Humans have extended and improved their bodies and minds for millions of years, from the first stone tool to the newest smartphone. But as technology advances and becomes more embedded in our daily lives, we are becoming more demanding about how we want it to perform.
Intel Labs interaction and experience research director Genevieve Bell, who delivered the final keynote speech of the Intel Developer Forum Thursday, said those demands fall into four categories:
- People want technology that is truly personal. It should understand them.
- It must not burden us. Right now, technology physically weighs people down with all of the devices and accessories it requires. The average person also has 18 passwords to remember, which weighs them down mentally.
- Technology should keep people in the flow of their daily life. If a user is worrying about connectivity or passwords, they fall out of the flow. Devices should be aware of context and take actions to keep users moving forward.
- It should help us be our best selves by extending what we can do.
Bell brought a few colleagues on stage to demonstrate how Intel Labs is moving toward meeting these categories. There was a platform to visualize and manage personal privacy across devices and websites, a vending machine that predicted which drinks it should suggest to a customer, a jacket with blinking shoulders meant to improve safety for a biker and a device that required such little power it could run off of the acid in a glass of wine.
One research project put a display on the back of a laptop screen, essentially turning an open laptop into a billboard. They could post customized images or text, even polling the people around them with a question. An on-stage demo and a video emphasized that it makes a great way to flirt in a coffee shop. Testing it “got cheeky really quickly,” Bell said.
It felt strange to watch two people communicate from 10 feet away via text on their computer without ever looking at one another. Bell said that when they tested the additional screen, they found it was about helping people express themselves in the present. As technology becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, we’ll likely seek out and become more comfortable with those additional ways to connect.