8 Trends in User Experience 2018

Inspiration from the CES Las Vegas 2018

The Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas is one of the top locations to learn about new technologies and interaction methods: you can learn about innovative products, test them out and even talk to the creators. A perfect occasion to discover trends in User Experience. Here is a list of my top 8 trends in User Experience as seen on the famous fair.

1. The interaction medium of the future: voice

At the CES nearly every product offers the possibility of interaction through voice assistance. This fact doesn’t surprise us, since nowadays voice control is not only technically possible but it is one of the main means of natural communication. Particularly exciting are the unresolved problems that will emerge from this: How will the public interaction look like if we communicate mainly through voice control? Imagine giving voice commands to your Virtual Reality Glasses publicly in the subway. Would you mind if people around you hear what you say? In addition, our work life could become more flexible if our workplace is the train, the coffee shop or an open office. With the solution that Hushme offers, we will even be able to attend conference calls while we travel in the train without disturbing other passengers. Wearing such a “mask” may seem ridiculous for the western world and could even make people feel uncomfortable. On the contrary, in Asia it could be accepted more easily because people are more used to wearing face masks.

Hushme: giving voice commands in private

A similar problem exists for audio response. Who wants to take his smartphone cumbersomely out of his pocket when he can instead communicate through the smartwatch? However, in doing so, your surrounding can hear both sides of the conversation. The approach to the problem by sgnl: their device transmits the sound from the watch to the ear through the finger, by using vibrations. Therefore, no one else can hear what the sender says (whereby people can still hear what you are answering). Since Samsung is involved in this startup it could soon happen that you bump into someone in the street with his finger stuck to his ear.

Sgnl: phone calls via smartwatch and fingertip

Whoever thinks this is too much “talk”, but still wants to inform his colleagues in the office about his mood, can get the headphones from Emojime. They measure the user’s emotional state and communicate the current feelings as emoticons displayed externally on the headphones.

Emojime: show your feelings in a new way

2. Flexible and intelligent displays will change products completely

The breakthrough of OLED displays in combination with sophisticated sensors and clear force feedback offers several new possibilities for designers. An example is this LG TV. It curls up and changes its size from a normal TV format to a cinema format or widget format.

New design opportunities through rollable screens

Another innovative display concept comes from ZeTime: their smartwatch can work up to 30 days without being charged. This happens thanks to its combination of a TFT display with a hole in the middle where the classic clock hands are attached. Thus, the display doesn’t have to be switched on every time you want to read the time.

New TFT displays meet oldschool clock hands

Playing with display shapes can often support the user interaction. A round display makes sense especially in control dials. This is shown by Panasonic in the new Range Rover.

Round displays support user interaction of the new Range Rover

Not only the display shape is changing, but also functionalities are added, as for example in the new smartphone from Vivo. Its fingerprint sensor behind the screen demonstrates a successful combination of display and sensor.

Vivo: successfully combining display and fingerprint sensor

There is a trend towards providing displays wherever possible. However, more displays often mean less hardware buttons. This can lead to orientation problems when operating an interface, especially in multi-tasking situations such as driving. That is why both Bosch and Continental have tried to rectify this in implementing a haptic feedback on the Display. See also designaffairs’s reference case of the Hyundai Bowl.

Displays can be supported with haptic feedback

3. Usability won’t be limited due to charging the battery of a device

In the airport, in the restaurant or in other public places, most of us know the inconvenience of looking for a possibility to charge our devices. With a bit of luck we may manage to find a power outlet, but probably in an unfavorable place where we may even have to leave it unattended. A completely different experience is provided by Wi-Charge. The user can pair his device with a small external module which receives energy wirelessly from an energy source mounted to the ceiling, which at the same time serves as a lamp.

Wi-Charge: providing energy and light at the same time
Wi-Charge receiver attachment

Razer shows a fascinating approach to expand the smartphone’s functionality while charging: Their device can be inserted in the corresponding laptop and be used as a touchpad.

Razer: transforms the smartphone into a touchpad

4. Communication with machines will be multi-sensory

The inflationary use of displays and the dive into virtual worlds has created an increasing wish to use more sensory organs than just the eyes. For people with a limited visual capacity smartwatches have been considered rather useless so far. This changes with Dot Watch, the first Smartwatch for blind people: the watch can change its surface creating tiny elevations to display braille letters.

Creating user experience for people with visual impairment

Multi-sensory in- and output is applicable in many fields, e.g. music: sound waves cannot only be perceived in audio form but also in a tactile way when it comes to bass frequencies. This characteristic is used by Lofelt, who created a completely new sound experience with a wristlet. Their device transmits the bass to the user through vibrations on the skin.

Lofelt: feeling music
Lofelt: feeling music video

Most children know the sentence “Don’t touch, only watch!”. This is exactly what is happening nowadays in the virtual world: Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to touch the things shown in virtual reality? This is what Sense Glove is doing.

Transporting tactile feedback into virtual reality
Sense Glove product video

Ultrahaptics is working on the idea to make virtual reality touchable, too. However, they have found a completely different solution using ultrasound to generate a palpable resistance to touch in the air. This technology can not only be very advantageous for VR and MR but also for other gesture operations. Today gesture operations still have the disadvantage that there is no physical limitation or haptic feedback. The Ultrahaptics technology has the potential to correct this deficit. For concept development the Touch Developer Kit is particularly interesting. With this set, ideas can be simply evaluated by plug and play. The first product on the market is a slot machine, which goes very well with the location of the CES: Las Vegas.

Ultrahaptics: Hardware and Software
Ultrahaptics combined with mixed reality
Ultrahaptics’ toolkit

Instead of using only non-deformable touch surfaces for interfaces, dynamic and physically changing ones open up the possibility to create flexible and stretchable interfaces. Here is an example seen by tacterion.

Touchable and stretchable sensors offer new design perspectives

A use case was shown in a concept car from Pioneer. Here, a touchpad with flexible buttons was designed to fit on the steering wheel. This way the user is able to feel the buttons at the touch pad. In addition, a vibrating feedback is given through the seat as seen as part of the prototype.

Flexible buttons can give the user haptic feedback on touch pads

In the design process, the 3D printer is an established part for fast and easy form finding and testing. However, when it comes to the composition of the surface, designers often still depend on material samples from producers. This will change in the future. Just as the color printer and then the 3D printer became omnipresent in design agencies, the 2,5D printer will probably become more important in the future as well. With the Casio 2,5D printer almost all surfaces can be prototyped.

Using the Casio 2,5D printer allows experimenting with surfaces and materials
Material sample: raw material on the right, the finished print on the left
Material sample for an interfaces scenario
Material sample: Even stitches can be simulated.

5. Food will be analyzed and tracked: from development through sales to consumption

In future, the scent of unknown dishes will be in our noses while going shopping in a supermarket. Yet, the smell will actually not stem from freshly prepared meals, but from a small box with a screen, which immediately records our reaction and sends it to the laboratories of the major food manufacturers. Thus, the willingness to purchase will be tested before the product is released so that it can be changed if necessary.

Testing user reactions of the smell of a new products

Once the products are developed, they end up in a fully supervised supermarket. Customers and goods are tracked from countless cameras and evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence. This promises significant customer analysis, accurate registration of stock levels, cost reduction due to disappearing cash points and a higher throughput of customers. Especially Amazon but also other startups like Aipoly are promoting this vision.

Aipoly shelf with integrated cameras. Products are tracked via the use of AI
amazon go: The intelligent supermarket promises to make shopping a new experience

Thanks to Orcam, product information can be easily retrieved from a large database. For this, a small adapter is simply attached to a pair of glasses to detect products, banknotes and people. This could be especially interesting for elderly people or people with reduced sight.

User scanning a product via the Orcam device

This trend to track food continues at home. Those who haven’t paired their fridge with Amazon yet or don’t have a new version with cameras, can capture its content with the help of Ovie and Alexa.

Ovie smart storage clips to improve storage
Ovie smarterware product video

Whoever thinks that we are already analyzing everything, may be wrong. People who are allergic or intolerant to gluten or peanuts often find it difficult to find the right food since traces of nuts can be found in a great variety of food. For these people it may be useful not to exclude food categorically, but simply test the ingredients of their food themselves by using a solution like Nima.

Test what’s the secret ingredient in your food

Not only people with allergies want to examine their food. More transparency can be useful in other contexts, too. For example, those who order Viagra on the internet and want to be sure if this is an original or a fake product, can now also check medicaments with the handy spectrometer from LinksSquare.

LinksSquare helps detect counterfeit products
LinkSquare product video

6. Education becomes a childrens’ game

The fact that children learn playfully is old news. But with the help of “gamification” daily annoyances, such as brushing teeth correctly, will be playfully solved and monitored. An example for this is Playbrush. The right cleaning is ensured with a simple attachment to the toothbrush and an app.

Playbrush: educational tooth brush

At the CES, not only present education issues were addressed, but also answers to future challenges were given. For example, a large range of games for learning programming were presented.

Root has absolutely delighted with a versatile robot that can be programmed by children in three different difficulty levels. The Robot combines coding and painting with a variety of sensors and options.

Root robot and application for programming
Root product video

7. Seamless interaction is becoming the standard for many products

In the future, vehicles will not only drive autonomously, but also, according to Nissan, our driving intentions will be considered. The vehicle recognizes whether the passenger would like to overtake or not and (re)acts accordingly. Therefore, autonomous driving will be more pleasant while everyone will be able to maintain his own driving style.

This device will measure your intentions during autonomous driving for a pleasant in-car experience
Nissan concept car including the brain-to-vehicle head rests
Nissan Brain-to-Vehicle Technology product video

Not only cars will be further updated with sensor technology. Almost all products in the modern home will be provided with sensors to interconnect and communicate with each other. That means that user requests can be better understood with the help of self-learning algorithms which enable seamless interaction.

For example, the Postbox knows which packages are expected. It authenticates them via barcode scanner . If the expected package is authenticated via bar code, a hatch opens up for the post man to drop the delivery into. This way you will never miss a delivery again.

Postbox: smart

Another example: In the smart bedroom of coway, the mattress analyzes the user. As soon as he falls asleep watching TV, the bed goes into a flat mode and the TV turns off and disappears. To wake up, the bed moves up slowly and brings the user back to an upright position.

coway seamless interaction idea

For those who do not like to fold their clothes, there is an alternative: the laundroid. Simply throw clothes into the bottom drawer and the device will fold them up and sort them into the wardrobe’s shelves.

laundroid: folds the users clothes and sorts them
laundroid robotic closet

8. The classic control dial in the car will disappear

The trend towards larger touch displays has been going on for a while now. However, in many vehicles the multimedia system can still be operated with rotary dials. In order to compensate the lack of orientation while driving, many concepts at the CES have used ultrasound and haptic touchscreens. Bosch has also applied eyetracking as an input method. In general, this worked surprisingly well, provided that the user doesn’t wear glasses with more than 4 diopters. In this case, the interaction concept doesn’t work.

Bosch: ultrahaptics, touch pad with forced feedback and eye sensor
Bosch: product video
Bosch: product video

In the Mitsubishi concept there is still a control dial, but the interaction with it was very unconventional. By moving the rotary control to the right, list items can be enlarged.

Mitsubishi: interaction via rotary control

At Byton, large surface screens dominate. Even seat adjustment buttons are replaced by apps.

Byton: dominated by large surface screens
Byton: large surface screens

“Mercedes-Benz User Experience” also removed the rotary control in the multimedia system. However, the interaction via the steering wheel and the cluster display has been particularly successful.

Mercedes Benz User Experience cluster
Mercedes Benz User Experience Infotainment
Mercedes Benz Product Video

Summary

Amongst many user experience trends, these eight have a high potential to change products and product experiences entirely: voice interaction, flexible and intelligent displays, ease of charging, multi-sensory communication with machines, food tracking and analyzation, robots in education, seamless interaction and lastly new ways of interaction in the mobility context. These trends offer great opportunities for designers to create multisensorial and brand shaping interaction solutions.

Learnings

The challenge for product and interaction design is to meet the real needs of the user and combine them with new technologies to generate outstanding user experiences. 
Depending on the cultural background, age, interaction context and technical affinity, different interaction options are needed to reach optimum usability. The multitude of possibilities makes it harder for companies to create an independent, brand-defining interaction between user and product. Products such as washing machines, for example, are increasingly controlled by Amazon Echo, and thus the user experience with Alexa is in the foreground. This could bear problems with brand recognition through user experience. The user experience ignition point moves from the actual product and brand to a third party device: the voice assistant or smarthphone. 
With the interaction moving further away from the actual product, the designer’s challenge will be to ensure the user is emotionally connected to the product with a differentiable interaction method.
At designaffairs, we face these challenges on a daily basis to create a user-centered, multi-sensory and brand-rich user experience for our customers.

Find out more: www.designaffairs.com

designaffairs is the strategic design consulting agency creating user experience for industrial design, user interface design, user research and usability.