Watching an old science fiction film last night – 1981’s “Outland” with Sean Connery – I was struck by the lack of futuristic vision by the filmmakers. The film takes place on a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon Io, indicating that the human race has achieved large-scale space travel within the solar system. Yet the scientists and workers on the space system are still using tiny, clunky gray-scale tube monitors and keyboards when it comes to interacting with computers.
Sure, I thought at the time, someone in the early 1980s would have imagined a better way to view computerized data in the future? Apparently not.
How we interact with technology has always been an indicator of where we are in the computer age. The humble mouse, once a great leap forward for computing, now seems quaint, though it was very disruptive at the time. As the mouse and computer keyboard have become – while still used – the technology of 30 years ago, we have moved onto the touch revolution in the form of touchscreens on our phones, tablet computers, ATM machines and in-store kiosks.
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So what’s next when it comes to disruptive technology and computer interaction? A recent blog by Peter Santos, of voice processing solutions provider Audience (News - Alert), says that it will be voice – which is already happening on a wide scale – and gestures.
The keyboard and the mouse are not natural interfaces for human beings. They have a learning curve (a steep one, in the case of a keyboard). The general theme for how we interact with our computers has been to become more natural. Touch is more natural than keyboarding, but voice and gestures are the most natural human interfaces of all. There are challenges to be overcome first, according to Santos.
“Now, what we’ve seen historically is that in order for disruptions like [high quality voice interaction] to occur, a high level of excellence and simplicity in user experience has to be achieved,” he writes. “Operating systems and graphics technology had to reach a high level of sophistication to make graphical input computing the standard; touch sensing and software technology had to reach a high level of dependability before touch-based computing transitioned from being a gimmick to the norm. The next generation of voice and gesture-driven user experience will place the same demands on device manufacturers, mobile operators and technology providers – the experience must be consistently flawless.”
Santos notes that this disruption will only occur when performance, usability, and the user experience is placed at the top of the design agenda by the industry. Once this happens, it’s likely that both voice and gesture technology will be adopted quickly by device users, many of whom are tired of the error-prone process of using tiny touchscreen keyboards.