Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Accelerating Evolution Of User Interface Interaction

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Deloitte recently released it’s 2016 Tech Trends Report which had a section devoted to Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and the evolution of user interface design and interaction. The report “identifies eight trends that are likely to disrupt businesses in the next 18-24 months – from blockchain to augmented reality, the Internet of Things, socially responsible applications of technology and more.”  The report overall is a great read that you can view here. There’s also some analysis related to Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the report with one specific area I wanted to expand on a bit below.

Deloitte’s graphic above captures the essence of the current User Interface (UI) evolution we’re undergoing.  What Deloitte calls “Intuitive Interaction” is more commonly referred to as “The Natural User Interface” or NUI.  Where we started with a Command Line Interface (CLI) in early computing which involved typing input, we are now in the twilight era of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) which has been comprised mainly of point, click and type input.  With the smartphone revolution, the GUI interface evolved to include the touch, swipe and talk inputs that most of us are now familiar with.  However, the NUI era is quickly approaching with the acceleration of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology.  Touch will soon give way to gestures, we’ll be able to interface and control systems by using just our eyes, and most importantly, receptive feedback and response can be performed by a system based on a user’s biometric information and/or reaction.

The most significant impact the NUI will have on user interface design and experience is within 3D space.  Whereas the CLI and GUI dealt with 2D interaction, AR and VR hardware requires operating and interacting in 3D space. Interface design will need to incorporate interaction with 3D virtual objects and how navigation occurs within 3D space.  Kinect already allows for gesture interaction with 3D virtual objects in 3D space, and other augmented reality and virtual reality hardware is focused on 3D space mapping.  On the virtual reality side, the HTC Vive maps out your physical space for virtual reality interaction.  For augmented reality, HoloLens will be able to project 3D virtual objects in your physical field of view (FOV) that are then interacted with via gestures.

This “Intuitive Interaction” is at the heart of the Natural User Interface and why some of the most forward thinking multinational tech companies have invested in or acquired 3D camera and gesture technologies. The list below shows how quickly these companies are positioning themselves for the Natural User Interface era:

All of the above has happened within the last 6-7 years and it’s safe to assume that the Natural User Interface era will arrive sooner rather than later.  For consumers, it might take a bit longer especially on the Augmented Reality side.  Virtual Reality is currently trying to incorporate gesture-based technologies into VR headsets to make a VR experience more interactive (and useful).  But for the enterprise, we are likely to see Augmented Reality have a more significant and immediate impact.  Or as Deloitte sums up in their report:

Emerging technologies that invoke futuristic, seemingly fictional realities can spark a backlash within the enterprise. Executives raised on Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, and Michael Crichton may be at once curious and dubious about what augmented reality and virtual reality are and, more importantly, how they might impact business. But know that AR and VR are here; their benefits to the enterprise will likely outpace consumer adoption cycles, which is notable given that the market may swell to $150 billion annually by 2020. It’s time to put AR and VR to work—and bring enterprise IT back to the future.”

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse

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