Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung Design America, wants to upend the way we think about user interfaces. "Our love for the digital interface is out of control," he says. "It has become our answer to everything." If he has his way, the future of Samsung consumer electronics might work more like the Nest thermostat, which learns about your favorite temperature, or a Mercedes-Benz automobile, which automatically unlocks when it detects the keys in your pocket.
"The best interface is no interface."
"The best interface is no interface," he repeated over and over at a SXSW keynote this morning. Three principles form the roots of the movement he's pioneering, which even has a hashtag: #NoUI. In order to create better and more natural user interfaces, we must first "embrace natural processes" like the act of opening a door, and stop creating cumbersome apps to do the work for us or get in the way. "We're creating ovens so you can watch YouTube while you bake cookies," Krishna says.
- A driver approaches her car.
- Takes her smartphone out of her purse.
- Turns her phone on.
- Slides to unlock her phone.
- Enters her passcode into her phone.
- Swipes through a sea of icons, trying to find the app.
- Taps the desired app icon.
- Waits for the app to load.
- Looks at the app, and tries to figure out (or remember) how it works.
- Makes a best guess about which menu item to hit to unlock doors and taps that item.
- Taps a button to unlock the doors.
- The car doors unlock.
- She opens her car door.
"Is this really an improvement on the car key?" he asked. A Mercedez-Benz vehicle, on the other hand, fires off a low frequency signal when you pull on the door handle, which detects the keys in your pocket and opens the door instantaneously. Once you've tried it, it's obvious, like the mechanics of an automatic sliding door.
Principle two is to "leverage computers instead of catering to them." In other words, we must stop letting computers talk to us like this: Error message: your password must be at least 18770 characters and cannot repeat any of your previous 30689 passwords. "We service computers. Let's reverse this relationship," Krishna says. We should instead create technology that communicates what's gone wrong in human terms, he says, or even fixes the issue automatically, like Goodyear's self-inflating tires.
"Google Now is a step towards this kind of thinking."
Krishna's third and final principle is to "create a system that adapts for individuals," like the Nest thermostat. "The Nest is the most magical when it learns and when it thinks about us," Krishna says. "You don't have to use the interface anymore — it becomes part of the background," like airbags and automatic transmissions. All of these things we take for granted, but one day long ago posed enormous technical challenges.
"Google Now is a step towards this kind of thinking," Krishna says, "since it doesn't require as many steps to get what you want. Google is one of the few [companies] who have the data, and can parse through it in a good way." So will a world of automatic pattern-learning machines turn us into idiots, like the creatures from the far-off future of The Time Machine? "Nope," says Krishna — at least for the time being. "I'd hope we could just have more time with the things we want to be doing in our day-to-day lives."