How Her (Film) Drives The Next Gen Human interface

Recently I’ve found the movie Her (produced by Spike Jonze) fascinating. It basically talks about a lonely man falls in love with an Operating System. Though it sounds creepy, the movie deeply explores the relationship between human and technology and ethics. There’re some aspects I think to be leading the future human interface:

Trend One: Human Interface Vanished in the Background

In the movie her, Theodore(performed by Joaquin Phoenix)’s virtual lover lives in various form: earpiece(with mic) for most of time, and sometimes a handheld device on the move (for Theodore to see images or videos), and relatively rare on the desktop OS. These are normal computer platforms and interactions that haven’t changed much from the current real world, how come this is intelligent? The short answer is: the form factor of hardware doesn’t matter, but the artificial intelligence highly integrated in the daily life.

There comes the intelligence: with its camera with technology capturing all different spaces and face recognition, with its “ear” hearing all the anxiety or excitement from the tone of your voice, and with all kinds of such sort of sensors and deep machine learning technology based on collective data from a pile of real people, the communication form factor between human and computer can just get even simpler, sometimes even invisible.


I’m not saying the voice interfaces will rule the future, given that or most of time Theodore uses the mono earpiece to check email, book restaurants, and sort of tasks. But I just don’t consider the future to be like what you can see in movie Minority Report or Iron Man (see images below) with all 20 different sizes of flashy screens in front of you. This shouldn’t be the future. You want to be free, and don’t want to be obsessive over the screen. As Artificial Intelligence technology moves along, there will be less and less (or no need for) visual interface, because all the questions we ask will be answered behind the curtain.


Trend Two: Introducing Personality in technology

The movie story is trying to create a world where everything feels warm, comfortable. The Operating System in Her is intelligent enough to detect Theodore’s emotion and intention, and return the most considerate solutions with manners. The future interaction of computer technology doesn’t have to be as intrusive as what we see today. If the current technology has the stereotype as being cold and clumsy, then humanize it. The future UI are becoming more responsive with sensitivity and empathy. It should not be a dream to have Scarlett Johansson’s smoky voice as a personal assistant to notice that you have a bad day and then comfort you.


Trend Three: Information Being Less hierachical

One scene real inspiring in Her happens when Amy Adams navigating her desktop OS: all the documents are floating around but in a disciplined way. I’ve mentioned in one previous blog How the 3-dimensional structure in iOS7 changes the way we perceive information: the depth of the information is no longer defined by the paradigm of document style UI. The predefined of data model and process has been and is still prevailing for a couple of years since we were introduced the GUI for a computer system. But with the Artificial Intelligence develops by removing people’s attentions from screens, the neccesary tasks being performed on the screen will be much decreased, leaving behind some crucial tasks on desktop computers. Thus, it allows the UI to be essential and less overwhelming, which also frees the heavily hierarchical information. One scenario will be that you don’t have to put things in the folder – instead, you leave things behind, and recall it by searching it in the search box, or the system can even automatically answer for you, like Google Now.


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