The next experience set to change the game - Technology foresight on immersive interaction and AI

Immersive interaction has the potential to be a gamechanger in a range of industries.

Businesses need to constantly have one eye on the future while managing their present day reality in order to ensure continuous growth and longevity. The approach taken can be in the form of disrupting, responding, innovating, changing or just following.

However the approach, the journey starts with unlearning, rethinking and also being aware of the future scenarios regardless of how you position your business, whether it is a laggard, follower, trailblazer or innovator.

Technology enables the next distributed interface

A key and emerging trend that we are seeing is “Immersive Interaction,” which is characterised by distributed sensory-rich interfaces that naturalise the way we interact with technology in the advent of the disappearance of the smartphone and also the further complexity introduced with IoT and 5G. Immersive interaction is key to achieving the technology-enabled future that we envisage which is contextual, pervasive, adaptive and invisible.

In the quest to have natural, enjoyable and meaningful experiences, technology is changing the way we do things from e-commerce to healthcare, encapsulating any industry vertical that enables and enriches our lives. The blending of virtual and physical experiences together is ever faster adopted in our daily lives. The most familiar interaction mediums are visual interfaces with mixed reality (MR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), which are increasingly being adopted by a diverse range of industries, assisting in multiple different use cases.

But immersive interaction is not limited to our eyes alone. In the search for natural and frictionless experiences, the technology is extending to body movements. There are now many commercial products available for hands, fingers and even granular muscle movements. Probably the most surprising interface is an electromagnetic device developed by Disney Research with Carnegie Mellon University called “EM Sense”. In this case the ‘interface’ is largely invisible and non-intrusive, yet it helps us understand the context of what we touch and interact with in the physical world in high precision.

And then of course there is the voice UI (user interface). While we are increasingly used to speaking to our smartphones through the likes of Siri and Cortana, voice interaction opens up significant opportunities for screenless internet-enabled devices (IOT) that can span retail, smart environments and banking.

Experience is about the system and how we augment with AI

As interaction becomes more immersive, so the case for Artificial Intelligence (AI) builds. With its ability to sift through and make sense of huge data sets, AI holds the promise of contextual understanding, improved prediction and hyper adaptation – key components of ‘natural high level cognitive interaction’ and we see adoption already in health, wellness, commerce and automotive applied technology.

An ever-valid and underestimated emerging AI technology for all the verticals is affective computing, in which the emotions of the user are understood to enrich the cognitive context. One example of AI at work that NTT R&D has developed is predictive analytics on call centres that can flag ‘cold anger’ in the voice. The detection helps agents in real time to understand the unhappy customers before they become angry.

Technology foresight to actionable insights

Any technology or platform starts as a toy and an experiment, like the email, PC, internet, mouse and facebook. And some might remain as experimental toys just to instigate learning while others drive the adoption.

The maturity and the adoption potential of the different technologies vary in the context of interfaces and AI. We also have to make the whole system seamlessly work together.

In a continuous beta phase, we think that the general progression is towards a more natural experience and immersive interaction enabled by technology. Like an opera conductor that is only visible when needed, being in the background most of the time.

Gaye Soykok, Captain of Technology and Innovation, NTT DATA

Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional