The Rise of Conversational Design

Although many people are saying that the future of interaction design is 3Dimensional (here and there), due to the advance of virtual reality (such as oculus), Augmented Reality (such as Google Glass) and gesture recognition devices (such as Leap Motion), I believe that it's actually heading towards a different direction. At least for most of us.

As I see it, the future of interaction design don't have that many dimensions and it's not quite "visual".

With the advance of natural language processing we are heading into a future of interaction as conversations, where text and voice are the main types of data input and output.

And this is happening because design is becoming more human and, even though it is still powered by algorithms and lines of codes, it is much more similar to how we interact with real people around us.

There are no clicks, no pointing devices, no more than one dimension to be dealt with.

And here I quote Alex Castellarnau, Head of Design at Dropbox, when being interviewed for the Design Disruptors Documentary Trailer: "We don't click people". The documentary, created by Invision, makes a great case on the importance of design and amazing user experience on disruptive companies, but still seems to talk to much on gestures and visual interaction when trying to exemplify the need to turn user experience more human and natural.

The rise of digital assistants

Voice, for example, has some great cases with personal assistant (or digital secretaries) like Siri, Google Now, Amazon Echo and other initiatives from different companies in the mobile and in the Internet of Things world.

What is more impressive than saying that you are hungry and receiving a list of good restaurants around you that are opened at that right moment? Is there a greater user experience than simply talking?

Let's not forget text, which is far more easier to deal with and does a greater job for those using desktop or notebooks as their daily power tool.

Take for example Slack. You can talk to the slackbot using text, you can start services using text, you can even program queries in you database therough their API using text.

At my company we have played so much with it that now I can ask slackbot “what’s the weather forecast” or I can ask “how much we have sold today” or even ask him to tell me random jokes.

So my guess is: designers may need to get into natural language interaction to keep up with the future of user interaction.

No need for Linguistic expertise or Artificial Intelligence

And this does not mean that you now need to become a linguistic expert. You just need to understand human interaction at its most natural form: conversation.

People won't navigate, they will talk, they will have a conversation with your app. You ask something, you get an answer or an action in response to it.

This also does not mean that this is only going to happen when AI become mainstream. Most of what's being developed is a simple set of pre-defined answers to pre-defined questions. You may need to understand different forms of asking the same thing and may need to plug some API to give dynamical answers (like "what's today forecast"), but it is still pretty simple stuff.

Conclusion

I'm not saying that this shift will happen right away and that visual interaction will die. I'm just saying that we are definitely heading toward and getting close to a new era of human-machine interaction everyone should be aware of (not only designers).