Discussion on Five Different Interface Types

Breakthrough Ideas

This article discusses the different types of interfaces that we are going to be confronting in the future as well as ones that have already invaded our market.  It is nice to see them all (at least the ones we can come up with for now) in one place.  The article identifies five different interfaces beyond our current mouse point and click interfaces; multi-touch, gesture, voice recognition, eye tracking, and brain computer interface. Its interesting to consider how we went from a simple click of hte mouse, to the finger swiping on ipad screens or the scrolling on track pads.  While the gesture technology hasn’t come quite as far as to be in our daily lives, it has been integrated more into other aspects.  We went from a stationary controller for gaming, to the wiimote which allowed us to gesture, to the kinect which tracks our body movements. (results may vary on this).  This is extraordinary when you consider it. It has happened in the span of just a few years really. It reminds me though of the radio quite from Douglas Adam’s “The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy. ”

A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive–you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

I certainly hope that we don’t sacrifice the usability of the item in exchange for the novelty of its interface. But, we shall see.

We have voice interface technologies that have been expanded (Siri for example, who still has some problems but how awesome is it to ask a non-sentient object a question and receive an answer? Maybe not the right one, but it still responds!)  Eye tracking is used in research for the most part ( for now) My fear with eye tracking interfaces though is how you control it.  Do you flick your eyes? Is it just staring at an instruction? Blinking? We shall have to see.

The final one is the Brain computer interface and this is one that I am very excited for.  We already have those people who are cyborgs in their own right, people using special computerized lens to actually see after losing an eye.  The implications are so much more than just convenience.  Think of the speed of our interactions! The firing of synapses could be the speed at which we interact and just imagine the possibilities! Imagine losing your arm and leg, and having it replaced and never batting an eye because to you, its only the loss of responding feeling in the limb you have to deal with.  You can control it just as normal. And who knows, when your arm responds at the speed of synapses, maybe your thoughts that there should be feeling could result in actual feeling?

This article was written in 2010 but I feel its still very relevant.  We have not come to complete grips with the future of interface design and while I imagine there has been more than a little research done, it has not truly entered the consumer market.  I look forward to seeing these new interfaces begin to sneak more into our daily lives.

If you want to read it for yourself, Its located at this site. Tech News Daily

Ford Keyfree login

Breakthrough Ideas

The Ford Keyfree login is a potentially nifty (and/or possibly risky) application that stores all your passwords to websites.   I find (like most of the bloggers out there chatting about this) that this concept while rather useful and convenient is also setting off little alarm bells.  How do they handle someone stealing your phone?  Do you get to choose what passwords it stores or does it automatically sync up and store every single password, including your bank passwords?

The application is still under construction but I intend to keep an eye out for this.  Seeing their solutions could provoke a wave in technology where passwords are replaced by our phones presence.  Who knows where else this technology could lead?

If you want to read a better description, check out a nice one at UsabilityGeek.

Also, it is a car company that created this and that should say something as well.  While creating easier usability for their own cars (their remote start and unlock applications) they also focused on something out of their general area.  If they succeed, perhaps Ford will branch out beyond the auto industry?

This application is currently in beta testing in France.  So, if anyone with some nice french language skills wants to test it out, please let us know what you think!

Designing for “You”, rather than “The User”

Breakthrough Ideas

We live in a world that caters to us.  When I go on Amazon, it suggests products I might like.  Our thermostats ‘remember’ what temperatures we like at what type of the day.  Websites can remember passwords, privacy settings, and advertisers choose specific advertisements to display that they think I will be interested based off my interactions with the site.

We do pay a price for this customization: our privacy.  Right now, the internet world is up at arms against how much information a company can learn and use about us. They track what we click on, what we view, how long we view it, what we view multiple times… they want every bit of information about you that they can get.  We pay for small conveniences with privacy and people aren’t so certain that is a fair trade off.
Yes, advertisements on websites are very annoying, particularly when it is something that you actually think “Hey, that is kinda of neat” but then you remember its an advertisement and you are angry with yourself for being taken in by it.   But beyond advertisers, is there something bigger that can be done with this information?

Right now, we design for the user.  Not “a” user, “the” user.  Not everyone is “the” user and the next step for better user experience is be able to design for “a” user.  This would entail that users to again agree to give up their privacy and be tracked.  But the benefits of a well designed system to caters a website to a user, I feel, would greatly outweigh any resentment I felt at them ‘spying’ on me.

What if, as a left to right reader, when I visited a website, thanks to these tracking methods, it instantly shifted into left and right reading patterns?  Or instantly translated the website to my language? What if I only visited the Purdue Owl site for the References pages and the site pushed the corresponding link/button to the top instead of making me scroll down and find it in a list? And, what if I had to option to drag something on a website and it would remember where I wanted it?  This, is what I hope the next step will be.

The problem lies though in that while some people would find no problem with a website rearranging information to suit your preferences, the system could still be abused. Even with the best of intentions, the information that site creators would gather would also be available to those wishing to manipulate the user.  Ad’s will be placed where you most look or click. It could exchange your commonly used links with ones that direct you where they want to go.  And this is a sad state of affairs.  Until we decide how much information we are willing to part with to companies, and what is acceptable and what is off limits to be done with the information, I think user experience will be stuck with designing for “the” user and not “You”.