User Interface

Read and be read

Ever since Apple gave us the Mac, everything has revolved around the user interface. And in this respect, the earth continues to revolve and revolve. We won’t just read differently in the future, we will also work – and live – differently thanks to tactile holograms.

Beat Hochuli

“I read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” It’s funny – and Woody Allen supposedly said it after taking a speed-reading course. But as always with Woody Allen, it is of course not just funny, because almost everything seems to indicate that in the not too distant future, we will read in a completely different way to before. And not just in a different way – also by different means, depending on content, need and purpose.

The read matter will read you!

That no one wants to get through a novel like “War and Peace” as quickly as possible to bluntly ascertain that “it involves Russia” is in the nature of things – or more to the point, is in the culture of literary art. The reader/user/recipient reads such things in the hope of gaining enjoyment from them, not in the hope of setting a speed-reading record. However, most of the texts we read today are not literary works of art but are information that we want to process as quickly and efficiently as possible in our service and communication society. In this respect, the technological research and developments of today are thoroughly incisive – and decisive for the way we will read and process content in the future.

Die Brille soll beispielsweise historische Fotos von Gebäuden, Wetterdaten, persönliche Kontakte, Wegbeschreibungen oder Angebote von Geschäften einblenden können.

The glasses can show weather information, personal contacts, route directions, or offers from shops.

For example, Andreas Dengel has for years been working tirelessly at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Karlsruhe on “intelligent” reading glasses that not only help the reader to read, but that also read the reader. That might sound a bit off-putting at first – who wants to be permanently watched by a device – but depending on the use and user, has invaluable advantages. With the help of a camera and infrared sensors, the glasses always “know” what word or sentence the reader’s eye is resting on – and can show additional texts or internet-based pictures and videos on the subject in the installed display, for example. Audio commentaries or sound inserts are of course included as well. Another example in the area of speed-reading is the software from Spritz, which has been the subject of some controversial debate.

Completely different job profiles

What these kinds of developments mean with regard to the age of “digitalisation” and “Industry 4.0” cannot be overestimated in terms of future business processes and business models. But one this is clear: countless job profiles will undergo an enormous change. Contact centre employees, for example, will no longer simply be call agents – and probably won’t be working in a contact centre either. First of all, they will be highly qualified and be able to deal with customer requests more quickly and comprehensively by using more and more sophisticated additional information technologies – regardless of their geographical location.

And of course, user interface research is not just concerned with text-based information enhancements. We can assume that in the coming five to ten years, huge progress will be made in the area of facial expression, gesture and tone-of-voice analysis. This will not be ready for market – or politically/socially compatible – all that soon. But it’s also a development that can’t be held back, particularly if users themselves regard the interaction interfaces as intuitively better. The user interface experts from Zurich-based Zeix AG, for example, are convinced that there is still a lot of catching-up to do here. And Andreas Dengel also identifies huge potential in the area of holography-based application.

The book will remain the book, but...

It is clear that the current and future development of increasingly intuitive user interfaces must – and will – also take account of homo sapiens’ need for tangible things. The printed book will therefore not disappear. An e-book is a great thing – particularly if, like me, you can’t find a good bookshop on Borneo. But recent discussions about the future of libraries show how important it is to “hold something in your hand”. It will be really interesting to see what the future will bring in the area of touch-sensitive holograms. With bandwidth increase guaranteed, this will once and for all catapult not only the user interface landscape but also the entire business community into the “Industry 4.0” age – if not the “Industry 5.0” era.

Beat Hochuli

is a freelance ICT journalist and lives in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

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