Recent news from Yahoo that other body parts, such as our ears, can be used to do the same thing with existing smart screens removes even the need to look at a screen in the first place
It seems that the mid-to-long-term future of consumer technology is one where the barriers between us and it, first shrink, then disappear, then dissolve, in some cases into us.
Already we’re used to using thumbprints to unlock our phones with minimal screen interaction. Recent news from Yahoo that other body parts, such as our ears, can be used to do the same thing with existing smart screens removes even the need to look at a screen in the first place. Similarly, the smartwatch form factor makes non-functional interaction less likely. I’ll interact with an app that gives me simple utility but I’m not likely to go any deeper than that on a screen so small.
The mid-term to long-term future is one where wearable devices become commonplace - the fact that there are wearable analytics start-ups popping up everyday suggests that future is close - and where the longstanding sci-fi fantasy of swallowing tech to analyse, enhance and even repair our bodies becomes boringly mundane.
To borrow the title from Golden Krishna’s excellent book - it seems that the best interface is becoming no interface at all.
There are two key problems this trend causes for brands:
1. As visual interfaces become more personal, much smaller or disappear completely, useful digital media to acquire customers in will become rarer, more expensive and more complicated to execute in.
2. Connecting with existing customers becomes a very disruptive and therefore much riskier business. An unwanted e-mail is easily ignored, an app notification is more intrusive but bearable, a buzzing body part trying to sell you a kettle that you bought 2 weeks ago is simply beyond the pale.
This future is clearly not going arrive at the same time for all brands and all consumers
This future is clearly not going arrive at the same time for all brands and all consumers, so that e-mail blast you’ve got in for tomorrow morning is still probably good to go, but imagining this world of more restrictive spaces and more private screens can help us make the most of what we do now and perhaps prepare us for the future in some way.
Here are three questions you should ask about your brand:
Is your brand ready to be useful?
The answer to the question is not always yes, the graveyard of brand apps in the app store is a good indicator of that, but if you’ve got products and services that are vital to a consumer’s life then you can develop these to be successful in the new world of precious screens. Utility gives you permission to communicate.
Is your brand a curator?
The more screens disappear, the less active choices consumers will make about what they receive on their devices and what new information sources they seek out. It’s when Google Now comes of age. Can your brand act a curator? Are consumers happy to leave you to make choices about what they see and don’t see?
Is your brand trustworthy?
The potential brake to consumers embracing technology to this extent is whether they trust the people making and taking data from it. We know that brands can fill the trust vacuum left by governments in the wake of Snowden, the true test of that is how deep you are willing the relationship with technology and the brands that provide it to be
Of course the future might actually be a world of VR headsets, in which case you’ve got all the interface you want. It’s still not the place for bad retargeting though.