Technology defines our interactions with the ambiance, and the way we want to interact with the ambiance further defines the technology. The evolution of technology and user interactions tightly depends on each other.
“Walls have ears!", is very much true today, and not just that, now the walls can see you, feel your presence and talk to you.
In this post, we will discuss how the user interactions evolved with time and what is next!
Evolution of Technology and User Interactions
Technology evolves to provide better user interactions, and the users always expect more from technology. Technology has evolved by thinking the user interactions, beyond the boundaries of traditional technologies. Speed of technology evolution is increasing day by day, and so is the user interactions. See below chart.
With all the technological advancements, the user interactions have been evolved from almost no interactions to the immersive interactions. Following are the different stages of interactions evolution.
We have started our journey with almost no interactions in the Batch Age, where software programs fed as the punch cards into the computer (such as UNIVAC, IBM029), and you get to know the results after a couple of hours or days. It continued till the early 60s.
With little more enhancements in technology, the display screen and keyboard used to provide better user experience, and in this Command Line Interface (CLI) Age, users used to get attention whenever any alert/information to be displayed or input needs to be taken for next set of processing. Apple and Xerox invested heavily, and most of this era’s product was not commercially successful, but they have created a path for next technology evolutions. Microsoft’s DOS became a great software base in the CLI age.
Graphics User Interface(GUI) Age started from the early 80s when technology was focusing on the window-based interface, and form/editor based UI which is called What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interactions.
Xerox and Apple tried a few costly attempts as Xerox Star, Apple Lisa. GUI was popularity by Microsoft and Apple in the mid-80s with Windows 1.0 and Macintosh, and the race continued. Software and hardware technologies improved with time and GUI age continued for multiple screen sizes.
After nearly 1.5 decades of technology enhancements in GUI age, the mobile phone and laptop started taking the shape. Internet Age started, and user interaction started shifting from desktop-based GUI to the web or mobile app based GUI, especially after AJAX, which promised desktop like partial GUI rendering.
PC : http://www.mynseriesblog.com/category/nseries-site-news/
A need for seamless transitions of GUI across devices was the increasing focus of this era. The mobile device was getting powerful and became a commodity, so the need for mobile-first GUI became popular. Most of the devices were relying on keypad and display screen. Nokia, Motorola were the pioneers in the cell phones. QWERTY keypad was also quite popular by Blackberry. Laptop and Tablets with external keyboards have almost replaced the PC market.
Touch and Feel Interactions
Touch screen interface was popularized by Apple iPhone in 2007, Samsung followed and race of touch and feel still continued, with lot many players.
The winner was again “Ease of doing”, touch screen interactions surpassed physical keypads phones, while Nokia and Blackberry were still relying on haptic feeling of a physical button. Internet Age continues with better internet, better devices, better interactions with the help of technology like the Internet Of Thing and Cloud. The phone became a smartphone in this era.
The Internet Age was transitioning into Interactions Age, the devices getting closer to human, such that they can wear them and feel them. The smartphone became the enabler to other interactions with wearable and other sensing devices. The smartphone serves as the processing unit, controller and internet gateway to the wearable devices. Lightweight communication protocols are invented (MQTT, BLE, etc) to communicate with these IoT/Wearable devices. We have seen some successful Smart Glass and SmartWatch products.
In this Interactions Age, we trust the technology and use it so heavily that all our interactions with devices getting recorded and data is increasing multifold. Data will become the next power. In this age, traveling with unknowns is no more a concern, we trust Uber, OLA more than it was before, as we know data is being recorded somewhere, and we feel technology is inducing transparency in the system. We rely more on the text then on phone calls, social media is getting powerful due to this.
Interactions Age will continue, and interactions are going to be immersive, where we interact with the virtual elements of the ambiance, assuming they are real, we feel immersive in the virtual environment.
Conversational UI - Conversational interfaces, where we talk/text to virtual bots, they respond just like a real human. We don’t need to go to a website and find our needed services on a bulky portal/ or on an app, rather we just send text or voice to a bot, and the bot would respond appropriate result. Devices like Google Home, Amazon Eco are getting popular with just voice interface. IoT empowers CUI to build a lot of enterprise use cases.
Virtual Reality - VR interactions happen in a completely computer-generated environment, which is a real like environment. VR is getting popular in the education and training simulation domain. Travel and Real-estate are also utilizing it for sales and marketing, where users can try the services in the virtual environment before buying them. VR Therapy is getting popular in the healthcare sector. Google, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Facebook are building heavily on it.
Augmented Reality (AR) - Augment Reality, augments the information on the real world. The technology can assist the worker by providing needful information while his/her hands are busy, a worker can talk to the head mounted device/smart glass like Google Glass, and get the assistance, it is called Assisted Reality. When an AR device generates a computer-generated environment on top of the real world, and let us interact with these computer-generated elements in the context of a real word, then it is called Mixed Reality (MR). Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap are some popular devices MR devices, but these are quite costly. With increasing AR support on the mobile phone, AR mobile apps on are getting popular, it will outpace the normal app development. Future mobile apps will be AR enabled. Google is building VPS (AI powered Virtual Position System) to empower its Google Map with Augmented Reality.
PC : Microsoft HoloLens 2
Extended Reality - In the Mixed Reality environment, when we interact with the real-world environment then we call it extended reality interactions. For example, look at the switch, and blink your eye to switch it on.
Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) - Multiple types of research are going in the area of the brain-computer interfaces, where a computer can directly feed into the brain or vice-versa. Facebook is researching on thought based interfaces. A blind person’s mind can be fed with a camera stream to see thru the world and many more. VR and AI will play a great role here.
Artificial intelligence is enabling immersive interactions to look and feel more real. Hardware is getting foldable, regeneratable (3D printable), and people will wear the devices, it is getting so small that it can be taken as a pills, and can be controlled from outside. In short, technology is going closer to its context and its application. For example, BLE enabled contact lenses for eyes, printed sticker for monitoring BP, heart rate, smart shoes to direct your foot to move in the target direction, smart glasses to record what you view, smart gloves to help your work, a smart shirt to make you comfortable and control your body temperature, and the list is endless.
Future will we age of Artificial Interactions, where even interactions itself can be virtuals. An authorized machine will do virtual interactions on your behalf,
ThoughtWorks has published “Evolving Interactions” as one of the seismic shift. Do read it.
We must evolve our thinking—and our capabilities— beyond the keyboard and the screen. Mixed reality will become the norm
We have discussed, how we have evolved our interactions with machines, and how technology is filling the need of the time. A lot of experiments and investments have gone into this journey, every other disruptive technology has killed the previous innovation and investments, but it brings a lot of new opportunities. Industries and individuals must keep experimenting and investing in new technologies, to stay relevant, otherwise, someday you will be abandoned.
Ref and Piture Credits : Microsoft HoloLens 2, and other.
This article was originally published on My LinkedIn Profile and XR Practices Publication