Invisible Interfaces at SXSW

A friendly “Yeti Droid”

We visual designers worry a lot about what our designs look like. ?We discuss colors, fonts and layouts, and produce visual comps for approval. ?However, this morning in Austin, I learned about and experimented with designs that have no interface, that solve problems, improve lives, surprise and delight through tone, gesture and sound.

As a serious Android fangirl who is actually referred to by her friends as ?droid,? I was psyched to attend ?Android?s Principles for Designing the Future.? Google designers Rachel Garb and Helena Roeber presented the tenets of their design philosophy from a user?s perspective: ?Enchant me, simplify my life, and make me amazing.? ?The two talked about Google Now, a product that pretty much reads your mind, giving you location and behavior-based information without ever seeming like a tool that you are actively using. ?Google Now never asks you to select preferences in a formal way, but seamlessly serves you relevant suggestions based on your phone activity. ?Similarly, Android Beam, which allows two Android devices to share data by touching, lacks an interface. ?A rejected idea involved two buttons, but the design team ended up moving forward with a simplified solution that tells users what is happening through encouraging, gentle sounds and haptic feedback.

Around the corner from the convention center, at the Leap Motion tent, I got a chance to play Fruit Ninja with my finger. ?No mouse, no controller, just me and the screen. ?It will be exciting to see what applications are created when Leap opens the technology to developers in May. ?Both of these sessions confirmed that the future of design may have much more to do with gesture and sound than any of the visual interfaces we work so hard to perfect.

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