I was fortunate to get to spend two days last week at the MIT Technology Review Mobile Summit in San Francsico. It was fascinating to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in software product development and to hear their takes on the future of mobile development.
One of the running themes of the conference was the focus on the day in the not-too-distant future when mobile devices will become less about whether mobile is the first or second screen and more about it becoming the invisible screen.
What do I mean by that? The biggest trend I saw, whether the topic was innovative hardware, software, or business models, was all about technology getting out of the way of human interaction as opposed to overtaking human interaction.
This was a key theme, and it is tightly integrated with both product design and user experience. Software products are becoming more and more seamless and sensual every day. They and the devices that employ them are getting out of the way, or will be very soon, instead of consuming all of our undivided attention.
As hardware becomes wearable and hands-free, software is becoming more tightly integrated into our normal daily routines and human interactions. Companies are automating transactions so that they happen seamlessly and without distraction from the natural relational interaction that occurs in life.
New devices such as Google Glass, the proliferation of sensors on devices, and the burgeoning “internet of things” are all examples of this shift toward the invisible screen.
The real advancements in UX/UI today are not necessarily about a product’s look and feel. They are more about how to make technology fade into the background now that it has become such an important part of our lives. This is a topic one of our UX Designers, Joel Rosado, covered in his recent blog post about Golden Krishna’s presentation at SXSW, “The Best Interface is No Interface.”
What further drives this point home is how little talk there was about “traditional” mobile at the Mobile Summit. There was very little discussion of smartphones, other than in the context of how much market opportunity there is in developing countries where feature phones are still dominant.
Likewise, talk surrounding tablets was less than one would have expected. Rather, discussions were focused on the next generation of mobile: the internet of things and wearable devices.
Much more than just being “the next big thing,” smartphones and tablets are primed to be the stepping stones from the personal computing paradigm of yesterday to the always-on, hands-free invisible screens of tomorrow.