Definition Natural user interfaces (UI) are systems designed to make human-computer interaction feel as natural as possible. This wide range of technologies allows the user to leverage everyday behaviors, intuitive actions and their natural abilities to control interactive applications. These might include touch, vision, voice, motion and higher cognitive functions such as expression, perception and recall. Some natural user interfaces rely on intermediary devices while other more advanced systems are either unobtrusive -- or even invisible -- to the user. The ultimate goal is to make the human-computer interface seem to disappear.
We need to see apps for what they are. A clumsy way to organize our data and a contained user experience. We are being forced into silos; accessing a very narrow top surface and having to drill down through functionality to access the specific service we are looking for. There are these barriers which is baked into the nature of the user ecosystem where we need to unlock, open, navigate, access and action. We are forced into these synchronous, single thread, narrow domains of rectangles and user experiences and pulled out of our multi-threaded asynchronous digital existence.
How easily we interact with computers strongly informs how likely technology is to disrupt a given aspect of life or business. When we needed to punch code into a command line just to load a program, computers were far less user-friendly. But the mouse and graphical interfaces made things much easier, and computers blossomed from niche products into the mainstream. Touch took things further still, helping create a world where most people carry a computer in their pocket while increasingly also wearing one on their wrist. What's the next frontier that will further evolve human-computer relationships? You might be thinking that voice interfaces are nothing new--after all, smartphone assistants that you can talk to have been around more than a decade.
Today at F8, Facebook revealed it has a team of 60 engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive implants. The team plans to use optical imaging to scan your brain a hundred times per second to detect you speaking silently in your head, and translate it into text. Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook's R&D division Building 8, explained to conference attendees that the goal is to eventually allow people to type at 100 words per minute, 5X faster than typing on a phone, with just your mind. Eventually, brain-computer interfaces could let people control augmented reality and virtual reality experiences with their mind instead of a screen or controller. Facebook's CEO and CTO teased these details of this "direct brain interface" technology over the last two days at F8.
There is much excitement surrounding the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). Take, for example, recent headline-grabbing announcements from Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, which has the long-term goal of helping to "secure humanity's future as a civilization relative to AI." Then, there is Facebook's development of wearable technology that hopes to achieve "hands-free communication without saying a word." While there are no guarantees that telepathy will ever exist, equally, there is no guarantee that it will not. Meanwhile, companies and organizations are making tremendous advancements and we can expect more effective and widespread use of BCIs as they become more sophisticated.