Designing the World of Digital Experience

Our Screenless Future

Image Credit Guillermo Fernandes | Used under Creative Commons.


Now you see it – now you don’t.  It’s hard to imagine a world where screens aren’t everywhere. What if people weren’t distracted by mobile phones as they walk across the street, eat in a restaurant or – gasp – drive a  car?

Screens are big part of our lives, giving us the ability to interact with all the technology around us. But things are moving in a direction where devices will work more naturally – so it’ll be more like talking to another person.  Sensor-driven technologies will hear our words, predict our needs and sense our gestures.

Chances are you’ve interacted with a screenless interface when you’ve played a song using Amazon Echo, changed the channel by waving a Microsoft Kinect or configured a Nest thermostat for your home.  These devices don’t need visual screens because they use haptics (like when your phone vibrates in your pocket to signal an incoming call or text), computer vision, voice control and artificial intelligence.

“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible.” – Jared Spool

There are complex systems that are powering these simple “invisible” interactions. So when you talk to the Amazon Echo, the machine uses far-field voice recognition to isolate your voice and stream it to the Amazon cloud. Your voice command is converted to text and uses natural language processing and makes sense of your speech patterns with Artificial intelligence machine learning

The design of this screenless future is being called “Zero UI” or “invisible interface” which assumes minimal or no visual user interface for the product or business application. This evolution is  necessary to create user experiences that are more automatic, seamless and predictive.  For designers, data and analytics will become their most valuable assets.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” – Mark Weiser “The Computer for the 21st Century” 


The IoT Opportunity

Experience designers are now challenged to design interactions for physical objects; beyond designing for the touch screen, they are designing for the experience and the experience becomes the product.

This world of connected devices presents a unique opportunity for designers to create new experiences with significant value. The good news is that experience will always need to be designed regardless of the medium. They can now use embedded sensors, predictive analytics and AI or cognitive computing to provide a more engaging experiences than ever before.

Interface design has always been about creating interaction systems with visual and emotional impact conveyed through design artifacts. Now with UX focusing on human behavior, we are asking “how do people make sense of the world?” and the design challenge becomes focusing on human understanding, perception and cognition of how people make decisions.

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