Technology has invaded our lives so wholesomely that today it is almost impossible to imagine life without some kind of device in our hands. Technology has become invasive raising many questions as to their extent of usability and intrusion. But the one thing that comes to mind when we talk about technological innovations is how it has completely changed our user experience. The journey to hand-held, gesture-control devices has been a long one but it has been a fascinating journey nevertheless.
User experience has undergone a sea-change, especially in the last decade. Today we regularly hear of concepts such as Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, etc. These technologies have undoubtedly improved human-machine interactions but the road ahead is still long. From the developmental index that we have seen so far, the future ahead looks exciting. While intelligent chatbots have already made a huge impact in human-machine interactions and have proved to work magnificently, AI assistance in self-driving cars, gesture control devices, augmented reality apps (such as Pokémon Go), voice user interfaces (Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Home), etc., are all examples of improved, efficient UX that is charting the way forward.
If truth is said it is addictive to speak to Alexa when you are alone at home. Sometimes the conversations seem too real just as if you are talking to a friend. This is the power of Artificial Intelligence (in a very limited, understandable scope). With the help of smart computers, AI aims to facilitate human interaction with devices. AI-powered devices can read, listen, analyze and perform tasks without 24×7 human assistance. While there are inherent concerns about how intrusive and all-powering AI devices can get and how much they can ultimately control our lives, the fundamentals still do not change.
If AI has already penetrated industries such as Consumer and Retail Packaged Goods, Healthcare Services, Electronics, Transport and Logistics, Automative Industry and many more, we can only begin to think about what further improvement in its UX can mean to human. The road ahead means that AI will enter sectors which are until now totally dependent on human caliber. But a word of caution must be mentioned (as many big companies are already worried about) – there is a huge risk of AI taking over human control completely. Thus developers need to think in terms of limited AI use but extending its effectiveness.
The possibilities of improved UX in Augmented Reality is immense. The basis of AR is how machines, gadgets, and devices help change or improve our real-world experiences. Augmented Reality is closely followed in concept by Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality which though are not the same thing. VR isolates humans from their natural environment, transporting them to a simulated environment. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality as well as Mixed Reality have made massive inroads into the gaming world, improving gamer’s experience, giving them real-life experiences and making interactions all the more real.
Think AR and think Pokémon Go and how popular it was a couple of years back when it was first launched. Pokémon Go in many ways showed what Augmented Reality can do – gamers were seen out in the open, walking, running collecting Pokémon’s and whatnot. But that’s not all that AR can possibly do. It can hugely impact the e-commerce sector. While right now their UX is mostly limited to hand-held devices such as smartphones and gaming consoles, the possibilities for the future are quite limitless.
We have possibly seen one of the best examples of how much UX matters in driving technological innovations forward in how we interact using gesture-controlled devices. Smartphones have revolutionized the way we use devices. Thanks to smartphones and their gesture control, we are more invested in apps and are constantly hooked to our phones. From zooming in, pinching the screen, to swiping left and right, up and down, gesture control is quite literally the key to how much and how well we use smartphones. If developers hadn’t paid attention to gesture controlling UX then Instagram today wouldn’t have the “Swipe Up” feature in their Stories. Designers and developers no longer need to worry about unnecessary buttons taking up space on the screen size but can concentrate on improving the graphic design of an app.
When users are able to control their devices using nothing but their voice, we are talking about Voice user interfaces – one of the next-big-thing in UX development. Already voice control has entered people’s living spaces as more and more people are installing Google Home, Alexa enabled devices into their homes and taking Cortana and Siri’s assistance on their phones. In the future we can expect voice control (powered by AI) to become more comprehensive and conclusive then it already is today.
What Designers Should Aim For
The roadmap for UX design future can only be laid when the present demand, need and usage is understood. It is imperative that designers should analyze the present user experience so that they can make improvements for the future. Since data analysis has more or less become automotive (with AI devices doing most of the work), designers must now concentrate on bridging the gap for those who are still unable to use sophisticated devices because of many disabilities. There are still many with vision, hearing, cognitive, physical or other disabilities who are unable to use modern-day gadgets simply because designers are not taking their limitations into considerations. The need of the hour today for designers is to target these people whose lives can drastically improve with proper technological assistance.
It is true that there cannot be any end to technological innovations and improvement. It might seem that humans have reached the zenith with their technological innovations but we have probably only touched the tip of the iceberg. The road to future technological innovations is filled with exciting possibilities and the sky is truly the limit. It is an even more exciting phase for UX designers who can concentrate solely on improving user experience wholesomely without spending their time on data collection, analysis, and assessment.