No UI is the Best UI

This is the third part in a series where we’ll discuss the user interface in the home and where it’s going. This series is based on the talk we gave at CEDIA 2016. You can watch the live talk here.



We previously explored the evolution of the home interface as well as why voice is so ripe for success now in the home. But where’s it all going? What’s next? What’s beyond the current phase?

Embrace NO UI

Right now, you hear about how the graphical user interface is moving to the voice user interface — so GUIs to VUIs. But the reality is, the way that we interact most naturally with each other is not with a UI. We gesture, we talk, we interact with one another, we use our sensors. That should be the goal. Voice is the first step in that direction, but there really is so much further to go. Here at Josh.ai, we believe in the mantra of embracing NOUI.

And so, if you remember nothing except this one point from these articles: think about designing without a UI in mind. Don’t make the user say “turn on the lights.” If you know it’s dark out, if you have a sensor, you know that they’re going to want the lights on. Figure out how to automatically do that. Some of the principals about designing for NOUI are to embrace typical processes, and I’ll show an example about that in a second.

Leverage computers, and don’t make the user learn how the computer works. Let the computer learn how users naturally live in their home. Adapt to the individual. We’re all different. We like different things, we have different tastes. Maybe some of us don’t mind walking around in the dark at night for whatever reason, and so don’t make those lights go on if that user doesn’t want them to go on. Another way to think about the experience is that it really needs to be a personal adaptive system.

Please just unlock my car door!

Here’s an example of a UI/UX design and where it went terribly wrong. It’s also an extremely interesting use case. A couple years ago, BMW won one of the best design awards at CES for an app that allowed users to remotely access and manage their cars. Let’s examine one feature of that app which allowed you to remotely unlock your car.

When you think about wanting to unlock your car, what are the steps involved?

Step 1, walk up to your car.
Step 2, retrieve key from pocket or purse.
Step 3, push the unlock button.
Step 4, open the car door.

Ideally, you’d like to cut out steps 2 and 3 altogether, so that all you have to do is walk up to the car, open the door, and get in. That’s the most natural. Well, BMW built this entire UI that requires a lot more.

Look at all this extra work that has been added! You have to take your phone out of your pocket, unlock your phone, navigate to the app — and you have to make sure you have a network connection or it’s not going to work at all. That’s not simplifying the user experience. That’s complicating it. That being said, if you don’t have your keys, the app is a great fallback, especially since we almost always have our phone on us.

Don’t force it

The thing to keep in mind is the UI can be a great fall back. I’m a big fan of visual user interfaces in the right instance. Don’t make it the requirement, and don’t make someone go through a lot of extra steps if you don’t need to.

We need to be thinking about this simplicity as an industry, especially since we work in high-end luxury products. Whether we’re designing a new audio system or a new lighting system, we need to figure out how we enable this experience to just be as simple as: you walk in and the lights go on.

One of the quotes that I really like that comes from a book called The Best Interface is No Interface:

That’s the way we design within my company, Josh.ai, and that’s the way we think the whole industry should be moving. Let’s adapt to the more natural way people want to interact.

We think voice is a big component of that, but it’s not the only component.

Be sure to check out our next blog post, where we’ll start to take a look into the interfaces beyond voice that will transform the user experience.


This was written by Alex Capecelatro, Co-Founder & CEO of JStar. Previously, Alex was a research scientist for NASA, Sandia National Lab, and the NRL. Before that, Alex worked at Fisker Automotive and founded At The Pool and Yeti. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, lives in LA, and likes to tweet about AI, Startups, and Design.


Josh.ai is an artificial intelligence agent for your home. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us at https://josh.ai.

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