Remember learning how to navigate the internet? Icons. Drop-down menus. Touching. Swiping. Scrolling. Tapping. It was a whole new way of communicating, designed to translate our intent to computing devices. Now, thanks to novel smart sensors and advances in artificial intelligence (AI), devices are adapting to us through what’s collectively known as “Zero UI” – the effective disappearance of a visual user interface (UI) enabling us to communicate through voice, gestures, and biometric authentication.
Sensory interfaces such as voice assistants and gesture recognition promise to be more intuitive and immediate. They point to a future where the interface is embedded in our environment, enabling frictionless, anticipatory, responsive and predictive interactions. It will change how we access information and make decisions, as well as how we experience and navigate the physical and digital worlds.
Touchless interfaces are even more critical in the era of COVID-19. We’re wary of touch like never before, an aversion likely to persist until a viable vaccine becomes available – and potentially beyond. Reducing or eliminating touch points is essential for safely reopening businesses. The pandemic has crystallized the value proposition of touchless technologies, accelerating their development and deployment.
So, what does this shift toward Zero UI mean for companies? In the short term, touchless interfaces will be necessary for safe indoor environments, from offices to restaurants and retail stores. In the long term, touchless interactions promise a superior user experience, reducing the cognitive load of apps, settings and passwords. Moreover, everything from branding to marketing to customer and employee engagement may be revolutionized in a hands-free, screenless world of ambient intelligent interfaces. Thriving in this future requires taking a human-centric approach, keeping four imperatives in mind: reliability, security, privacy and choice.
Four imperatives for succeeding in a touchless world
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed how many businesses operate, almost overnight. Restaurants turned to voice search platforms, and many are considering voice recognition for ordering when on-site dining reopens. Companies are developing voice solutions for elevators and voice assistants for hotels to handle everything from guest services to checkout. Gesture recognition and control is also emerging, especially in contexts involving sensitive information, such as using an ATM, where voice may not be the best choice. One company is combining gestures with haptic feedback, giving an invisible sense of touch, offering safety and a more familiar tactile mode of interaction.
In addition, contactless authentication is gaining ground. Facial recognition, iris scans, voice biometrics, and more recently, palm vein readers are becoming candidates to replace key card or fingerprint readers at government buildings, offices, factories, hospitals and schools.