Design - The Natural Interface To Connected Lives

Ramesh Kozhiserry, Director - Design, Walmart Labs India | Tuesday, 20 August 2019, 04:41 IST

Ramesh Kozhiserry, Director – Design, Walmart Labs IndiaIf you compare our day-to-day interaction today with what it was a decade back, it will be entirely different. Our ancestors would never have imagined that a time would come when people would converse with technology on their fingertips – from repaying loans to buying groceries online. Be it apps, gadgets, concepts or even personal assistants – all the technologies that govern us have a touch of design in it. Design is a natural interface to technology. As new services, platforms and connected devices emerge, design will play a key role in offering new and better experiences to customers through various ecosystems. Every aspect of a tech-interaction is through an interface, sometimes visible and tangible, sometimes invisible.

It has been observed that people absorb visuals 60,000 times faster than they process text. Tying this up to the fact that 65% of people today are visual learners, the color visuals increase readership of a piece of content by a whopping 80%. Hence, design becomes your business distinguisher in a highly competitive landscape.

A cursory glance of the technology industry will reveal how organizations leveraging the best of technologies, driven by design, are achieving excellent results. Walmart has deployed Virtual Reality(VR) to train its associates and following the success of the tool, we are providing Oculus VR headsets in all our U.S. stores to bring the same level of coaching to more than a million Walmart associates. A VR training is exactly similar to a real life experience and thereby, associates have the freedom to make mistakes and learn by “doing,” in a safe environment. Isn’t it exciting to witness how the change in design is bringing a huge difference in technology adoption?

Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” The core of any functionality is predominantly attributed to design in the current scenario.

The future of design certainly looks upbeat and thriving. The three hotspots where design will play a major role in the coming years are: Conversational Interfaces, Smart Appliances and AR Experiences.

“Providing meaningful experiences in a connected world with appliances, phones, new devices and new spaces will be the turning point to the future of design”

Boom of Conversational Interfaces

Reports reveals that in the last 18 months, conversational user interface (UI) start-ups have raised over $200 million and in Q2 of 2016, more money was raised than in the entire previous year. Home assistants are Smart Voice Enabled Devices designed to make everyday tasks simpler. Even the Voice assistants and Chatbots will continue to evolve as more and more people are starting to get familiarized with them. Gradually, niche use cases will begin to being handled by Conversational interfaces.

Voice assistants like Siri and Cortana will continue to thrive alongside Graphical User Interface (GUI) enabling common tasks, which are easier to execute. Integration of these assistants with product ecosystems will bring innovations in design.

As per the BusinessInsider intelligence report, messaging apps have surpassed social media networks in monthly usage. Chat bots will proceed to evolve, leading to these playing an important role in sectors like retail, education, health and wellness. The bots will continue to augment existing shopping experiences in the product discovery stage and/or in post purchase scenarios like customer care, order tracking or returns.

25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. A majority of the users also state that they would never use a chatbot again if they had a bad experience during their first encounter with the product. What we can infer from this is that conversation design will become the key to delivering some compelling experiences to users through chat bots.

Smart Home is here!

Home appliances like lights, refrigerators, TVs, microwave ovens, coffee makers, thermostats and air conditioners are getting plugged into the digital realm. For example, let’s consider a smart refrigerator that is available today in the market. This comes with a 21.5-inch touch screen providing information on what’s stored inside the refrigerator, and can be integrated with your video doorbell or lights and with a whole slew of apps and features that a home maker can interact with. Connected smart appliances can learn a lot about our daily patterns, our living space, and our interactions. They generate a great volume of data which can be used for making informed design decisions and also making intentional design choices.

This opens up many opportunities in the design space. Our perceptions and archetypes will change because all TV screens are not going to be rectangles and not all designs for mobile phones, tablets and desktops will be uniform. Even though a big screen is available on a smart refrigerator, the design for this has to be devised from the lens of an appliance / user context and not from the lens of a big tablet or screen which can house many apps.

The pace of evolution is quicker than what we can imagine. In the U.S., there’s the delivery to fridge concept and it’s intriguing to see how it works. For example, let’s take the case of digital customer – John. if John wants to order groceries, he will place an order online for the required list. A delivery driver will retrieve the items and bring those to John’s home and if no one answers the doorbell, he or she will have a one-time passcode that’s been preauthorized, which will open John’s home smart lock. As the homeowner, John is in complete control of the experience the entire duration – from the moment the driver rings the doorbell, John receives a smartphone notification that the delivery is occurring and if he chooses, he can watch the delivery take place in realtime. The delivery driver has been trained to drop off the packages in his foyer and then carry the groceries to the kitchen, unload the items in the fridge and leave. John can be watching the whole process end-toend with the home security cameras through a mobile app. As he watches the delivery driver exit his front door, he even receives confirmation that his door has automatically been locked. It’s the perfect example of how design is the sole game changer here for a busy family on a hectic day, saving time, effort and making it really easy for daily chores!

Augmented Reality (AR) is here to stay

With the introduction of ARKit and ARCore, AR technology will become conventional and the designers in turn, will be expected to redefine how users can experience this new mode of interaction. AR experiences will find a wider variety of applications in the gaming, automotive, linguistics, commerce and education domains. We have witnessed how quickly products like voice assistants, home automation systems and smart appliances have turned into mainstream business.

As we deal with interactive products, user experience design will become an even more significant factor in humanizing the technology and interactions. More and more customers will embrace this change. Providing meaningful experiences in a connected world with appliances, phones, new devices and new spaces will be the turning point to the future of design.

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