The tech industry has seen a number of ground breaking developments over the last decade. A number of well-established industries have been disrupted through the introduction of innovative tech. The success of these disruptions has heavily relied upon a User Interface that allows users to interact with the platform in an intuitive, simplified and attractive manner. These types of User Interfaces have proved to be a competitive advantage in the design process of successful platforms. This year, however may prove to be the year that the disrupters are disrupted.
The User Interface (UI) places user experience above all by emphasizing the needs of the end user. This process of design thinking seeks to understand and identify the needs of the end user to create an interface that avoids any user frustrations and creates a beautiful experience for the user. Placing the user at the center of the design process is an essential process for realizing a competitive advantage in a world inundated with platforms and mobile applications. The advantages realized for the user include increased usability, a faster rate of user adoption and increased user retention. The business advantages include increasing sales, increased customer engagement, maximizing revenue opportunities and the reduction of development costs.
For many years, the buzz word Artificial Intelligence(AI) has been thrown around as the future in technology development. However, up until now, there has been a distinct lack of applications that make use of AI in a meaningful way. Today however, we have several working examples of AI that may indicate that AI is gaining momentum and beginning to cause UI to less of a competitive advantage. The point here, is that no matter how beautiful or intuitive your UI is, it would be better if there was less of it, and this is where voice command AI comes into play. In the same way that simplified UI changed the way users interacted with technology, AI provides users with the power to further simplify their interaction and thus begin to disrupt the disrupters. This disruption see’s AI replacing the process of users having to navigate through UI screens, menus and buttons through the introduction of AI voice command.
The first major advance by AI on UI was seen through apples introduction of Siri. Whilst I’m sure we can all agree that Siri hardly solves the intelligent personal assistant problem, we can agree that being able to navigate through software using voice control is one of those game changing innovations. Since it’s early introduction, Siri has improved vastly and is now integrated into Apple watches, Apple TV and some cars CarPlay. Here we see the first advancement that AI makes on UI as essentially, through more advanced voice control, one would no longer have the necessity to scroll through menus to prompt the required output.
This type of voice activated tech has been taken a step further by Amazon’s Alexa. Alexa enables users to interact with devices in a more intuitive way again through making use of voice control. The major advancement here is that Alexa is built in the cloud and as a result can get smarter. Alexa adapts to speech, patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. These capabilities have allowed Alexa to be positioned in the market as the first intelligent personal assistant. Through its smart voice interaction, Alexa can play back music, make to-do lists, set alarms, stream podcasts, play audiobooks and provide weather, traffic and a number of other real time updates. Amazon Alexa has already been integrated into a number of other devices which indicates an industry shift towards the use of AI to simply user interactions with their devices.
One such recent development see’s the Huawei Mate 9 being integrated with Alexa. Whilst Alexa’s full feature set won’t be available on the mobile device, the integration offers users some exciting features. Users are able to control Alexa-capable smart home devices giving them the ability to adjust lighting and temperature within their homes. Other basic features include Alexa providing information relating to the news and a host of different information topics, weather, calendar details and place orders on Amazon.
Another player worth mentioning in the field of intelligent personal assistance is that of Google Assistant. Google Assistant has taken on Alexa and Siri by utilizing a natural language interface and can thus answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions by delegating requests to several web services. Further, it knows where you work, where your meeting locations are, what sports teams you like and uses this information to provide you with predictive information that you may require. Google Assistant is considered an upgrade of Google Now but is currently only available to pixel phones and android devices. It will however be released to a wider range of devices in time. With all this competition in the AI voice command space, there are bound to be a great deal of improvements in what this type of tech will be able to do for its users. This means that the increased adoption of AI by users on a daily basis will only increase as advancements increase.
Whilst Alexa has as of late has been able to trump Siri and Google Assistant in the AI voice command battle, the main issue encountered with this technology is the speed with which the AI is able to respond. The delay in response is caused by the fact that both Siri and Alexa are hosted in the cloud. The need for an instant response to make interacting with AI more conversational has been recognized by a company called Mythic. Mythic recognized the weakness of AI in the cloud and has subsequently developed a microchip to run AI on the microchip situated within individual devices. Thus, devices can run AI locally and in a more secure location as the cloud is bypassed. The result is an increased processing speed allowing the user to interact with devices in real time without a delay. Developments such as this could see a vastly increased adoption of AI across all devices.
It is developments such as these in this space that could essentially signal the end of UI being a competitive advantage for major applications and platforms. AI seems destined to become the predominant way in which users interact with all their devices in the future and thus symbolizes the next major disruption in the tech industry. Could 2017 be the year that sees us move from tedious phone tapping to simplified voice interaction with our devices? Only time will tell.