Future of User Interface Design

“The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple

In an interview for Wired magazine in 1996, Steve Jobs said this statement, and it still rings true today. Human experience has become a powerful, inherent function all design products must serve.

The User Interface (UI) is the point of human-computer interaction and communication in a device. The concept of UI design first emerged when GUI operating systems like Macintosh and Microsoft entered the marketplace. User interfaces have progressed rapidly within the last few decades. But there’s still a long way to go and there are many possible paths that future interface designs could take. There are many new trends and exciting to think about how they’ll change our lives.

In this article, we will go through the potential emergence of user interfaces in the future.

Different User Interface Designs in Future

Design trends come and go. Looking ahead into the next few decades of technology, many predictions have been made regarding how future interfaces might look like. Let’s split the following examples according to current UI trends and future UI predictions.

Current UI Trends

1. Voice User Interfaces

Voice User Interface(VUI) allows users to interact with a system through voice or speech commands. Virtual assistants, such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are examples of VUI’s. The major advantage of a VUI is that it allows for a very natural, life-like interaction that opens up many possibilities.

2. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, and haptic. There are apps like Google translate, Pokemon Go and Lenskart. While keeping this in mind, the concept of traditional navigation design patterns can be somewhat redundant and AR will aid in a new era in user interface design.

3. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they are immersed in their surroundings. This environment is perceived through a device known as a Virtual Reality headset or helmet. Applications of virtual reality can include entertainment (eg: Gaming) and educational purposes (eg: Medical or Military training). Currently, these systems use either VR headsets or multi-projected environments to generate realistic images, sounds, and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment. There are brands like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google that offer these headsets now. Below are a few examples of VR that shows how UI’s are designed for virtual reality.

Future UI Trends

  1. Wearable User Interfaces

Wearable computers are electronic devices that you can wear like an accessory or apparel. It can be a pair of gloves, eyeglasses, a watch, or even a suit. The key feature of wearable UI is that it should keep your hands free and will not hinder your daily activities.

2. Holographic User Interfaces

A holographic display is a type of display that utilizes light diffraction to create a virtual three-dimensional image of an object. Holograms are distinguished from other forms of 3D imaging in that they do not require the aid of any special glasses or external equipment for a viewer to see the image. The world of science fiction has provided a great platform for people to express their ideas and fantasies too. Below are a few examples of Holographic projections from the movies Iron Man and Avatar that show how UI’s are designed for Hologram.

3. Autonomous User Interfaces

A fully autonomous vehicle is 35 years away from mainstream acceptance. The biggest reason for this is for humans to trust an automated system. But what we can predict for sure are semi-autonomous vehicles which mean intelligent cars with limited autonomous modes, that can handle some situations, but would still require the driver to take the wheel occasionally. Brands like Tesla, Volvo, Waymo & Google are working on these ideas. Below is an example of semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous vehicles that show how UI’s are designed for the automobile industry.

4. Gesture-based User Interfaces

Gestural UI is using specific gestures, like scrolling, pinching, and tapping to operate an interface. It also refers to gesture recognition, tilting, eye motion, and shaking. The technology has evolved from very basic motions and applications to complex, and it is now a part of everyday life for a huge number of people. As this technology continues to evolve, the future possibilities are also incredibly exciting. Below are a few examples of Project Soli- a chip designed by Google that shows how UI’s would possibly be designed for gesture-based interfaces. Example: XBOX 360 Kinect uses gestures to navigate the home screen, sign in or play a game. The future of gestural user interfaces in gaming includes the use of gesture-capable movements and touch screens that provide greater gaming control, mostly for 3D gaming.

Next Generation UI Design Tools

UI design tools have come a long way since the first generation of Adobe Photoshop, a program intended for editing photos, not creating dynamic user interfaces. The current generation of tools, such as Adobe XD, Figma, and Sketch, have made UI design easier and faster. Future user interface tools will bring design and code together to provide a more seamless experience for designers and developers. Current tools aren’t helping us design web UIs; they’re helping us design abstract representations of web UIs.

Here’s what the future holds.

  1. Parallel Creation Will Replace Designer/Developer Handoffs

With next-generation design tools interfacing with the source code, developers will no longer be solely responsible for building UIs. Instead, they will be able to focus on developing the logical architecture that connects a product’s UI to its back end and makes it operate properly.

2. Design UI Tools and Developer Software Will Align

Next-gen design tools will interface with the source code directly, eliminating throwaway deliverables, and enabling designers and developers to collaborate on the same deliverable: the source code.

Impact on everyday life

The future is definitely exciting when it comes to innovations in technology and in many ways, the future is already here! We will review examples of how future UI design will impact our everyday lives. It is a good time to look forward to the upcoming technologies. So how do you see the future? How will our role as designers change? What new technologies will we adapt? Although a lot can be questioned at this moment, one thing is for sure: we’ll be stepping away from our contemporary jobs of UI/UX designers as we know them today.

One of the most memorable futuristic user interfaces is a LightRing from Microsoft Research that uses infrared to detect finger motion and a gyroscope to determine orientation, and it can turn any surface into an interface. We can tap, drag, flick and drag on a book, your knee, or the wall. For now, the interaction is with only one finger, but still provides a really attractive and natural-looking way for user gestures. This technology puts wearable computing to a whole new level! Imagine controlling your device anywhere and any way you choose. The nature of using this technology is similar to using a mouse, so we are already familiar with how the product works.

RoomAlive is Microsoft Research’s follow-up to IllumiRoom, which was presented at CES 2012. Both are steps towards a “this-is-our-house-now” Kinect future. The new system goes beyond projection mapping around a TV by adding input-output pixels on top of everything in the room. RoomAlive uses multiple depth cameras and spatially mapped projectors to overlay an interactive screen from which there is no escape. Imagine “real-life” video games that transform your living room into the world of the game. Or imagine virtual home decoration, projecting your vision of what you want to rearrange or add to your home’s decor.

Conclusion

In near future, User Interface design will be hooking up to an idea shown in movies and science fiction. The anticipating future of user interface design awaits…

We are currently witnessing the change in the human-machine interaction and interface. We are sure that in the next decade the technology will break all the limits and dependencies, bringing us more intuitive and immersive user experiences.

In this article, I hope you got a basic idea of the Future of User Interface Design and its Impact on everyday life. See you soon in the coming articles. Happy Learning!!!

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Sachindra Fernando

Sachindra Fernando

Undergraduate BSc (Hons) Software Engineering in University of Kelaniya