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September 19, 2017

The Perfect UI Is Zero UI

Written By Pammy Alexander
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Zero User Interface is the idea that future users will be able to interact with technology in a more organic way, through body movement and gestures, without any visible UI.

The pioneer of the term, Andy Goodman speaks about a future “where we [use] body movements, gestures, words, thoughts, to trigger the result we want from our devices” rather than rely on a set of available options.

Zero User Interface

Visible UI won’t be necessary because technology will be seamlessly intertwined with everyday objects. Future technology which follows this model, will be not just hand-free, but also screen-free. Meaning that UI will not disappear, but rather it will become more intelligent and integrated into the user experience. The aim is that functional future devices will not require any time to be “figured out” by the user.

Zero UI is not merely a prediction, but an objective which is actively worked towards by technology giants. The heavy investment in voice controls highlights that Amazon (Echo), Google (Home) and Apple (Siri) are simultaneously prioritising the evolution of UI as we know it.

Embedded technology is predicted to revolutionise homes, cars and even cities. But first we need the capacity to produce and design objects of this caliber.

From mobile-first to AI first

With Roller delving into AI, VR and machine learning, this is a topic that fascinates us deeply. The functionality of Zero UI will depend heavily on the processing power of strong computers and the data interpretation of AI.

The transition is already becoming evident through the evolution of the mobile. The complete removal of the headphone jack in Pixel 2 will force users to incorporate wireless technology in order to use their device. Early information about the iPhone 8 shows the minimal design of a full glass screen, without a home button. Additionally, these latest devices have been designed with facial recognition and augmented reality in mind, demonstrating a clear shift towards a Zero UI experience.

Yet, the fully adapted future of Zero UI relies on the complete transformation of devices which no longer rely on a touchscreen graphical interface. As well as the development of AI systems able to interpret the input coming from various sources, such as face recognition, gesture, voice and brain signals.

What does this mean for UI designers and developers?

In order to reach the end goal of Zero UI, designers must first establish Natural User Interface (NUI). That being, design which reduces the adjustment period required when a user picks up an unfamiliar device.

NUI is the natural precursor to Zero UI because it follows simple, biological lines as well as skills commonly used by people in everyday life. The user will direct and control the device through simple gestures, voice, eye movement or even brain activity. However,  systems of the future must not only reduce the complexity of UI, but they must have the capacity to naturally interact with and recognise millions of users, voices and gestures.

Once the success of ZeroUI is completely realised, the gap between user and information will be non-existent. That will greatly benefit brands who will enjoy increased user spending due to the immediacy of the design, which has already become evident with Amazon’s Echo.

When UI is done well, users take it for granted, much like we do today with tablets, smartphones and voice control. Yet, Zero UI takes it a step further by integrating AI into every level of existence. Imagine a world where human beings no longer use devices, but rather AI assists us through our day at the rate of a thought.