Make It Invisible: Technology Needs To Change Its Voice

February 18, 2014

We’re hurtling ever more swiftly into a realm of constant technological distraction. Phones and screens incessantly beep, buzz, light up and demand attention.

Amid the rising technological clutter, the ease (or lack thereof) with which we interact with these machines whilst remaining human begs some important questions.

HERHere are some scenarios quickly becoming a classic: You’re trying to take notes while on a conference call and – heaven forbid – you left your iPhone headphones in the bowl of keys by your door. Scrunching your neck and shoulder to hold the phone to your ear is enough to completely undo everything your therapeutic massage did for your lower neck and upper back last week, but, hey, it’s the only way to be on the call while typing.

Or, you’re attempting to walk down the street and catch up on that one important email that came in during your coffee meeting, but also need to watch where you’re going. Or, you’d like to spend an entire day away from a screen.

Say what? Not possible… yet.

The world around us is a beautiful place. It’s a simple adage whose truth ought to be a guiding force in how we shape technology’s evolution. And whether or not you approve of Spike Jonze’s recent film “Her,” it does afford a remarkably optimistic take on the direction user interface can go.

As illuminated by Wired, the magic of Spike Jonze’s “slight future” is that the technology is more “people focused.” It’s not about massive screens, constant distraction, and cold interactions. It’s about technology letting the beauty around us speak: The technology itself simply helps with what’s in front of our senses, rather than blocks us from looking beyond the 18-inch bubble that screens put around us.

user experience no cordsWhat we need is a reminder that technology is meant to help make our lives better, not more miserable. And sometimes even the most helpful task on a screen can feel arduous and insufferable.

Up until now, “Minority Report” has long been the darling of many technology developers and UI designers, filled with fancy, shiny technology. But all these high-tech screens and electronics leave a metallic taste in one’s mouth, and don’t do a whole lot as far as reminding us of our sentient and human nature.

The most salient sea change made evident by visions like Siri and Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha is that audio is an incredible tool to get us away from our screens. Looking up from our screen reminds us that there are real people around us; that there is beauty in our world, and that, believe it or not, there is more to life than emails. And while the distractions of communication and work will not recede, the ability to see what’s around us gives us a perspective that doesn’t happen when a glaring screen takes over your entire consciousness.

Indeed, things are popping up that reinvigorate the balance between the digital and physical worlds. Siri was an important step. Other startups and evolutions are toeing the waters as well. Overall, I’m hopeful that a renewed balance between screen and life will help make our attempts at productivity indeed more productive (and satisfying, at that), and make the life beyond the screen just that: real life.