Are you ready to Chat with your computer?
Would the Personal Computer revolution happen without the Graphical user interface? Would smart phone penetration and adoption be just as high without the touch screen? Maybe. But what we can be certain about is that both the GUI and Touch screen interface is defined by rules.
Rules which, frustratingly, change from app to app.
Text-based, conversational interactions are liberating in their familiarity. There’s really only one way to skin this cat: The text I type is displayed on the right, the text someone else typed is on the left, and there’s an input field on bottom for me to compose a message. Text is more comfortable even if it’s less convenient a few times.
Text is an incredibly comfortable medium. Text-based interaction is fast, fun, funny, flexible, intimate, descriptive and even consistent in ways that voice and user interface often are not.
Text is the most socially useful communication technology. It works well in 1:1, 1:N, and M:N modes. It can be indexed and searched efficiently, even by hand. It can be translated. It can be produced and consumed at variable speeds. It is asynchronous. It can be compared, clustered, corrected, summarized and filtered algorithmically. It permits multi party editing. It permits branching conversations, lurking, annotation, quoting, reviewing, summarizing and structured responses. The breadth, scale and depth of ways people use text is unmatched by anything.
Messaging is the only interface in which the machine communicates with you much the same as the way you communicate with it. If some of the trends outlined in this post pervade, it would mark a qualitative shift in how we interact with computers. Whereas computer interaction to date has largely been about discrete, deliberate events — typing in the command line, clicking on files, clicking on hyper links, tapping on icons — a shift to messaging- or conversational-based UI and implicit hyper links would make computer interaction far more fluid and natural.
What’s more, messaging AI (Artificial Intelligence- the future where we’re all heading to) benefits from an obvious feedback loop: The more we interact with bots and messaging UI, the better it’ll get. That’s perhaps true for GUI as well, but to a far lesser degree. Messaging AI may get better at a rate we’ve never seen in the GUI world. Hold on tight.