Designing the 7th Sense

Human beings experience the world through the five senses and feelings are formed based on those experiences. It has been the lifelong quest of businesses to study, understand and connect with feelings that drive buying decisions. Why then, we – the technologists, don’t design and develop technology for ‘feelings’.

Utilitarian Technology Experience…

Enterprise software user experience has been a byproduct of feature development and engineering. A single-minded focus on delivering functionality/features often relegates user experience to an afterthought.In some cases it’s even seen at odds with feature development, and users are expected to undergo training to understand, learn and adapt to the engineering ‘marvel’.

The Journey of Experience → ‘Intelligent’ Interaction…

Per Webster ‘experience’ may be defined as “the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you”. It implies passive participation or mere observation.

Interaction means “mutual or reciprocal action or influence” — giving the user the ability to lead the interaction and the machine to respond in a meaningful way.

Technology is moving from Experience based to ‘true’ Interaction based as we speak. Design conversations are starting to look like a study in anthropology, sociology, psychology with the objective of getting as close to understanding human behavior as possible. Empathy is becoming the central thesis on the basis of which design is being created. And, technology is beginning to meld into human life and interactions seamlessly, moving away from the need for training and/ change management. This phenomenon is especially evident and to a large extent seen in technology created for the B2C market.

Macro Trends that Matter…

A few macro trends are catalytic to widely spreading this paradigm shift as it relates to enterprise software and anyone is the business of building and designing technology will be better off if they paid heed to these trends. Consumerization, Millennials in the workplace and Smart ‘things’. The coming together of these trends, all at the same time, in my opinion, is the precipitating event that has and will continue to bring technology design closer and closer to human behavior forcing the makers of technology to evaluate and re-evaluate their products, processes and methods.

Technology that Adapts to Humans…

Understanding one another has been a challenge for humans, how much harder it is for computers and software to do so. That said, artificial intelligence and by extension the cognitive ability of software to understand and learn from human interaction is evolving. It has, to a great extent, changed the vantage point from which to view and do technology.

A gamut of technologies are now able to interact with the environment and events to provide meaningful information to users, they’re able to learn human behavior patterns to create somewhat meaningful interactions. This progress has and will continue to change the way we live.

Technology Shaping Lifestyle…

Every generation since the baby boomers, has seen an increasing reliance on technology. Today, technology is growing and evolving at a much faster pace, than it has in the past. Between smart homes, phones, cars and TV to wearables and the ever-increasing multitude of smart ‘things’ around us, technology has transformed our lives. This omnipresence has demanded the seamless weaving of technology into the social/human fabric in a manner that supports lifestyle choices. We each can choose how much or how little technology we use and what we use it for. It’s based on our needs and preferences. These conveniences we so like and appreciate are only going to get better, more intelligent and slicker.

So, what’s next ?

The 7th Sense…

Technology will be the 7th sense – an extension of the human being able to communicate with the mind and body (it is literally that in some medical use cases). Our five senses can generate electrical and chemical signals that translate into feelings. Technology of the future, will be able to work in cohesion with the five senses and communicate with the brain to create feelings enabling a bi-directional exchange between humans and systems and systems with their environment.

To enable that, defining ‘winning’ design characteristics that allow the human brain to interact with the 7th sense, just as it does with five senses will be key. The shift will be definitive and will shape not only how technology is developed, but also how its marketed, sold, and used by the consumers.

It may be said —the sci-fi in the movies is turning into reality. The promise – if you can imagine it, technology can likely create it.

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