HX (Human Experience) — Evolving the Internet of Things to the Internet of People.

Use words like IoT, wearables, machine learning, microcontrollers, bots talking to each other, in a string of words and the excitement in the room is usually palpable. And why not? Everything that we see and touch around us is going to be seamlessly networked, after all.

Think of the possibilities. Your watch — talking to — the door — talking to — your dog’s collar, can excite your dog to wag its tail, as you step inside your house! It’s intuitive, seamless, optimized and meaningful. And most importantly it puts the person in the center of the experience.

But, is there a trick that the dog is missing? Well, maybe.

The fulfillment, in this case, is not just the dog wagging its tail, but the emotion attached to it and the ownership that you get in the experience. As a Human Being. Not as a USER.

The biggest challenge to rolling in an array of 20 billion connected devices in the next five years is not going to be embedding sensors connecting those devices. But at a larger level, it’s the physical, emotional and cognitional interface this network is going to have with humans.

It was possibly easier to structure an internet eco-system for a ‘USER.’ It was a world where people had to interact with the screen — by definition a forced unreal simulation system.

IoT ups the game from that to the more ‘real world’. And yes: it is the same world that we stopped calling ‘native’ in our hurry to discover the online world.

The interactions in this real world are not just physical but have the potential to be emotional. And if we need to make it work, we need to quickly move from a UX (user experience) designing model to one that is HX (human experience).

Leaving aside the dog-tail example, where do we need to look for these building blocks of HX and what do we do with them?

The HX building blocks:

Let’s say you buy a Nike / Under Armour running shoe. The shoe analyses your running style and suggests how to run better. We are tapping into a physiological driver for a better running experience. But, let’s say that you are doing an extra 2K on the weekend and you realise that your shoes are playing your favourite track on your earphones to motivate you to for that extra run. Wouldn’t that be exceptional? And congrats, we have now crossed a consumer experience milestone by identifying & using a psychological driver.

Physiology and psychology are important for any and every real life experience that human beings have. And most importantly, they aren’t in siloes. They actively influence each other to give us an engaging and enriching experience.

Most of the technology solutions designing till now lie in a 2D physiology space of interaction. In the IoT ecosystem, we don’t just have the sensorial explosion that consists of touching, feeling, smelling, tasting, etc., but are forced to explore psychological factors like thoughts, feeling, and cognition in equal measure, for the experience to be relevant.

Let us explore what an HX based system can do for us in a couple of situations:

Say a healthcare company designs a temporary artificial heart for someone who is waiting for a transplant. Can we build in an anxiety response factor into it? One that decodes the physiological and psychological cues of the patient for better efficiency of the heart’s working, and by extension a better survival rate.

On the other hand, suppose you are a startup doing IoT home solutions for expecting couples. Can you empathize with the emotional 9-months journey that the couples undergo?. As most of us would who have gone through the experience would agree, it is quite a roller coaster ride. One that traverses surprise, excitement, and anxiety.

Shouldn’t we build in an IoT interaction experience that factors a celebratory tone in the first trimester, and transitions to a calming and assuring tone towards the third trimester? As the initial excitement wears out, the parents need emotional and informational support by being connected to the doctors, other expecting parents, and to couples who just became parents.

Sometimes the same IoT experience could trend from surprise to familiarity to boring over time. Human beings are creatures of hedonic adaptation* — however good (or bad) something makes us feel, we drift back to where we started, emotionally speaking.

Is there a possibility to build a HX based IoT experience that enables us to reduce or stretch this fading of happiness and excitement?

As we can see, there are a lot of ways to look at HX and what it can do for IoT. So, the next time you are in that adrenalin filled room discussing IoT ideas just remember, the heart of IoT is not the “raspberry pi chip” and the jargon that we cook in the tech cauldron. But, the much philosophized human heart where the body, mind, and soul meet.

*Source: hedonic adaptation — (i)Forbes, how to keep happiness from fading (ii) The upside of irrationality, Don Ariely