Futuristic design once meant 3D screens and sentient computers; with emerging user interfaces, that reality is increasingly near
When thinking about the future of UX design, and tech in general, images of Minority Report might spring to mind. Floating 3D touch screens, voice UIs and retina scanners were just a few of the technologies used in the film which have been realized in modern life.
But when it comes to futuristic design, what will define UIs of the future? And which UIs will become more prominent? Justinmind is always curious about UI trends (especially when it comes to building the prototypes of the future!), so we took a closer look at futuristic designs you might well be using in a few years. Get in line, John Anderton!
Natural user interfaces
Imagine a world without the need for a mouse, a keyboard or even a remote control. A world where a wave of the hand can change a song, or a nod can make a purchase. Well, that’s where natural user interfaces come in.
NUIs are interfaces which adapt to your needs and preferences instead of the other way around. NUIs seek to create environments which are most comfortable for humans to use. Take McDonald’s – you can either order your meal from a server or use their new touchscreens. The touchscreen lets you manipulate, move and change objects using your fingers. Or the Nintendo Wii, where moving your body shows a change on the screen when you play.
NUIs are all compassing, meaning there are other types of user interfaces included within the natural user interface umbrella. For example, Siri is a natural user interface and a voice recognition interface. There is much cross over among different types of natural user interfaces.
The big benefits of natural user interfaces is that they are easy to use and they respond to our natural movements – they’re fun and feel as though the future has arrived.
NUIs also take advantage of abilities and skills we’ve used all our lives thereby reducing the cognitive load.
In fact, when it comes to futuristic design, design will focus less on how something looks and more about how we interact with an interface, if at all.
There are principles that can be used when it comes to designing natural user interfaces. According to Joshua Blake, they are:
- Instant expertise
- Progressive learning
- Direct interaction
- Cognitive load
Designers will have to master these principles to create natural user interfaces that make sense. The aim with NUIs is to create seamless user experiences between user and machine almost mitigating the need for an interface at all.
Speech is already on its way to being one of the preferred methods of communicating with our electronic devices. Just look at the rise in popularity for speech enabled devices such as Alexa or Google Home. Amazon has sold 20 million of its Amazon Echo devices that it now dominates the smart speaker market.
Over the last few years the technologies behind speech interfaces and voice user interfaces have come a long way. This advancement, made possible thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, has transformed speech interfaces from a use-once-and-never-again gimmick into a serious way of interacting and using technology. Google, for example, now gets 19 out of 20 words right when you talk to it.
Design of the future is likely to continue exploiting already-learned behavior and natural ways of interacting with the world, only this time applied to technology.
Voice UIs are also versatile. There’s more to speech interfaces than asking Siri lewd jokes, speech interfaces allow users to say aloud their shopping list or send a text message without lifting a finger. We’re using already learned behavior to reduce stress: we all know how to use our voice.
Speech UIS are useful. In fact, it’s faster to talk to your device than to type a long search query into Google. This alone helps to boost the user experience and the VUI’s utility means that they’re likely to become more popular as the technology improves.
However, this does bring with it a set of drawbacks, namely speaking about private interactions in pubic. While a conversation among friends on a busy train might not cause stress, telling your VUI to schedule a personal doctor appointment in your calendar may ignite a different response.
Although, as VUIs become more normalized and popular, this concern is likely to disappear as more users become accustomed to interacting with their devices in this way.
When you consider how frustrating it is to just correct a typo on your phone, speech interfaces may provide much needed rest for our worn-out fingers. Especially since VUIs type at a much faster speed than us humans.
Thinking of designing your own VUI? Don’t miss this UXers guide.
Virtual and augmented reality
Augmented reality and virtual reality are growing in popularity and have been doing so for over the last 5 years.
As VR headsets improve, so do the user experiences. Virtual reality and augmented reality can offer immersive and tactile experiences in ways that traditional UIs can’t.
Imagine going on holiday to a big city that you’ve never been to. With VR and AR technology, it would be possible to project Google Maps onto the road before you.
This sort of interaction is entirely new and highlights a departure from screens, which can limit the user experience. Instead with VR and AR, a whole new 3D world can be created.
Christophe Mallet argues that within 10 years industries, such as the health sector and real estate, will have their own hardware ecosystems for people to use and experience. In fact, Mallet goes on to say that within 10 years hardware such as VR headsets will be as commonplace as the screens we look at today.
When thinking of futuristic design, or rather the UIs of the future, trends indicate that no interface will be the interface of tomorrow. Technology will go full circle back to zero. This is because interfaces will focus on what humans can already do.
Golden Krishna postulates that people don’t want more screens, they want fewer. It makes little sense as to why there is such celebration regarding screen-based solutions. He goes on to make the point that designers should be trying to make our lives as easy as possible and that doesn’t necessarily require screen-based thinking.
This should be a sigh of relief for designers. Instead of designing for multiple, disparate groups and screens, there can be a focus on designing around the behavior that humans already have, such as speech and movement.
Humans are already experts in this so creating interfaces (or having no interface) which can use these behaviors will already change the user experience entirely. Whether those experiences are good or bad remains to be seen.
And what will happen to web and mobile prototyping in the future…?
Futuristic design may not yet be as outlandish as what we see in science fiction films. There’s a long way to go before we really do live in the world represented in Minority Report.
If one thing is certain, though, it’s that prototyping tools will have to keep up with futuristic design. A basic wireframe today may be made of simple lines and boxes but tomorrow it could be a voice user interface. In Justinmind, you can already prototyping fully responsive UIs, mockup chatbot interactions and include audio in your interactive prototypes. Come on future, we’re ready for you!
It is evident from the vast improvements to once niche and esoteric technologies that soon we’ll be interacting with our devices in a very different way than we do now. The futuristic design of tomorrow then will not rely on the aesthetics of device or size of screen but instead with no device and, perhaps, no screen.
Whatever comes of tomorrow’s interface, one thing will remain constant: that all interfaces should focus on the user’s needs and goals and making them as seamless and easy as possible for wider adoption.