My grandpa, somehow, still prefers raw milk (which includes milking the cow himself) over pasteurized milk. He advocates that “the human race existed long before pasteurized milk was heard of.” I won’t be discussing the benefits of pasteurized milk, but I wanted to shed some light on human nature which finds it hard to shed its old skin in order to wear the better one. He does drink pasteurized milk daily as we don’t have cows in our backyard yet he continues to rant about his good old days of raw milk. Somehow, I found Bret Victor’s view on Interaction Design almost related to my grandpa’s situation. It was more of a love to hate you situation.
Why the Rant?
Well, Interaction Design has been around for quite some time but it was Microsoft’s Vision of Tomorrow that gave the term its necessary fame. I am not sure if we can call it a vision or stupidity but it surely was interesting. Since then Interaction Design has faced many critics, some of those actually ripped apart the actual vision itself. I won’t count Bret Victor in the category of critics who rip apart the concept of Interaction Design, but he was quite close. Before we move on, I want you to get the feel of Interaction Design. See the video below:
To summarize Victor’s article, if Interaction Design was to be our future then the nerves on our finger tips will become jobless. Yeah, he did a great job of explaining how we forget that it is a work of art when we can use our hands turn a page of the book and remind our brain that we actually turned two pages instead of one. Its art when you drink water, pick a bag, use a phone and all those other daily tasks. True. But does that mean we give up on technology that makes our life overly easy just because we want to feel the number of pages we flipped? I mean, come on, isn’t that old school? If that was the case, why did the world go mad for the iPad? Just because it was Steve’s vision? No. Really. It is because they love the ease of use. Get it?
Let me quote a comment from Reddit to support my thought:
Hands are so yesteryear. The future in interaction is through voice and mind. Hands are just an intermediary between your mind and the outside world. As the author of the article said, without feeling you’re paralyzed in a wheelchair solving quantum mechanics problems but YOU’RE STILL WORKING AND INTERACTING BECAUSE OF YOUR BRAIN!!
The future of human interaction is for technology to try and figure out what you actually want to do as opposed to what you can just figure out how to do by sliding your finger around on a device. This is where stuff like Siri comes in. Google has been working on this for years as well.
The author himself has a woefully outdated vision of future interfaces, since future interfaces will be no interface at all. You’ll just speak to a machine or plug in and it will give you what you’re looking for without figuring out where some UI menu is.
Why it isn’t about touch only
You know, I still prefer a BlackBerry Bold over an iPhone just because the Bold has a physical keypad and my work involves a lot of writing. My typing speed somehow decreases if it is a touch phone though the difference has started to blur. I know that someday I will move on towards the iPhone because of its rich features. The Bold does lag behind and we all are aware of this fact. But, the point is I don’t use the BlackBerry keypad due to the touchy feel of it. It is just that, for now, I feel that it is comfortable to type using a real keypad instead of a touchscreen keypad. Moreover, I know that tomorrow I will not think like this. The transition has to occur because it is for good only.
What Victor forgot was the added features that come with Interaction Design. See how the lady has been introduced with the place of her next day’s meeting? I’ll love it when Interaction Design Technology introduces me to the hotel building where I will be enjoying my honeymoon in a matter of few minutes. Will it be different? The vision of my destination itself? I agree that my hands won’t be able to tell me about the fact that I flipped three pages instead of one, but the technology will, so why care so much? Interaction Design Technology isn’t kicking away the prospects of human-to-human touch anyways. It is just feeding on our thirst for comfort and pushing it to the next level.
Here is another situation. The guy in the picture never had to open the refrigerator to find out what was in there. He saved a few seconds and didn’t even transfer the few thousand germs that his finger tips were carrying. Isn’t that interesting? Why taste milk to see if it is still good? I would rather let the technology tell me the same. If our technology can be as good as that then what is the problem with merging the same with Interaction Design?
Those are just two examples of what Interaction Design can do for us in future. I agree that we will lose the real-touch feeling when such tools take control of our lives, but that will be for the best (most of the times.)
Another comment on Reddit hails my thoughts:
While the author is right that these interfaces may not be truly revolutionary objects, he kind of misses the point. The real revolution of many of these future videos is that computing will become ubiquitous and interconnected. It’s not just that I have a fancy phone, but that my phone talks to the arrival gate kiosk so it knows I am at the airport and can automatically hail me a cab. The cab itself has a computer and display mounted into the windows that talks to my phone and can point out my local destinations as I drive by. While we are making small strides towards realizing these goals, the vision is that all of this will be seamless and effortless. The idea is not to create a novel vision of the computer, but instead create a vision of how we will do computing.
Remember Iron Man? District 9? What do these two movies have in common? My God, did you just say “the iron suits”? Please! I was pointing towards the 3D style of computing which was used in both these Hollywood flicks. Of course they are far from real but isn’t almost everything that we discussed above also far-from-real? Still, the buzz is with these ideas. Then, why not the ideas that were pictured in Iron Man? Touch. Feel. Play…live inside the system. It is about how close these machines come to reality and now far we go with our imagination. Also, an Iron Man-like display will surely help Victor reconsider his rants against the loss-of-touch-styled-interactive-designs!
Lastly, this write-up wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Apple’s overrated Siri. I agree that Siri could well be the first step towards Artificial Intelligence but that will be it. There is a lot to come in terms of Artificial Intelligence and I would love to live till the times when an Iron Man-like Artificial Intelligence becomes part of my daily life. God, are you listening?
Well, the topic of this debate is neverending still I think the end result is more or less clear already. We will be moving towards Interaction Design Technology at some point of the time. Time will tell if humans are able to gel with it or continue to criticize the losings of human touch. See, I am not against the idea of human touch. I will still want to feel my mom’s hand instead of touching it over a glass screen but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want an iPad like technology in my kitchen via which my mom helps me cook my dinner. It is fun and it is almost real. Agree with me? I hope my grandpa agrees with my thoughts!
Salman Siddiqui is an alpha geek, design guru and seasoned WordPress critic. Writing, for him, started out of ego but it has become the most luring and enlightening career option of his life. He is walking that extra mile for his freelancing dream.