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Ever since the great industrial development of the 1950s and 1960s, we have been living in a world of buttons, handles and switches. Since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, touchscreen interaction has spread widely. Then Coronavirus arrived. Far from stopping during the pandemic, innovation ran fast and we saw an impressive response capacity from designers and organisations who quickly reshuffled their ideas and adopted new interfaces in both consumer and professional fields. We have learned the need, the urgency, and the possibility of thinking about ‘future-proof’ ways of interacting among us and with devices.
We launched a research project based on the analysis of the main studies, scientific articles and patents published in the last two years, integrated with the experiences of Reply companies in supporting’ their customers.
Our artificial intelligence-based platform Reply Trend Sonar has scoured millions of online sources to identify the most popular trends, placing them in different quadrants of a matrix that displays the growth and citation volume of each topic.
Right now, smartphones and voice assistants are the most familiar ‘building blocks’ for both consumers and organisations. Adopting mobile solutions enables workforces to be more productive. The global pandemic has clearly shown that ‘the workplace’ can be everywhere, thanks to mobile devices and mobile connectivity.
Now 5G, high-speed connectivity and edge computing are set to provide a further boost for user interface (UI) technologies. We can expect to see new relevant technologies such as wearables and AR/VR headsets building their future on the foundations laid by mobile computing.
We are now seeing real use of applications that leverage augmented and virtual technologies to give users an interactive and immersive experience via Websites or devices. Several industries are increasingly implementing Extended Reality technologies through mobile apps or special headsets, whilst Extended Reality is also set to greatly enhance workplace collaboration.
Voice is a powerful building block for new experiences in daily life. Smart speakers are still most commonly used for basic services; comparatively complex tasks like making a purchase are still rare. We believe that there is a wealth of opportunities for voice interaction, including allowing FMCG brands to literally speak, in their own tone of voice, directly to consumers – a much more intimate connection than is offered by traditional touchpoints
People are increasingly noticing the side effects of all-day ‘screen time’ and being ‘always on’ and are thus demanding more intuitive and natural interfaces. Moreover, humans’ need for touch will remain a strategic lever for the future and haptic and predictive technologies will become common within a few years.
Combined with next-gen smartwatches, wearables could become the first full-alternative, independent, consumer-ecosystem to the smartphone. Companies are now focusing on the practicalities of wearables, developing smart textiles and fabrics that will enable interfaces to disappear from human sight and become part of our everyday attire.
Multimodal interfaces will provide several distinct ways of interacting with a system, e.g. gesture or gaze for input and output of data. Brain-computer interface (BCI) technology is accelerating, with the focus still on a medical and scientific level but within increasing diffusion into other areas, blurring the lines between computing and biology.
People are looking for products and services that reduce friction, save time and ultimately lead to gains in convenience and comfort. Technology is also increasingly sought after as a tool to augment and even enhance a person’s abilities and senses. These growing needs demand new intelligent and immersive experiences.
Easy living and augmented home interfaces are converging towards ecosystems led by big tech players. Although voice control is currently the interface of choice for consumers in the home, gesture and tactile feedback might be on the rise next.
The next evolution of the augmented home will allow users to control all of their connected devices via one overarching manufacturer-independent control interface: controlling lighting, entertainment, security and temperature, and in the future, pre-empting the user’s behaviour.
Wearables, wellness and inclusivity are topics becoming steadily more relevant in the field of daily-use interfaces, and we believe wearable usage will explode in the next decade.
Although the driving experience is still largely mechanical, the future of human-vehicle interaction means we will be able to distribute the burden of communication across senses – from tangible and tactile to touchless – spanning voice and gesture recognition as well as sight communication with the car.
New interfaces will have a crucial role in the safety and the security of vehicle drivers and pedestrians, using new smart technologies to improve safety and communication with other road users.
In the near future, autonomous driving will enable greater development of entertainment and advertising within vehicles.
Big tech players are strongly investing in retail-related interface development, helping shoppers enjoy the benefits of physical shopping – tactile, sensory and social – in digital virtual spaces.
The use of AI-based and conversational interfaces will improve customisations up to the single individual customer’s needs. AI and digital technology allow for more personalisation for customers, from inspiration to tackling sizing and fitting issues in fashion retail in terms of body and style fit. This in turn will drive customer acquisition, retention and loyalty to new heights.
New experiences include seamlessly connected mobile, wearables blending payment function and style, and hands-free voice or biometric technologies.
We collected the most interesting experiences from our Customers and from Reply Partners about adopting new interfaces in their relationship with their clients.
Healthcare company Roche presents oncological therapies through holograms. Infinity Reply and McCann Health created a 3D system based on Microsoft HoloLens, dedicated to healthcare professionals, who were able to ‘touch’ the mechanism of action of immunotherapy drugs
Pasta Garofalo, supported by Xister Reply, launched a voice assistant expert on pasta recipes and secrets about pasta. The Alexa Skill was promoted through the Corriere Della Sera’s food e-magazine, reaching a wide audience of interested users
Working together with Triplesense Reply, the German National Tourist Board is taking a systematic approach to implementing not just isolated, single-purpose voice solutions, but rather an entire, centrally planned conversational strategy
Open Reply supported TIM to deploy its music platform on multiple devices, created a skill for Amazon and Google voice assistants and enforced its presence into automotive platforms such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Protocube Reply created 3D Digital Fabric for Reda Group, which allowed the company to reduce the number of samples, manage and archive digital fabrics, and improve communication with buyers
Automation and efficiency-enhancing production are driving the rise of intelligent robot systems, connected devices, remote control, augmented services and wearable assistive devices.
With increasing sensor integration and natural embedding into the surrounding world, interfaces will be invisibly interwoven into everyday life and work environments, turning anything into an interface, seamlessly communicating with each other and expanding human cognition and senses.
The last future-proof suggestion is about being climate-friendly.
New interfaces monitor energy-efficient user behaviour, passively reacting based on needs and the surrounding environment for lighting, temperature, pollen and CO2 levels within the home, retail or workspace.