Personal computers introduced keyboard and mouse as the primary form of interacting with devices for many years. Decades later, smartphones taught us to interact using our fingertips in all sorts of new patterns. While those are still the main ways to interact with digital products, interactive technology is evolving quicker than ever. As new methods emerge, it makes me wonder: Which patterns will become mainstream? Which should products support? How can we prepare our products for those transformations?
We can’t know for sure, but let’s explore some of the emerging modes of technology interaction today.
Virtual assistants are gaining adoption
Voice-enabled assistants are an interactive technology that emerged in the 2010s, and they seem to be here to stay. Whether you ask Siri, Google, or Alexa, these devices are gaining space in our homes and lives. Even though they started only helping with mundane tasks, they are becoming smarter every year and now help us manage our homes, interact with other humans, and support us in many other activities throughout the day.
Voice commands can save a user a dozens of clicks, offer support when their hands are busy or even run a complex set of actions from a simple voice request. It’s a more human-like interaction that can enhance a product experience.
Looking to the future, the question is: How much smarter will they get? Smart enough to make decisions for us at some point? Or to help us without us even asking for it?
Virtual reality, augmented reality, and the metaverse
Augmented reality (AR) lets the user experience the real world, which has been digitally augmented or enhanced in some way. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, removes the user from that real-world experience, replacing it with a completely simulated one. These interactive technologies have been around for several years now. Will they ever take off?
The main utilization today for these alternate realities is for games. The existing devices are somewhat clunky and exploratory. New patterns and ways to intuitively interact with both AR and VR will be key to making them mainstream and functional for the average user, just like phones introduced patterns like “pinch to zoom” on a piece of glass. How will we click on buttons that don’t exist in real life? Will buttons even be the best way to interact? Will it be gesture-based computing, similar to the movie Minority Report? Apple’s recent patent might have hinted that Floating Interactive Orbs are the future. Meta looking to create the metaverse is another vision, and it’s not only Mark Zuckerberg’s dream.
It is very exciting to think of new possibilities AR and VR will bring to the table. They can drastically change how we interact with digital products, other human beings, and the real world. I know I’m looking forward to using glasses or headsets that guide me to my destination and show some helpful insights into what I’m seeing. When that happens, will computers and phones still have space in our lives, or will they move into the virtual world? We have more questions than answers at this point.
Thinking way ahead: When tech can interact with us directly
Ultimately, thinking further ahead, the quickest and most efficient way to interact with tech might be when it’s ready to “speak” directly with us — not our ears but our brain. It might sound futuristic, but the concept is in active research and development. Elon Musk’s Neuralink has recently showed a monkey with a brain-chip playing a videogame just by thinking. How do you feel about sending someone a message by only thinking about it? Or taking a picture with the power of your brain. Scary? A little bit.
What are your thoughts?
How will the new interactive technologies affect the way you develop and evolve your products?
What are you most excited to see next? What are you worried about? What forms of connection do you wish your product could have with your customers?
It might be expensive to adopt new interactive technologies, but exploring their use in some parts of your product can be helpful to prepare for the transformation and guide you to make the best use of new modes of interaction — or even better, create new ones.
About the speaker
Product-driven, result-oriented tech director, committed to growth and passionate about building tech products that are impactful and amuse its users. Experienced in developing product strategy, leading development & product teams towards product vision, and in directing and managing project implementation.