebook walls (check-ins, broadcasted messages in form of status updates and so on). As a society why do we do so ? share moments?  why have we tried to tell stories, leave hints (whichever way like it?)

Few weeks back i happened to watch “Lucy” the movie while i loved the imagination and the concept i didn’t fall in love with the movie (it was an average overall watch in my opinion).  I carried a couple of interesting imaginative scenes from the movie though and i kind of think about the possibility of bringing those solutions to life. here is one such concept (as shown in movie):

https://i1.wp.com/www.lucymovie.com/images/slideshow/05.jpg
lucy – movie

(what you see in this picture are connections between mobile devices and satellites – in other words visualised data streams – isn’t this beautiful?)

However, that movie helped me find the connection and answer the question for myself – that entire universe and all organic life came to be because it wanted to spread (big bang,  evolution of complex organisms from single cell organisms and so on), transfer the knowledge that it has (gene transfer mechanism) — that idea (if you come to terms with it) to me is such a fundamental truth to our existence (if we believe in it, that is). More i think about it, its a good hypothesis – most importantly helps me answers the question for me. It has also helped me answer other corollary questions like : why do we believe in stories ? why have we always told stories (to pass on the knowledge?)

You could argue that in computing field why would i care?, why would this bother me? The answer to that is that it is important to answer (may not be an accurate answer) simple questions to move on – human brain is complex (lets just leave it at that). However, there is a logical reasonable answer as well – today, you don’t look to solve the problem by boxing it as a “computing” or “economic” or “health related” problem. Think about it – you would ask, whats the problem ? how do we solve for it would be decided based on what it takes the problem to be solved (that most likely means a combination of multiple domains – multiple disciples coming together). So, knowing more about our social structures, human behaviours enables us to solve complex problems that we want to solve today.