The Universal Interface

Dezember 11, 2019

The Universal Interface

Good product design communicates the user how the product is intended be operated. At least it was the case for yesterday.

Making Toast

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Imagine making a piece of toast in the morning. A good toaster design allows You, the user to understand the mechanical function of the handle to be dragged to the bottom triggering the heating process and countdown timer.

Imagine making a piece of toast in 10 years from now in the morning. You wake up and put on your casual Augmented Reality glasses.

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Something has changed. The good toaster design has now shifted to a toaster without handles and buttons. You bought it 4 years ago for its minimalistic design.

Instead of having a mechanical handle to drag down, you now just have to insert a piece of toast and point a finger on an invisible toasting grade, explaining how well your toast should be toasted, with a free mid-air gesture.

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This example of a toaster interface becoming virtual is an example of what we might expect in a few decades from now.

Paradigm Shift

Toasters without buttons symbolize a forthcoming paradigm shift in how products communicate on different layers, one being a digital-virtual layer, invisible to the analog point of view.

Economical Forces

There’s an economical force to support the assumption that toasters without buttons could be a product of tomorrow:

If a universal interface with remote access to every surrounding device is systematically cheaper to build, scale and maintain, compared to an integrated interface on every surrounding device, then creating an interaction system to operate environments centrally from the origin of the human becomes the more feasible option, forcing it into existence. Let’s elaborate:

Man to Machine Ratio

Default-aligned image Estimation of connected devices varies by publication, 11B median population estimated by Hans Rosling

Today as of 2019, there are already 3.3 devices connected to the internet for every living individual on the planet. In 2025 there will be 9.4 and by the time earths population hit’s (hopefully) a stable population of around 11B people, there could be thousands if not millions of connected devices for every living individual.

The result? Not exactly a scenario where every device has it’s own buttons and displays…

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We can all come up with places where 100s of people have to interact with one same piece of equipment on a daily basis, for example a restroom sink in a busy airport.

Then there are places like an office kitchen where a team of 20 people shares a microwave, coffee machine and dishwasher.

Then there are workplaces like on a factory shop floor where a team of people operates different machinery and equipment.

And there are already places like factories with robotic automation or automated server farms where human presence only happens in unplanned situations.

The more our environment tends to become the robotic automated factory, the less it makes sense to have fully-evolved built-in interfaces into devices and the more leverage for every system that allows man to channel as many possible connected entities.

Augmented Reality as Universal Interface

A mobile phone already enables access to millions of knowledge machines through symbolic search in a brink of seconds.

A computer in a control room allows control of any requested connected device information with full optimization for stationary work.

From a human user perspective what matters is being able to operate millions of machines in the right way, having the right tool at hand at the right time – these tools, interfaces will have to adapt to us to make interaction and lives more effective, simple and comfortable.

Head-worn wearables as interfaces to control connected machines are already on the rise, but there’s no causal connection to be able to claim an augmented reality head-mounted display would become the major universal interface.

Default-aligned image Interfaces are literally the bottleneck between man machine communication and they will become exponentially more important to be effective

In a certain sense current technological devices already have universal interface capabilities, yet they are being pressured by a 1000x leverage for optimization which will inevitably introduce us to designs with adaption potential to fit in „the right time, the right way, the right place“.

An indicator for the pressure hypothesis to be valid is observing the exponential explosion of AR/VR hardware which you can follow on

And in this window of "pressure" it is up to us creators of these new computer systems to further understand human capabilities and match them with the true properties of concepts of head-worn wearables, spatial computing and multi-modal interfaces.

As a result, technology interaction will become more productive and humane, thus effecting every aspect of our lives.

Hans Rosling, Global Population Growth – Box by Box, 2010

Last Edited on Dec 11, 16:20 PM. Published by Daniel Seiler