Touchless Interactions: the next step in UI is within reach

Marketers spend countless hours working on content strategy, retaining agencies and media companies to syndicate their message to get users to “touch” and experience their content. Future technologies and research in human-computer interaction indicate that touch interaction and mouse input will not be the only broadly accepted ways consumers will engage with interfaces in the future. The future will also be touchless. These emerging technologies will enable brands to create new forms of media and interfaces to capture the attention (and imagination) of their audiences. They will facilitate increased interaction with their products and media in new ways, helping drive brand awareness, adoption and commerce. Ultimately these experiences will build relationships – and relationships build brands.

  It’s easy to dream of a world like the one in the film Minority Report or one that features Iron Man’s “Jarvis”, where interfaces and data sets can be manipulated in 3D space with our hands, eyes, voice and enhanced artificial intelligence.

  Sounds like the future, right? Yeah, well the future is here today and picking up steam faster than some marketers might care to acknowledge.

  Kiosks powered by webcams and flash-driven augmented reality apps have been on the market for years, some used in short-lived campaigns and others finding long-term adoption and retention in theme parks, airports and other high-traffic spaces.

  In 2010 Microsoft released the Kinect, which shook up the possibilities of touch-free gestures as a means to interact with things.

  Smart phones and the browser are nearly ubiquitous. GPS and Natural-language interactions systems are getting better by the moment, making SIRI seem as sophisticated as a Speak & Spell.

  So, where are we headed?

Ultimately these experiences will build relationships – and relationships build brands.

  Imagine a world where the thermostat in your house detects you leaving the house and it sets an “Away” temperature, sets your home alarm, opens your garage and starts your car syncing your latest playlist on Spotify, all the while your heads up display alerts you to take the back-roads to work that day because traffic is moving at a slower pace than normal. Honda is connecting cars to the Cloud so they can even assist in accident prevention, traffic optimization and increased fuel efficiency. You get to your desk and your desktop isn’t just an Ikea tabletop, iPad or standard monitor. Rather, it’s a three-dimensional interface like that featured in Minority Report. You swipe, push and pull your emails to you and throw those spam newsletters in the trash. The system detects this is the second time you’ve tossed the file in the trash and asks you if you’d like to unsubscribe automatically to that marketing list.

  Don’t believe it?

  As you’re walking through the parking lot on the way home just as you pass a nearby digital ad, a runner on the screen crosses the finish line of a race and slams back a Red Bull in full 1080P resolution, followed by a subtle notification that your local grocery store has Red Bulls on sale 2 for 1. This “ad” was intelligently served to you using “smart-proposition technology”, based on your proximity (GPS) and stated preferences (Facebook, app-contexts), because you purchase almost 100 dollars of Red Bull monthly and your office and home refrigerator detected you ran out of yesterday afternoon. How’s that for targeting?

  Touchless interfaces (gestural) Natural Language Selection (voice recognition), GPS (proximity), and recommendation engines (data/insight/pattern matching) add convenience and a more natural cognitive relationship to information systems but require additional sensory connections making a consumer’s experience that much more immersive, and interactive, in nature. We are becoming remote controls where our minds and bodies control interaction in ways that were never before possible. These systems also provide an additional layer of analytics and triggers to help deliver smarter ads that are viewed as relevant propositions – meaning they are in presented in absolute context to the consumer rather than spam.

  We’ve already started to see brands exploring this with augmented reality and trans-media campaigns that enable a user experience such as trying on new products (try on a watch or sunglasses), go on physical scavenger hunts or interact with digital stand-ins of their favorite celebrity or entertainer.

  Introducing new forms of interaction are critical for brands to cut through the “noise” and offer innovative and exciting ways to shop, consume and engage with their brand.

  With advertisers fighting for share of mind, relationships and relevance as marketing budget allocations are highly scrutinized a paradigm shift is taking place indicating the future of successful marketing continues to be focused on the user and creating a meaningful relationship.