By Michael Blakesley
We see these predictions taking place in product development this year, though it's not likely that these will be widespread in the hands of the general public. These predictions are in anticipation of what product and service companies will focus on developing in 2016.
Digital Tools to Manage Individual Medical Care
In the category of wearables, smart watches and health monitor bracelets became more popular in 2015. However, only a small percentage of the population is really buying them. Beyond the dedicated exercise enthusiast, wearables still seem a novelty for most people. Indications point to the market for health and fitness wearables sticking around and growing.
Improvements – such as accurate heart rate tracking without a chest band – are also helping to make sensors smaller and more affordable. For example, the new Microsoft Band 2 has 11 sensors, making it potentially more useful beyond fitness training. Advancements like these make it much more plausible for innovations like the sugarBEAT system, used for monitoring diabetes, to find a home.
While these products provide tools to empower people with the ability to monitor some of their wellness diagnostics, it is still up to the users to manage the holistic range of their health. At projekt202, we’re working with clients to explore how the real-time data from these connected devices provide more opportunities for specialists and health care providers to give more accurate treatment and holistic care.
With the general trend toward care based on health outcomes, we'll see more wellness coaches emerge among the doctor-patient relationship. These coaches will provide the timely intervention to help interpret this real-time data coming from wearables and provide tailored advice. It's likely we'll start to see some systems and corporate health programs mandate these wearables to maintain adherence to wellness in this circle of care.
An interesting development already taking place in the midst of these connected health devices is the integration with big data sources served into a meaningful interface. By interpreting relevant data, patients can make informed decisions related to trending data in their environments.
For instance, people with weakened immune systems could be directed away from communicable-disease hot zones shown on a map in their vicinity. An exciting example for people with asthma and chronic respiratory issues is the system developed by Propeller Health.
In combination with the data captured by Bluetooth-enabled inhalers, pollution and allergy data is layered on a local map, along with the frequency of inhaler use in the area. This powerful data can show real-time environmental information that can prevent adverse events, just as simply as someone using Google Maps to navigate the fastest route around traffic jams.
Curved and Molded High-Definition Touch Interfaces
Looking around the TV department at Best Buy can be an exciting and overwhelming experience these days. The levels of definition available in large Ultra HD 4K displays are so impressive that it’s almost impossible to compare the difference in quality from one to the next.
To stand out in the digital display market, companies like Samsung are even going a step further by promoting their curved display technology. These innovations are becoming easier for consumers to get their hands on as manufacturing processes become more efficient. Flexible displays have been in development for a while, but just now are becoming more popular with consumers.
On a much smaller scale than TVs and desktop computer displays, the Samsung Edge phones continue to upgrade their trademark curved, wraparound display. The Samsung Galaxy 6S Edge sports a touch-screen UI offering extended controls and operation out of the way of the primary UI surface. The rumored Galaxy 7 Edge wraps even further around the side of the device, working to virtually eliminate its visible bezel.
The prediction for 2016 is that more product designers and manufacturers will work in partnership with UI and UX Designers to develop meaningful interactions with touchscreens that have more form factors, including more fluid or organic shapes. These new display shapes open a whole new range of capability for gestures that are more ergonomic and natural.
One of the most interesting opportunities is in the design of automotive dashboards. Over the past three to four years, car manufacturers have rolled out some concept cars that show innovative uses of touch interface and sleek displays. A few quick examples that lead the pack are the Nissan Ellure, the Mitsubishi EMIRAI and the Lexus LF-CC.
These examples demonstrate curved shapes and styling that are more conformed to the ergonomics and aesthetics of the vehicle's dashboard design. With the advances in flexible display manufacturing, developing these types of interfaces at scale seems much more possible now.
The company that appears most poised to make this leap is Tesla. Currently, the interface is a disappointing flat-panel display placed in the center console that feels like a design afterthought. There is so much potential to improve this design where it is integrated into the curves of the dash, allowing for an enlarged touch-display surface with more ergonomically-placed locations for controls.
Additionally, larger gestures along sweeping surfaces could allow for development of muscle memory to perform specific interactions in locations that don't require the finger-point precision of the current touch interface. Tesla’s market is already in a high-luxury car price range, so, some might ask, what's a few thousand more to have a sleek dashboard that doesn't look like a taped-on iPad?
Anticipatory Design with Assumptive Workflows
Anticipatory design has been discussed as an emerging trend and is expected to be the driving force behind quality user experiences. This approach to designing software is not really all that new. The difference now is that we have a common name for this technique.
I see a nuance to this concept that will emerge as this trend becomes more established this year. Rather than just anticipating user needs, assumptive workflows take action and then seek confirmation from the user that the action was appropriate. We might get messages like this from our devices: "I found *this* is happening, so I am doing *this* for you, OK?"
In consumer products and services, these workflows can help eliminate a lot of the small choices and decisions we need to make. I predict that our devices will get better at assuming what our goals and needs are by leveraging other data sources to inform decisions.
For example, the Nest thermostat learns and behaves only based on the behaviors a user-owner trains it on. In an assumptive workflow, the Nest services would know when the energy company raises rates during peak energy-load times on hot days, therefore making the assumption and sending a message: “Since you’re not home, I raised the temperature at home by 3 degrees to save you $10 today. Are you OK with this?”
In business software where human accountability is still required, the anticipatory design approach needs to be kept in check. Based on our years of designing business software, we believe companies still need a way for people to be responsible for making – or at least approving – thoughtful decisions. We see examples of anticipatory design in business software with tailored dashboards and alerts, notifying the user of what should be done. These design approaches are applying with the goal of making people more efficient and effective at their jobs. In an Assumptive Workflow Design, the system has already done most of the work and only seeks user intervention for final approval.
At projekt202, we’re always putting the user first. With trends like these, it’s more important than ever to truly understand user behavior through direct observation, developing honest empathy for users and awareness for their contexts. We can expect to see corporate spending on user research to continue to rise throughout 2016 and beyond.