Jan 4, 2012

User Experiences that engage Human senses and their impact on the future of design

As technology advances and devices have become responsive to touch, it boggles the mind to think what opportunities human senses present to future technology advances.

Gaming has become all pervasive in the last few years. In my view touch screen user interface is one of the reasons that gaming has become very popular. I believe that humans are more responsive to tactile / sensory experiences, experiences that help us interact in a way that seems more “human”. Touch gestures on phones or tablets are a more natural way of interaction than the ones (keyboard/ monitor) we have been using since the time computers have been invented. A “flip, a “pinch” or a ‘swipe” gives a user an immediate response and engages the visual, tactile, and auditory senses. This involvement becomes truly engaging at an interaction level.

I recently bought a touch screen Phone and downloaded a few apps. I have been observing my 5 year old son engaging with the device and have noticed a vast difference in the emotions that he displayed compared to when he uses laptop/ desktop with a mouse. From a circumspect moving of the mouse and a tedious pointing to the controls on a laptop and a response of delight, the response to a touch screen UI has been that of wonder, oneness with the device, and joyous delight. It’s almost like moving from a string pulled car to a remote control car with front, back, and circular navigation.

One can only wonder the immersiveness when devices start becoming more engaging. For example, engaging the olfaction (smell) and gustatory (taste) might create possibilities that could be quite exciting and ultimately commercially exploitable

Impact on future generations
Our attention spans have been reducing since the onslaught of distractions that we face from the digital environments, social networking and the humongous amount of information overload. Today’s kids who are growing up in an environment where they are exposed to such sensory rich experiences will face a hard time if enterprise applications do not re invent themselves and offer the same boring “tasks” that need to be done . A fine balance will need to be created for providing enterprise experiences that do not degenerate into crude inappropriate experiences.

This leads me to ask the following questions

Should Designers create game like environments in enterprise applications? Will it dilute the “seriousness” of the work environment?

Will fun increase the acceptance quotient of serious applications? For e.g. a Health awareness app for a pre teen that uses their favorite cartoon in a game that advises the right kind of nutrition for a certain health condition.

Designers in the future will have to think about future interactions that encompass all known human senses. One should only include appropriate senses for interactions and not go overboard. Usability will be as critical as the user experience because users will have less attention space or patience to “tolerate” bad or confusing experiences. Usability research and testing will be more taxing and the observers need to be skilled enough to explore the nuances of human behavior and capture the “felt” and the “unsaid”