Experiential clues in emerging technology

Experiential clues in emerging technology

This is part of a series of provocations to fuel discussions at the MEX/16 conference.  Follow @mexfeed for more, join the debate at #mexdesign16 or by posting your comment below.

And you are?

You can do much more when you can verify who a person really is. Users’ most important digital experiences have always been prefixed by the process of verification: logging in to apps, accessing financial services, buying goods. The requirement for a username and password defines these interactions, such that no matter how good the rest of the experience is, the time and cognitive bandwidth associated with ‘logging in’ will always diminish it.

Biometrics change that. The foundations have already been laid for rapid, experience altering improvement. Take Apple’s TouchID, for instance. In a couple of years, it has evolved from a conscious step limited to unlocking an iPhone to an instantaneous, sub-conscious act capable of verifying in-store purchases, online transactions and access to apps and services.

Fingerprint scanners, however, are just a stepping stone. It’s uncertain which biometric verification method will become ubiquitous, but whichever prevails, we can expect it to be faster and more secure. In the near future, fingerprint scanners themselves will vanish as a distinct hardware element, merging into the touchscreen itself. A little further out, pattern recognition and artificial intelligence will enable digital platforms to seamlessly verify identity by detecting variations in voice or touch patterns.

If, for a moment, we allow ourselves to believe we can resolve the privacy issues, the question turns to what might this level of convenience enable?

  • Supporting the growth of new digital content services by eliminating payment and account creation bottlenecks?
  • Securing a permanent, consistent and user-owned health record, which users can share with parties they trust?
  • Voting reform, where secure, scalable participation enables greater access to government?

Speak now!

Our opening session at MEX/14 questioned the capabilities of voice interfaces, poking fun at a well known car manufacturer with a video of a driver struggling to be understood.

It’s harder to tease voice UIs now. If you do, they usually come back at you with a pithy retort of their own. The overall experience, particularly Google and Amazon’s, has improved. Not just the quality of speech recognition, but the latency, integration with third party services and ability to cope with background noise.

It is no longer unreasonable to project forward from where we are today to a future when most human-initiated digital interactions happen through voice.

Were you trained in a form of design which equips you to create vocal UIs? If, like most of the world’s leading experience designers, your background is in visual or industrial design, it might be time to start thinking about what this means for future skills.

Deeper than

The transition from iOS 6 to 7 remains Apple’s most significant UI change. However, it was wrongly characterised as a move towards ‘flat’ design. As we pointed out at the time, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. While iOS 7 replaced skeuomorphic textures with a smoother palette of materials, it actually represented the beginnings of a more important conceptual depth within Apple’s UI conventions.

It began with the icons of the iOS 7 home screen seeming to ‘float’ a little above a tilting background. The addition of depth has continued with each subsequent release, expanding to the input layer and additional Apple device classes. Today, we have 3D touch for pressure-sensing and a corresponding Taptic engine to give tactile feedback – on the iPhone, Mac and Watch. It forms part of a consistent experience where layers of the Apple UI appear to have depth, like the shortcut actions accessible via ‘peek and pop’ on iOS home screen icons.

There is much more to come. Virtual, augmented and mixed reality interfaces, like the HTC Vive, already recreate the three dimensional physics we are accustomed to in the real world. Mass market services like Facebook, Snapchat and Youtube are supporting new forms of video, where content exists in a conceptual space beyond the frame of the phone.

Component suppliers which have been working on this notion of digital depth for years, biding their time and waiting for large scale adoption, are poised to become the trendy new acquisition targets. Niche players, like keyboard manufacturer Roli, with its 5D touch membrane for making music, provide a hint of what’s about to become main stream. Apple, for all the erroneous talk of its ‘flat’ design style, is the one leading the charge.


There are popular statistics out there describing how 95% of a car’s life is spent sitting idle. Automotive, with its obvious environmental impact and high product purchase price, is moving swiftly to change that. Almost every major manufacturer is working on a scheme to improve vehicle utilisation through autonomous driving and ‘sharing economy’ principles.

Suppose we extrapolate that from automotive to every form of material goods. As artificial intelligence improves, will it enable a scalable model whereby the majority of manufactured objects are natively built for sharing? Household appliances, boats, tools – why shouldn’t the same model being developed for cars apply to these other items which sit idle for extended periods?

What will experience design feel like when it assumes most things we buy are sold as capabilities – serviced, maintained and managed – rather than simply units shipped out of the door?

What to expect at MEX/16

  • Giles Colborne talks about the changing role of experience designers in coaching large organisations
  • Ed Rex explores musical creativity at the intersection with artificial intelligence
  • Peter Law and Tom Pursey of Flying Object challenge us to design for all 5 senses in their workshop
  • Jonathan Lovatt-Young looks at how and when brands earn the right to users’ trust

See the full MEX/16 agenda.

Going further

  • Read:Canvas to orb‘, an experimental essay on changes in digital experience design.
  • Listen: Marek Pawlowski and Alex Guest visit Greg Taylor of Tigerspike for a day with the HTC Vive, in this VR special edition of the MEX podcast.
  • Watch: Wikiverse, Wikipedia re-imagined as a universe of orbs and connections

Buy a ticket for MEX/16, follow @mexfeed for more, join the debate at #mexdesign16 or by posting your comment below.

+ There are no comments

Add yours