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The rise of complex conversational interfacesTurns out, we are just scratching the surface We are witnessing the emergence of a new type of conversational interfaces. You may be used to the idea of chatting with a Slack chatbot or talking with an Echo Dot. Your experience may have been good or not, depending on how the experience was designed.We are now going to witness the second generation of this kind of conversational interfaces. They mix visual and purely conversational experiences while maintaining the conversation as the primary interaction. This is a Copernican revolution compared to all the interfaces up until now.As with a lot of things, it started with Amazon.The Echo ShowAmazon has a different style compared to, say, Apple. Apple product launches are mythical events. Each product is revolutionary, each launch is a big splash. Do you remember the of the iMac in 1998? Of the iPod in 2001? Or the launch of the iPhone in 2007? Of the iPad in 2010? Probably you remember at least one of those. The Echo Show is still bulkyAmazon is different. Do you remember when they launched Amazon Prime in 2005? Do you remember the Kindle launch in 2007? The Alexa launch in 2014? Probably not. Amazon does not launch stuff in the same way. But don’t be fooled: Amazon’s products are extremely successful. They don’t have splashy launches; they prefer to quietly release a product, even if it’s far from perfect, and iterate on it. The very first version of the product contains a revolutionary idea.In May, Amazon launched the Echo Show. It’s an Alexa device with a touchscreen. I like but it’s kind of bulky; a lot of apps (called skills in Alexa) do not support the screen yet. The experience is not there yet.At the same time, it contains the Copernican revolution. The conversation is the primary interaction, and the screen is the secondary interaction, instead of the opposite.For reference, here is Jimmy Fallon using it without looking at it:[embedded content]A new design challengeAlthough technically similar to an Alexa-powered tablet, the Echo Show positions itself as fundamentally different experience. Designers now have to imagine an interaction where the screen plays an ancillary role. As a consequence, the majority of the best practices and principles of a good UI need to be redefined, if at all used. In the example above, the UI is just a screen-saver-like image unless a video is shown. That would be very dysfunctional in an iPad app!At the same time — again, following the video above — when the designers wanted to have fun with an Easter egg, the designers decided to show a static image: This is, of course, a very simple (although funny) example. Step back for a second from the current iteration of the product, and consider how useful this approach may be for far more complex interaction. Consider how powerful can a conversational interface mixed with ancillary visual feedback be.Ironically, the best example of this vision is the Knowledge Navigator from Apple, dated 1987. If you don’t know it, you should see this video now:[embedded content]1987: Apple knewWhat excites me the most about this new kind of interaction is that the main challenge is a design one. The rest of the technology stack is now good enough to transcript your voice and understand your intents. It is now up to designers to make use of those capabilities and provide a compelling user experience. This story is published in Noteworthy, where 10,000+ readers come every day to learn about the people & ideas shaping the products we love.Follow our publication to see more product & design stories featured by the Journal team.
Ir a la fuente / Author: Vittorio Banfi