The Humanization of Technology
based on a Socialcast Infographic
Technology is improving and becoming more human centred. Increasingly technology can be interacted with on human terms not forcing users to compensate for technology interface limitations. Despite the enhanced user friendliness of technology, human training will still be a productive ground for optimizing the overall effectiveness of the system. The onus still needs to be on people being clear on what they want to accomplish and what their tool’s capabilities are, with the machine’s role being easy to command.
We are definitely in the age of mass personalization but while people enjoy the benefits of this process being automated there are privacy concerns that require even smarter technology so people can control the distribution and monetization of their personal information. Similar to the increased awareness that economic business models need to take into consideration the impact on the overall environment, the same is true of the need for current information economy business models to evolve for the overall benefit to society. Much of today’s business is based on the ad model where users private information is captured often without their awareness and bartered or sold as part of the selling process.
Human centred design is a huge advancement in simplifying people’s lives for the better. Interfaces can be optimized for specific functions and computers in many different form factors can serve as multi-purpose devices with software driven interfaces that can ease the interaction learning curve for us humans.
Smartphones have come a long way particularly with the introduction of the iPhone platform. Instant messengers and social networks have proliferated but are entering a stage where consolidation and federation (open interworking) are needed to promote universal interworking and standardization so users can have it all without undue complexity and limitations.
Apple is definitely on a roll with innovative more natural user interface technologies like touch interfaces, gestures, and most recently, voice activated Siri. These interfaces make new capabilities possible for more people but still require people to become trained to take advantage of the full benefits. Extending these advanced technologies into high stakes domains like robotic surgery will require advances in engineering and reliability before ease of use will supersede concerns about the risks.
GPS has become ubiquitous with its inclusion in the feature set of modern smartphones. It can settle spousal arguments on the best route and avoid people getting lost, but maps for new areas under development may not be up to date. Amazon recommendations and reviews are good examples of information adding to the value chain which leads to it being ever more easy to make a sale that is more likely to be valued by the customer.
Pandora is a good example of sophisticated information processing and organizing capabilities almost creating a magical experience for people to find more music they like. Driverless cars, like robotic surgery, are likely to stay in a niche category for some time until there is an overwhelming risk-benefit tipping point that is reached. Isn’t it enough that your car will be able to parallel park itself?
There is no doubt that the widespread availability of mobile devices with powerful interactivity (Thankyou Steve Jobs) will serve as powerful platforms for interacting with our world in many yet to be seen creative ways (look at Jambone Up and Fitbit as recent examples). The full benefits will require enhanced communication techniques and ongoing training for people to leverage the technology. Finding the need? Asking users what they want is alright for incremental enhancements but it hasn’t worked for breakthrough innovations which usually are the result of inspired leadership.