Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 27, 2012 8:13 PM

A World With No Keyboard And No Mouse

How's that user experience working out for you?

I often ridicule the masses (I know, that's very snide of me). When computers were first introduced the mantra was that, "screens are not easy to read or work on." Forget the fact that many dismissed the power of a mobile phone ("is your life that important that you need to make calls when you're not at home or at the office?"), and let's not forget the many people who would often say, "I could never type with my thumbs." To this day, there are still people who don't see the value in platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter (and let's not even get started with things like Google+, tumblr or Pinterest). You probably know somebody who has not switched over to an iPhone or Android device because they think that they can't type on glass.

It's all about to change again... it's all about to get even more complicated.

There has been a tonnage of content produced to analyze the value of Siri (the voice-initiated personal assistant that was introduced with Apple's iPhone 4S). Along with Siri comes a nascent and emerging new way for people to navigate and engage with content: the voice. That's not all. While our kids were futzing around with their Nintendo wii or Xbox Kinect, we may have missed another way to navigate and engage with content: kinetics (or natural gestures).

RIP: Keyboard and mouse?

Can you imagine a day and age when you will not use a mouse or a keyboard? A day when true voice recognition lives and when you want something, you don't even have to touch it (which is all the rave now), but simply use natural gestures to move, navigate and manipulate the things you want to see and use? It's one of those strange things that doesn't quite feel like science fiction anymore but lies on the fringe of our understanding. Voice and kinetic will quickly become the natural way to get things done.

For shame.

Several years ago, I made the attempt to use voice recognition software. It brought me to a strange conclusion: speaking my thoughts is not the same as writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper, and writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper is not the same as typing. Strange but true. As a music journalist, I used to write four CD reviews weekly (remember CDS?). One week, I decided to test this theory, so I wrote one review via voice dictation, one by hand and one on the computer. The result? The flow and context was all off. Because my primary tool for writing for the computer, it was the only review that truly "sounded" like me in a natural way.

What this means for navigation.

As we adjust to a touch world (and, let's not kid ourselves, touching a screen is still a little strange and intimidating for many), we are morphing our human behavior. I'm the first to admit that switching from a BlackBerry to an iPhone has made my emails more succinct and to the point (I think expressing myself on Twitter has added to this as well). Has this made me less communicative or clear? Doubtful, but it has fundamentally changed my communication patterns. As voice and kinetic navigation and usability become a much more predominant force (and let's not kid ourselves, it will), it feels to me like it will change the way brands can interact with consumers (and vice-versa). Pushing that notion further, it seems plausible that the keyboard as we know it today could well become a specialty tool relegated to those who feel like it's the best way for them to communicate in a text-based form (imagine that: a keyboard as a specialty item or a piece of nostalgia). When our daily interactions change so dramatically, it becomes abundantly clear that marketing as we know it will go through a seismic shift in terms of usability, functionality, strategy and creativity. Right down to its core.

Just what we needed: another revolution... and more disruption. What's your take?

By Mitch Joel