Scanning the signals
Voice and touch interfaces, and virtual and augmented reality continue to evolve at a startling pace. We have higher expectations — we’re no longer amazed by voice recognition and AI-based responses on our phones; instead we’re annoyed when the technology fails or does something unexpected.
Consumers expect to be able to interact with technology in whatever manner fits their current context, and to switch between interaction styles in a way that makes sense. Signals here include:
- Growing adoption of voice in multiple use cases: shopping, ordering food, and booking travel
- VR and AR used beyond specialized, safety-critical cases such as police or military training
- Large platform players such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft creating new offerings including interaction technologies
- Apple set to announce its widely-rumored “Apple Glass,” an augmented reality device
Consumers want low-friction interactions, and often choose services and products accordingly. You’ll need to be ready or risk being shut out by more proactive competitors.
Evolving interactions can also contribute directly to the bottom line. According to IBM, businesses spend $1.3 trillion on 265 billion customer service calls each year, but chatbots can speed up response times and answer up to 80% of routine questions, allowing agents to focus on higher-value customer service.
Consumers are eager to use voice interfaces, and make purchasing decisions based on other smart home devices (such as thermostats) that work with their existing voice assistants. According to Invesp voice shopping is expected to reach US$40 billion by 2022. Elsewhere, Juniper Research predicts that consumers will interact with voice assistants on over 8.4 billion devices by 2024.
Advice for adopters
- Monitor opportunities to leverage these technologies. Many are moving beyond the experimentation phase to the exploitation phase, and are attracting heavy investment from big tech companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.
- Invest in the skills to succeed with new interfaces. Many organizations are looking at hiring people from industries such as gaming who already have been working with things like XR for years. But you might be better served by training your existing development teams — the people who already know your business, products and customers — in the new technologies.
- Bear in mind that consumer expectations are extremely high. If you’re going to offer an interface using voice, gesture, or XR, make sure it works well and is a compelling experience.
- Understand that these technologies change the user journey and design process. In XR for example, design must be done keeping spatial three-dimensional environments in mind, and that has deep implications. It’s not simply about replicating reality — there is significant opportunity for innovative interaction design in these environments.
- Beware vendor-lock in. When developing with these interfaces, you will often have to choose a vendor — Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Oculus or others — in order to take advantage of the acceleration their platform can offer. But intense competition also encourages slow support of ‘rival’ vendors’ ecosystems.