‘Jacquard Loom’ was probably the world’s first smart machine and in the over 200 years since its invention, technology has evolved tremendously. From push-button to touch to gesture-control, machines have constantly transformed, and the big question is, what now? Until now, we have relied on taps, presses, clicks or swipes to interact with machines.
However, the arrival of gadgets like Alexa, Google Home and Amazon Echo has replaced that with movement, gestures and voice commands. According to data gathered by Adobe Analytics1 about 71% of owners of such devices use them on a daily basis. These have eliminated the need for humans to go to a machine and interact with it in its language. On the contrary, it is now for the machines to understand the instructions and perform the tasks without the need for standardized input. This is what, Andy Goodman, group director of Fjord has named, ‘Zero UI.’
Jargons aside, how will interface-less devices make an impact on our lives?
IoT integration is a reality. The integration of artificial intelligence with Cloud-based computing is rapidly increasing and the day is not far when these smart devices become inter-connected as a single web of technology capable of functioning independent of an interface or the current ways of input. This is going to take the whole idea of ‘personalization’ to an entirely different level. Your gadgets will understand and accurately predict what your response or preference would be in a given situation or at a given point of time. In fact, Zero-UI systems like those seen in science-fiction and superhero films are no longer impossible to create.
Interface-less gadgets can help save time by assisting in multi-tasking as there is no need to pay attention to a display or a control panel. You could be working on an important presentation or reading a book while telling a smart device to arrange for your weekend travel and change the lighting or temperature of your surroundings by a hand gesture. Interface-less devices will also make machines sleeker, sturdier and more cost effective. There will be no need for fragile displays, and this would in turn reduce the cost and size of gadgets as well. You can simply put Alexa in a corner of your bookshelf.
UI design process of future will no longer be reliant on graphical tools but become data intensive. This would further mean less consumption of manpower and resources as the developers would be able to take care of the UI design as well. Machines will become more environment-friendly because in the absence of display screens, their power consumption is bound to go down. They might even become grid-independent and use solar power for their needs.
Another enhancement will be in terms of aesthetics. In the absence of chunky displays, the machines would become less intrusive and simply merge into the ambience of your home or office.
The possibilities with voice and gesture controlled machines that function without standard interfaces are immense. Advancements in machine learning are already capable of doing a lot of tasks independently such as altering the light and temperature environments indoors. Statistics reveal that the market for Zero UI virtual personal assistants in 2021 will be almost 10 times of what it was in 2015. Driver-less cars are another stupendous example of machines operating without constant standard input. AI might still be rudimentary compared to what it could be, and more possibilities of interface independent devices will come into the picture as machines become smarter. We already know how they can simplify life and actions – the future is set to be bigger and better.