Disappearing Interfaces

The iPhone 4S is here (you might have heard) and so is Siri (as I’m sure you’re well aware), an intelligent, voice-activated assistant. I will spare you the effusive, almost gushing praise that has dominated most conversations about Apple’s newest product. I will say this and move on: Siri offers a completely new way of capturing information and so far among consumer electronics products, the spirit of its design best abides by the dictum, “the best interface is no interface at all.”

(Without considering history and without a proper degree of hindsight): Siri “feels” like a big moment in designing technology for humans, a significant dot in the timeline because all those that follow will similarly shed their surface elements for more intuitive (some might say less meaningful) ways of interacting with the device.

For a glimpse into how this might manifest in other types of devices, take the Lytro Camera. It is doing the same for how we capture photographic information.

The Lytro Camera is the first light field camera to hit the market (or will be in early 2012). As a light field camera, it captures all of the available light in a scene, which without getting into the details, means for the user there is no adjusting the aperture and no need to focus. All of these details are manipulated on your computer in post-processing. This drastically simplifies the camera interface. There are just two buttons: power and the shutter.

The interesting aspect from the user perspective is the degree to which Siri and the Lytro Camera change not just how you send text messages or take pictures, but the extent to which these actions are a natural part of your daily life. Does the simplicity of sending a text message or taking a picture make it an unconscious action, requiring less thought or perhaps even less care?

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