For many people living in fast-paced Western countries, the integration of technology into daily life hasn’t just become more and more commonplace—it has grown increasingly seamless. Along with smartphones, people also have “smart homes”, apps that cater to even the most private of human experiences, and myriad ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones anywhere at virtually all hours of the day and night. Amazing? Yes. Overwhelming? Probably a little.
One of the most integral aspects of technology, and often the most underappreciated, is the design of the technology itself. User experience design (UX) and user interface design (UI) are the unsung heroes of much of our technological landscape. (Editor’s note: UX and UI are two different things! UX is not UI.) Every gadget encountered on a day-to-day basis has most likely undergone extensive market research informing its very development, a lengthy design phase, rigorous testing, and hours and hours of brain power from numerous teams of very smart people solving complex challenges.
That’s why when you scroll through a menu on your smartphone absentmindedly, you’re not paying attention to the ease at which this happens, you’re focused on executing whatever task just flitted across your internal to-do list. The fact the physical technology operates intuitively and in sync with how we process and sort information is not a coincidence. That’s just intelligent design at work.
So does this essentially mean as we grow more high-tech as a society or culture we are in fact humanizing technology? This is a fascinating and oft discussed arena of dialogue; here are a few interesting examples of technology mimicking human processes to help you make up your mind.
1. Augmented Reality
Attention cyborgs: now is your time. The eerily futuristic Google Glass head-mounted display sounds like something from a William Gibson novel but it’s actually not. It’s a real thing and you can even sign up for priority access although the price point is probably nothing to sneeze at. Wearable technology is not a new concept, but you know when Google decides to do it it’s going to be good. Google Glass allows users to take photos, capture video, retrieve information, communicate, find directions, translate, etc. hands-free. The promotional video features people skydiving, travelling in foreign countries and sharing special moments all facilitated by augmented reality. The less physical capital needed to make these digital transactions, the more “human” the technology becomes. It’s literally one step closer to actually becoming a part of you.
2. Eye-Recognition Technology
When your device can actually tell whether you’re looking at it or not and where your eye is on the screen—weird or awesome? Whatever it is, it’s already happening so buckle up for the next phase of mobile. Iris recognition is a form of biometrics and is clearly useful for security purposes yet equally advantageous for technology development; it is also a potential boon for marketers seeking the next level of how to connect with their customer. LG Optimus G Pro was slated to be the first to launch a smartphone boasting the technology but the company is now embroiled in a patent dispute with Samsung.
3. Conversational UI
Let’s face it, voice commands could use a bit of an overhaul for most interfaces. It can be a little difficult making commander-like requests out loud without other people around you giving you the circumspect side eye. One interesting concept that could be making its way to a device near you is the idea of a conversational user interface. What does that mean? It means being able to speak to your gadgets in a way more akin to how we interact with each other every day. A more natural-sounding conversational UI would continue to modernize our relationship with technology and how we interact with it—without running the risk of sounding like we are a new member of the Starship Enterprise.
Technology is often at its best when it can enhance or leverage natural processes. What new ways do you see technology becoming more human?