The Evolution of the Home User Interface

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This is the first part in a series where we’ll discuss the user interface in the home and where it’s going. It’s based on the talk we gave at CEDIA 2016. You can watch the live talk here.

Voice control is central to what we do at Josh.ai. Our vision of home control, though, goes far beyond voice. We are currently doing heavy research on advanced technologies, in what we see as the next frontier of the interface. So what’s the next frontier of the user machine interaction?

What I’m really talking about here is the user interface, and I’m going to go through a little bit of what we’ve been using in the past — why voice is so interesting right now — and then we’ll explore what’s after voice. The next frontier of the user interface.

The Old Boys

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We’re all aware these devices (shown above). They are the physical interfaces: switches, thermostats, fireplaces, doors, and they have been around for a long time. The great thing about physical switches is it’s intuitive — it’s easy to use. We see these in almost every home. So if you enter a home you’ve never been in, you know how to turn on a light switch. This is important to note because this technology has been around for a while, and it’s really not going away anytime soon. The physical switches were really the first UI that we experienced in the home.

The New Kids in Town

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We then moved into the digital age. These are your tablets, your phones, your smart watches. Digital interfaces change a lot of what’s going on. With a physical switch, if you want to update it, you have to physically change the hardware, which is a pretty slow process compared to a digital switch. For the case of a tablet, you can have an infinite number of digital switches — you can set UI controls, you can play music, you can adjust the HVAC. That’s why it really took off.

We also understand that digital switches revolutionized the way that we interact with our home. The great thing about digital is that these devices are mobile. You can do things like geofencing. You can do remote access. You’re no longer stuck having to be home if you want to turn off the lights or close the garage door.

This is were a lot of manufacturers are really living today. You see everyone has an app and UI of some sort, which is great in many regards. But it’s starting to get overdone. We see that apps are getting overcrowded, they are getting busy. We are at the stage in technology where we are trying to figure out: how can we simplify this? Where can we go next? Voice is naturally the next frontier in the user interface.

VUI (Voice User Interface)

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What makes voice so effective is not when you’re at home next to a light switch, and you’re saying “turn on the lights.” That’s a situation where you just want to hit a switch — it’s easier to do. Voice, in actuality, is great when you have more complicated scenarios. Not that you would necessarily do this, but with voice, for example, you can say, “turn on the lights and set them to 42%, play Adele in the kitchen and make it really loud, and open all the garage doors.” It takes about 5 seconds to say that and all of it happens. Imagine what that would be like for physical switches or even digital switches.

Voice is really changing the frontier with a lot of complicated commands and a lot streaming commands, such as music. With voice, it’s intuitive, it’s natural, and it’s an easy way to communicate. I could say to someone in my home, “Can you cool it down a little bit?” And they would know exactly what I mean. Understanding context and intent is the key. That’s really where the user interface is heading.

Be sure to check out our next blog post, where we’ll delve into the history of voice technology, and why it’s so ripe to make a huge impact today.

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This was written by Alex Capecelatro, Co-Founder & CEO of JStar. Previously, Alex was a research scientist for NASA, Sandia National Lab, and the NRL. Before that, Alex worked at Fisker Automotive and founded At The Pool and Yeti. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, lives in LA, and likes to tweet about AI, Startups, and Design.

Josh.ai is an artificial intelligence agent for your home. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us at https://josh.ai.

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