The computer user interface has perhaps been the most frustrating aspect of technology adoption since the dawn of the computer age. Humans had to adapt to using a computer. Operators have moved from punch cards to keyboards, and mouse and finally arrived at a touch interface.
However, all such experiences required us to do something unnatural and the choice is guided and limited by how the application wishes the user to behave.
The new style of user interaction will not be an evolution of the usage of human hands but a revolution in how humans interact with computers and the good news is this is available today and now as commercially available technologies out of research labs. It now depends only on our will to exploit this.
In this article, we discuss consumer technologies and systems available to design what is possible today and something like surgical implants into cognitive processing.
By now I assume you would have inferred that we are discussing voice interaction with a computer. Many people are using this on a day-to-day basis but these have not yet become mainstream. “Ok Google sends a message to John Doe” or “Siri call Jane Doe” are examples of such user experiences and they work, however not all applications exploit the abilities. It would be difficult to understand why such a lack of epiphany exists in the ecosystem.
This voice-driven user experience will have no text inputs from users, users will not be authenticated by what they know such as passwords but will be authenticated using what they are or have such as fingerprints, voice, and face recognition. These techniques are used by products such as Amazon apps, play store and app store etc.
This voice-driven user experience will use speech-to-text conversion and natural language processing again technologies like these are commercially available using products like Siri, Alexia, and Google Assistant. Cutting edge work done by Dialogflow (formally api.ai), Watson Conversation, and Amazon lex have already done all the heavy lifting and provided a nice present that is waiting to be unwrapped.
All that remains is to plug in the business and exploit what will truly be the greatest shift in how applications have been designed.
A natural user experience is inevitable and it will affect every possible application. There will not remain any aspect of experience delivery that will stay back because the consumer will demand.
One should notice how all this is designed towards being a human being and not a slave to a machine, we recognize each other by looking at faces, we request tasks, giving instructions, and providing feedback all using speech.
Now that we have a superficial understanding of the technology and drivers for this natural human interface it is perhaps imperative to look at some examples where such interfaces and technologies are relevant in today’s day and age.
To understand this we should explore the impedance between human cognitive thinking and how a computer program works.
Humans when demanding a task see it as a means to an end, for example, a sales executive may think in terms of “I need YTD report for last quarter to replan my yearly targets”, it might be noted that it’s goal-oriented. The computer action the user may have to perform is to navigate a reports page, select a report, and put in an appropriate date range. In a pre-computer era this would have been instructed in a natural language and would have required a member of accounts to interpret and provide details.
Examples as such are not limited to corporates consider the example of purchasing products online. The experience has moved from requesting a salesperson to searching finding and filtering / comparing products. The natural process was perhaps “I would like to buy a brown formal shoe under $100”.
While we truly appreciate what online real-time systems have provided but they have required humans to perform a set of extra steps to define their desire. It is this translation of asks and the steps required to precisely define the ask that causes the impedance.
Several industries both in B2B and B2C segments can exploit the human a large number, the time is right for this move as both the back-end technology is available commercially and mobile phones and tablets have evolved and have enough penetration to consume this experience.
There is enough user base in these industries to start experimenting on this move.
A laundry list from the experience of the author where he would like such innovation is –
- Cab applications
- Online shopping especially in groceries
- Messaging, calendaring, and personal assistants
- Business reporting tools
By now we hope that there is enough interest for you to consider this idea and would be asking if am I ready for this. The answer is perhaps you are. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last two decades you have API’s and services. If you have mobile apps you most certainly are ready. The need is to expose business as a service is a primary prerequisite to moving to this interface. The computers will continue to work as they always have but the impedance of interaction is also now absorbed by the machines.
The author intends to have provoked thoughts to assert how your business would consume this change.