Top 3 Technology Combinations for Interaction Design

As an interaction designer, I am fascinated by technologies that can be brought together to improve a person’s overall experience. In recent years there are several combinations of technologies that really seem to have potential to improve and simplify the way we interact in the world. Here are 3 technology combinations that interest me.

1) Activity Monitoring and Motivation tools

Nike’s Nike+ Fuelband, Nike+ Training,  Nike+ SportWatch GPS, and Nike+ Kinect Training

Keeping and improving your health is a challenge in this sedentary world. Helping people be healthier, helping them get better from sickness or surgery is difficult. As adults we develop all sorts of habits. Learning new things really is not our problem. Unlearning old behaviors is the issue.

Nike has created an interconnected environment loosely coupled together with Nike Fuel. Fuel is Nike’s way of determining the amount of movement you have done. Using Fuel, GPS information, training programs, phone apps and peer pressure they are exploring all sorts of ways to get individuals to exercise or move more.

With Nike+ Kinect Training they can create personalized training programs that monitor your performance, work on range of motion and provide on the spot feedback with avatars of Nike trainers. Using a game like environment with visuals, sounds and encouragement they look to have the Kinect immersive experience be your motivation.

By using the Nike+ Fuelband, Watch or Shoes in combination with the apps and website, Nike looks to provide motivation by monitoring your activity and providing useful displays and awards. Since the information is updated regularly, they also try to get you to pull in your network to create peer pressure to motivate.

I have several doctor friends that see a future with similar devices. If we could bring all of this together, doctors could prescribe routines and then monitor their patients on a regular basis. A plastic surgeon, who helps women after a mastectomy or people with damage after a car crash said he would love tools like this to help his patients get back their range of motion.

2) Natural Interfaces

Touch Screens, Microsoft’s Kinect and Leap Motion Controller

So much of technology requires people to adapt and learn how to do something so that the computer can understand. The more the user needs to adapt to how the computer works the more difficult in becomes for them to use it. Natural interfaces incorporate technology that tries to adapt to the natural ways people interact, for example, through touch, speech, gestures, facial expressions, body language and appearance.

Having the ability to talk to the computer and have it recognize you, combined with the ability to see most gestures provides the opportunity to engage with the general population in natural ways. Imagine being able to do remote doctors visits and having your patients start with the avatar nurse. Information can be gathered on a regular basis about what the patient is eating, how they are exercising , and whether they are following their drug regimen.

Having a system that interacts with you the way you want will increase your compliance to agreed upon changes. Imagine being able to go into your kitchen and get a message from your doctor to remind you to take your meds. While you are doing so you can update her with what you are having for breakfast and how you are feeling and doing overall. If you have physical therapy requirements, the system can help make sure you are doing the movements correctly and you can report any other issues you are encountering. Shift the mundane activities of data collection to the computer and allow the healthcare specialist become more proactive and attend to people as they need it. As they receive information about their patients, doctors and nurses can be alerted to the trends and incidences before they become a problem.

3)Large Collaboration Technology

Microsoft PixelSense

Working requires collaboration, however, most of the software tools we use still have the individual sitting at his desk and do his work until he is ready to share. There are an increasing number of tools that allow sharing but they keep the user at their computer. Very few tools let multiple people work on one device. Many times the collaboration I do requires passing files back and forth and transcribing meeting notes off of whiteboards to computer programs and project files we are working on.

Technologies like Microsoft PixelSense allows multiple people to work on the same screen and computer. The screen is as big as a table and can recognize the direction a touch is coming from as well as other solid objects placed on the screen. Each user can work on or look at his own document or application from the direction they are sitting. Passing information back and forth is as straight forward as handing it over. The desktop metaphor is extended to the idea of a shared table.

Having a tool like this would increase efficiency and allow me to work with small teams in the same technology without having to transcribe and change modes. Working out  a new workflow, making and combining design ideas, bringing together research and prototyping ideas could be accelerated. This seems to be moving much closer to the physical world we once had but with all of the advantages of the speed and accuracy of using digital tools.