What IoT can learn from superheroes

The wearable devices and IoT, have been creating a lot of buzz in recent years. However, in terms of user experience, most of these devices are at best tech toys and at worse useless.

(read in Hebrew here)

To understand how to design or engineer these products better, so that they give a more meaningful experience, I suggest — reading comics.

Well, not actually reading it, but I’ll use several heroes to demonstrate several levels of use cases; what we have today, and what we wish to make in the future. The use of comics characters can be used as personas. Through them we could understand better use cases and different needs.

The goal of all the smart and innovative gizmos is to enrich our life and give it added value. This can be compared to the superheroes “superpower” which allows them to achieve their own personal goals.

Present — we are currently Batman!

As far as user experience is involved, the situation today is as bad as Batman. If your not familiar with the details Batman is Bruce Wayne. A spoiled rich orphan who is using his money to build high-tech toys. as far as superpowers go, the closest thing to his power is his bank account. anyway for this article we will assume that the pricey toys allows him an edge over his opponents and they are supposed to give him superpowers. The fact that Batman defines himself as having these powers is part of the problem we have today. This assumption does not acknowledge the user difficult use or the clumsiness of the operation of these various tools.

Stop or I’ll be forced to use this tool, which basically hasn’t changed since the steam-engine era.

Because their actually tools, not gadgets. Batman uses tools, although sophisticated, but he still remains determined by them. He has to learn how to operate each one. Each weapon or device has a different logic, and he has to use them in different situations in his life. Those of you who follows his character will remember seeing a large number of control panels, as well as the famous Bat-belt , because this poor man has to carry all of these different tools, like a handyman. That doesn’t even look comfortable.

The fact that anyone else can use these devices, and be Batman, does not bother me as much as the fact that no one wants to be. who would want to sign up for a mobile service which requires so much maintenance, or trouble. today's smartphones and wearable are clumsy and demand the user so much that a pen and paper (for one example)can easily replace them. this has to change, and in order to change we’ll have a look to the future:

In the future — we will be X-men

X men tells the story of different people around the world who woke up one day and realized their special. They can do many things better then others, or do stuff that people didn’t think capable of doing. This is exactly the goal of the wearable devices industry.

If only I could use my claws to cut my hair, It would have been perfect.

To give you the ability to go faster, to do something in a new better and easier way. to give you tools, but tools you wont have to carry on your belt. In a nutshell, you can see a more fluid and natural user experience in which the device is an integral part of the users actions. like the example of Wolverine cutting a sandwich, my intention is an experience which is essentially an extension of the body. Like people using contact lenses or sometimes forgetting putting glasses on. How would you acheive this? By designing products that are easy to use and don’t require thought, devices that will communicate with one another and decide when they are needed. As a rule — the more decisions the devices make the less we have to decide or think.(I’m not going in to the moral question whether that is a good or a bad thing).

Why aren’t we there yet? because the key element here is the personal adjustable functions of each device to each user. Adapting or customizing to each user need is the most valuable aspect which we don’t have at the moment. This is not something you sign up for or something you input. It doesn’t require from you almost anything. there are several projects right now going on that track, like automatized cars. Or learning Ai like “google now”.

so whats the “pain” of the X men heroes? That they all dont feel a sense of control over their powers. They actually still feel many times like their superpowers are managing them. There is automatizion and ease of use, but there isn’t a perfect user experience.

Your children will be Spider man

So what is missing to make adjustable automatized devices from being a perfect experience? The current state of mind is leaning to Ai(artificial intelligence). The idea is that the use case will be so natural that it will almost be a six sense, like the spidersense!

Spider-man treats his sense as a different identity, thinking and warning him of dangers. Sounds familiar? that’s the main idea behind services like Siri or Google now or apps like waze.

The information and data we get from users is rapidly growing, but for now we still need an artificial intelligence that could process this information, and use it in a matter closer to human interaction. This is the main focus for ai and personlized content that sometimes frightens people.

The important need involving this is not just expecting a “human” interaction, but expecting to get what you want without any interaction.

In conclusion

In order for us to feel like true superheroes we need to think not only of the improved capabilties, but the way we achieve them.

In the future these actions will be taken for granted, and seem transparent.

Until then we are just like Batman — playing with expensive toys.

Originally published at www.aniboaz.co.il (my Blog) November 25, 2014.