The Human Interface Revolution

May 21, 2015

By Rick Bergman

Technology is moving at an unprecedented pace, especially the technology that allows people to interact with devices such as your smartphone.

To understand why we need to improve human interface, let’s review the market dynamics that are driving the changes in our world. Today, technology advances are not in steps, but in leaps.

Remember the time it took to get from the computer to laptop? And then from mobile phones, to smart phones? Today smartphones are an extension of us. It is a control console of applications through which we manage our world.

Human Interface RevolutionWe do more and more with these devices; and the devices are getting more and more capable.

While the benefits of these smarter devices are undeniable to businesses as well as end users, they simply cannot be attained or realized without better usability – better interface – better Human Interface.

In the old days, a phone was just a phone. You pushed buttons to dial a number and you made a call. Simple.

With the smartphones, you have to unlock your device with a password, navigate your device and find the phone app. It takes a lot more effort to make a simple call.

Better human interface can make these devices more intuitive, more “usable”. The interface should be easy-to-use, enriched, and provide a near effortless user experience. We are not there yet. There is a gap, a gap between increased functionality and ease of use of the devices. I call it the usability gap.

This usability gap is where the opportunity lies for human interface industry. And the opportunity is huge. Human interface invention and revolution are necessary to seize this huge opportunity.

The human interface revolution is about perfecting the user experience and will encompass four phases. We call these phases Interaction, Personalization, Contextual Awareness, and Omnipresence.

Let’s talk about these four phases, starting with Interaction. In this first phase, the focus was and remains on the personal device itself. The evolution began eight years ago with the introduction of smartphones, where we moved from buttons to touchscreens. Synaptics was at the forefront of this transition, providing the technology that enabled the industry’s first touchscreen phone, the LG Prada. Touchscreens were later widely popularized by the Apple iPhone 1.

Today we continue to perfect the interaction phase with advancements such as usability while wearing a glove, working with moisture on the screen, and the ability to detect pressure.

The second phase of the human interface revolution is Personalization. This phase is happening now.

The personalization phase is a focus on the user, about knowing who the user is and using this information to provide a richer and more secure experience. Biometrics is a great example of personalization. Biometrics is the science of using something unique about you — to identify you. Biometric authentication will eliminate passwords — using your fingerprint, your iris, your voice and your face, or a combination of them is simple and foolproof — and Synaptics continues to innovate in this space.

Contextual Awareness is the third phase of this revolution. It is a focus on the environment, where devices are so intelligent they use clues about your environment, your state of being, and even your emotions to anticipate your needs and actions. We are already seeing early innovation in this phase. Imagine sensors proactively advising you to avoid traffic or high pollen counts, or sensors that know if you are in distress, then contacting emergency services and family on your behalf. This is very powerful.

The fourth phase is Omnipresence. It will be the ultimate phase in the human interface revolution, where the human interface transcends the personal device.

Personal devices will shrink so much that they become practically invisible. They won’t number in the billions, but in the trillions. They won’t be carried – they will be integrated into the infrastructure. They will be all around us, and they will recognize and react to your very presence. New inventions in human interface will be needed in order to engage and interact with these devices.

We don’t know all of the details yet, but that’s the spirit and challenge of innovation. Synaptics is a company focused solely on advancing and revolutionizing the human interface. We have proven success leading the market with innovative technology. Our user experience focused approach and strong R&D positions us well to lead the revolution. That’s why we’re the #1 human interface company.

Rick Bergman, CEO, Synaptics

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp and LinkedIn.

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