Emerging Technology & Innovations

In this information age, technological advancements are being made every day that continue to impact the world and as a result, change the face of industry sectors.

On this page, we have provided information on emerging technologies and innovations that require the attention of the UX industry. We look at these new innovations from a UX perspective and give advice on how to design and test the products and services that implement these technologies and approaches.

As new technologies and trends emerge we will continue to add to this page so keep a look out for new items.

[ Jump to: Augmented Reality ]

    Chatbots

    Types of Chatbot   ♦   Chatbot Uses   ♦   Benefits of Chatbots for Businesses & Consumers

       ♦   Chatbot Design   ♦   Chatbots & UX   ♦  Testing Chatbots   ♦   The Future of Chatbots

    chatbot

    What is a Chatbot?

    A chatbot (short for chat robot), is a computer program that mimics conversation with people using artificial intelligence technology. It is essentially a conversational interface that uses text or speech to aid users in performing a task or gaining information. It is often a layer on top of, or a gateway to, a service and is specifically designed to replicate human interaction.

    The Rise of Chatbots

    Chatbots are not a new concept. The early stages of this technology dates back to the 1950s. The current resurgence in the popularity and advancements in chatbots has been fuelled by 3 major factors;

    1.The increase in usage of Messaging Apps

    messaging apps graph

    People are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks. Whatsapp alone is used by more than one billion people .This trend lent itself well to applications like chatbots that use more conversational interactions. This naturally lead businesses to invest heavily in the chat economy.

    2. The Advancements of Technologies

    Recent developments in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Speech Recognition allowed chatbots to advance in terms of their potential use cases. Bots are now able to translate and interpret human natural language input and become more intelligent over time by continually learning from past experiences with users. This is achieved through a combination of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning and current technologies allow for up to 90% accuracy of machine parsing and understanding of requests.

    Furthermore, the advancement in cloud computing and integration technology allowed chatbots to be integrated into messaging apps. Synchronizing communication between these apps using API is also now possible because of these advancements.

    3. Support from Leading Organisations 

    In 2016 Facebook made an announcement that chatbots had been implemented into their long-term business strategy.  Following this, the first wave of chatbots was released through Facebook and allowed developers to create a chatbot for their brand or service so that consumers could carry out some of their daily actions from within their messaging platform.

    “Facebook messenger alone now has
    tens of thousands of chatbots you can interact with”

    Since then, the potential of this technology has created a buzz, and seen chatbots continually emerging in all industry sectors. Common applications are seen in industry sectors such as e-commerce and internet gaming.

    The potential of the technology has also resulted in the emergence of chatbots in the form of personal digital assistants in innovative products such as Amazons’ Echo (with a built in chatbotnamed ‘Alexa’) and Googles’ ‘Google Home’ (with built in bot ‘Google Assistant’).

    Types of Chatbot

    There are generally two variants of chatbot:

    • One type is pre-programmed and follows a set of rules, triggers and flows to respond to commands.
    • The other uses machine learning, algorithms and natural language processes, to pick up new information from the user and learns from previous conversations. This type of chatbot becomes more intelligent over time.

    Chatbot Uses

    The most popular use of chatbots are for business services. Chatbots provide a new and effective form of communication between the brand and consumer and are emerging in all business sectors and catering to various types of services.
    Here we have shown you just a few of the sectors where chatbots have been successfully implemented along with some links to external sources that show examples of existing bots available to their consumers.

    fashion retail

    Fashion Retail: Five luxury brands that are setting the pace of social media bot usage.
    “Consumers are becoming more and more digitally savvy and comfortable interacting with artificial intelligence online. How can this industry build on the opportunity to provide their customers with an online experience that supports their offline activities?”

    banking

    Banking: How the world’s biggest banks are using chatbots to boost their business
    “With the ability to automate operations, reach more customers, and provide a more friction-free banking experience, chatbots are streamlining and optimizing many banks’ digital services.”

    Travel: Some of the best travel chatbots we have seen so far
    “From booking flights to general travel advice and innovative customer service, chatbots are changing the consumer travel experience – and they’ve only just got started.”

    Benefits of Chatbots for Businesses & Consumers

    • Engagement: Conversation comes naturally to humans which means chatbots are an easy way for people to interact with a brand or product. This form of communication is also useful for audiences that are not particularly technologically literate.
    • Scalability: A single chatbot can handle thousands of conversations at the same time, increasing efficiency. This means that from a business perspective, many tasks can be performed at a lower cost increasing profitability.
    • Personalisation: As chatbots learn from its user over time, they can eventually deliver an extremely personalised experience, benefiting the consumer. This means that businesses can build an organic personal profile for each customer over time.
    • Convenience: Consumers using virtual assistants can quickly manage multiple tasks in one place rather than maybe in the past using multiple apps.
    • Versatility: The applications of chatbots are virtually limitless. They are already covering everything, from customer service to weather forecasting, and more are being built and developed every day.
    • Costs: Chatbots can cut costs in Industries like healthcare where there are large volumes of human interaction. Currently chatbots cut business cost by around $20 million per year worldwide and new research has predicted that this could increase up to $8 billion by 2022.

    Chatbot Design

    Top 5 Chatbot Design Tips:

    1. Good Conversation

      • Keep communications concise, short and understandable (don’t use jargon).
      • Ensure your bot doesn’t ask obvious questions – Users do not always ask succinct questions or ask one question at a time. Your bot needs to be able to pick up the key points and correlate multiple questions in its answer.
      • Keep users engaged – give users a reason to continue or re-engage in the conversation. Give them recommendations they can use or let them know further updates will be given in the future.
        For example, if a customer was to order from a brand online the bot could keep the user engaged by also providing them with additional information such as delivery times or recommend complimentary products. The bot could then give the consumer updates later when the item has been shipped, delivered etc.

    Further Information: Blog: Chatbot Conversation Design

    2. Give an identity and personality to your bot

    The chatbot market is becoming increasingly competitive, give your bot a unique name to help it stand out. It is also beneficial to give your bot a persona with a tailored personality and specific tone of voice. People prefer to feel as though they are not talking to a robot.

    3. Make sure your bot is relevant 

    Decide on the main purpose of your chatbot. Adding too many features is likely to confuse the user and deviate from the bots’ main goals.
    The overall purpose of your bot will inform its’ market position and target user demographic. Making sure you design the conversation based on how your target market like to communicate is key. Also, remember that sometimes the people who use your website may not be the same as who interacts with your chatbot.

    4. Capture Data from your chatbot.

    Collect user information during conversations to improve interaction and develop a more personalised experience over time. The Information you collect can also be compiled to uncover future opportunities for your bot in your industry.

    5. Test your chatbot

    Test your bot on a small percentage of your potential user base to evaluate its effectiveness. Testing will uncover key problems which you can correct before launch. This is essential as first impressions are key to the success of a new product or service.

    If you would like more information on how to test your bot, call us on 44(0)800 024624 or email us at info@usability247.com

    Chatbots & UX

    The impact of Chatbots on the UX Industry

    The chatbot trend shows no sign of slowing down as more and more conversational interfaces are launching to market daily. What does this mean for the UX industry?

    To begin with, the overall purpose of user experience design remains the same which is to create useful products and services by understanding its users. However, with these new types of interaction emerging in the form of text and voice conversations, the work has diversified and the UX field is taking on a new set of responsibilities.

    The bot trend brings about a new set of challenges and opportunities for UX designers as user interfaces become less visual and more human experiences begin to take over. The basic skill set required for designing experiences may be different but many UX principles will remain the same.

    An aspect of UX design that will diversify and grow is personas. A new type of persona will need to be established for each chatbot representing their brand. The personality of the conversational UI or chatbot becomes the UX itself.

    “As chatbots are based around conversation, dialogue and story design has now been brought to the forefront for UX professionals.”

    Optimising conversations will help to generate more useful and meaningful responses when interacting with users. Overall, conversational UI represents a more useful and natural way of thinking for designers and users of chatbots.

    Testing Chatbots

    Usability Testing & Chatbots

    When it comes to testing products or services that use chatbots the core user research methods are still relevant but some adaptations do need to be made.

    Below we have mapped an example of some of the typical user problems we encounter during the testing of a website or app and how these would compare during the testing of chatbots.

    Problems encountered during website/app testing:

    • Language: May not be understandable to the user due to the use of too many technical terms, lengthy wording etc.
    • Branding: May cause problems with visual differentiation
    • Functions (e.g. online forms): May mean that the expected outcome doesn’t happen
    • Onsite Search: May result in the search term used delivering incorrect or spurious results

    The parallels with chatbots are:

    • Language: The language issues encountered would be very similar to a website.
    • Tone of voice (branding): The brand is delivered through the voice used, whether that is fun, serious, humanoid, robotic etc. For example, the tone of voice may not reflect the brand.
    • Answers (functions): What answers chatbots give users is like the functionality of a website. The method by which they get to a point when they can offer the right answer is akin to a websites functionality.
    • Accuracy of results (search): Like search this is about what the chatbot has understood from the words spoken to it (search term typed in) and what results it has delivered.

    Once problems have been identified we provide organisations with recommendations for solutions. The main difference for chatbots would lie in the context of the recommendations we make. For chatbots we would need to understand the organisations technology constraints, the desired interaction model, how that fits with the brand, how the tone of voice should be coming across etc. to make actionable recommendations.

    For example, a chatbot may have been designed to answer along very narrow lines and give choices rather than be open ended. To demonstrate this we have used an example of a pizza delivery chatbot.

    • User: “I’d like to order a pizza”
    • Bot: “What type of pizza would you like?”
    • User: Do you have a deep pan margarita?
    • Bot: I’m sorry I don’t understand your answer. Did you say margarita?

    The alternative could be:

    • User: “I’d like to order a pizza”
    • Bot: “Which of the following crusts would you like? Thin, Italian, thick, stuff crust?”
    • User: Thin crust
    • Bot: What type of pizza would you like? Margarita, BBQ meat feast etc.

    This is not only a question of preference for branding but also a technological question. One may be simpler than the other. One may be considered acceptable as it is on brand the other may not. A recommendation must understand this context.

    Want to test your chatbot? Contact us on +44(0)800 024624  or email us at info@usability247.com

    The Future of Chatbots

    The chatbots industry is still in its early stages but enthusiasm for them is growing rapidly. As consumers become more comfortable interacting with conversational interfaces and as businesses continue to evolve bots to become more valuable, the demand for them will continue to grow.

    This survey conducted with over 300 participants from a wide variety of industries showed that 96% of businesses believe that chatbots are here to stay and 67% believe that chatbots will outperform mobile apps in the next 5 years. In addition, 75% of participants were planning to build a chatbot for their business in 2017.

    global chatbot market revenue and growth

    Mounting popularity of interactive online channels coupled with the need to improve customer relationship through customer engagement is expected to drive market for chatbots during the forecast period 2016 – 2023.” Source: Credence Research

    All trends suggest that chatbots are here to stay. As artificial intelligence improves, chatbots will emerge as the solution for standardized communication channels. Chatbots may soon become a single voice to solve customer’s needs.

    Want to Learn More?

    Websites:

    Bot List – Chatbot Directory
    Chatbots Magazine – Online Publication dedicated to chatbots
    Chatbot’s Life – Latest Bot News, Info, AI & NLP, Tools, Tutorials & More

    Augmented Reality

    AR

    What is Augmented Reality?

    Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows the integration of digital information (e.g. graphics, sound, video) into a live view of the user’s physical environment in real time. As the word ‘augmented’ suggests it enriches the real-world view rather than blocking the real environment for an immersive and interactive experience.

    For example, imagine walking the streets of a foreign country on holiday and holding your phone camera up to the surrounding environment and seeing overlaid historical information about the surrounding buildings, directions to the nearest restaurant or even signage translated into your native language. These are the types of experience augmented reality can provide.

    Augmented reality can be viewed on all screens and connected devices; the most common being mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and head mounted displays, glasses and lenses.

    What is the difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

    These two are often confused: Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment you can interact with. It creates an experience where users feel as though they are experiencing the simulated environment first hand. An example of this would be in a game where the user wears a headset and experiences what it is like to be a pilot in a flight simulator.

    Augmented Reality adds to the real-world rather than replacing it.

    The Rise of Augmented Reality

    The first development of AR technology dates back to the late 60’s at Harvard University where an AR head mounted display system was created. The display system was suspended from the ceiling and the viewer experienced computer-fed graphics of simple wireframe rooms. This sparked the interest of many and in the following decades AR advanced further for wearables and digital displays.

    As technology, advanced, AR made its way into the commercial world where one of the first applications appeared in 2008 for advertising purposes by for vehicle brand, MINI.

    mini AR
    Using AR tracking technology, a 3-D model of a MINI Cabrio convertible was displayed when held up to a webcam

    The success of the advertisement led to more brands implementing and advancing this concept for their campaigns and a new application was created where AR was used to engage customers at events or in public spaces.

    Watch this video which shows a campaign from National Geographic where AR is used to display rare or extinct animal species as if they were walking through a shopping centre.

    The fashion industry embraced the technology by giving people the opportunity to virtually ‘try on’ their products such as watches or jewellery.

    The development of face recognition technology gave opportunity to the beauty industry where AR mirrors which allowed customers to overlay make-up on themselves in real-time.

    The technology used 2D modelling technology and advanced face-tracking techniques. This technology has developed further and is now popular in applications such as social media application, Snapchat.

    2013 saw AR make a larger leap towards consumer audiences when it started to be used by car manufacturers to create ‘new age’ vehicle service manuals that provided repair assistance, allowing technicians to foresee how a repair process will look on the vehicle in front of them.

    AR Mechanic

    This was followed by the announcement of googles’ ‘Google Glass’ in 2014, a consumer centric, wearable AR device. The announcement from the industry leader caused a huge buzz and the concept excited the tech world. However, the buzz died down when a variety of health and safety concerns were uncovered and the design was heavily criticised. The product is still currently in development today.

    A huge reason for the current resurgence of AR investment and popularity was due to the success of AR gaming app, Pokémon Go. This uses AR technology to make the Pokémon characters appear on a phone screen as if they were in your real surroundings. Players can then interact with the Pokémon using an overlaid ‘Pokeball’ to enable users to catch them to add to their collection.

    The app was downloaded more than 100 million times in its first month and became Apple’s most downloaded app worldwide in 2016.

    AR pokemon go

    The success of the AR game highlighted a lucrative opportunity for businesses and highlighted its potential as a marketing platform. Pokémon Go has made AR more approachable and accessible and has highlighted that the technology can be grasped by people of all ages.

    The scale of its success has seen companies investing more into augmented reality. Increased investment means AR technology is continually improving and its applications provide greater added value in the form of meaningful content and profit.

    More AR applications are emerging in all industry sectors some of which we will explore in the following sections of this page.

    The benefits of Augmented Reality for Businesses

    • Brand Differentiation – AR allows for the creation of an immersive experience which can be tailored to suit your brands imagery and tone of voice. This type of content stands out amongst the standard media content and can provide customers with something not yet offered by competitors, strengthening brand image.
    • Marketing – AR allows for more creative, new and engaging campaigns. Using AR for marketing purposes can increase brand exposure and overall market awareness.
    • Consumer Engagement – AR generally gets more virality in terms of social sharing which increases the acquisition of new customers. The interactive nature of AR technology can also help to maintain customer retention.
    • Productivity – AR can be used for employee training, shortening learning curves and saving time and resources. The real-time feedback aspect of the technology gives users reassurance, more information and a deeper understanding of what they are learning.

    The benefits of Augmented Reality for Consumers

    • Experience – AR can add value to the user journey at any time. It can be informative or add a ‘fun factor’ to the experience. It allows for an immersive experience that can be provided in any environment.
    • Learning – AR can shorten learning curves. For example, AR can act as virtual instructor for users for applications such as car maintenance.
    • Personalization – AR can allow users to have a personalised shopping experience. For example, they could virtually try on clothing and accessories or see how a new piece of furniture would look in their home.

    Augmented Reality Applications

    The potential of AR technology has seen it making its way into a variety of industry sectors. Here we have shown you some AR application success stories.

    1. E-commerce: Retail
      AR Retail
      The Top Examples of AR in Retail
      AR has found a strong foothold in the retail industry. Using AR, businesses can provide a level of interaction between their products and consumers by immersing them in a completely new environment. Providing advantages both in-store and through online retail, Augmented Reality has already begun to change the way we shop forever.
    2. Mobile: Social Media
      AR Mobile
      Snapchat releases its most impressive use of augmented reality to date
      Snapchat pioneered AR in the social media space with its popular puppy dog and flower crown selfie filters, which it calls lenses. On April 18th 2017, Snapchat announced a new set of rear-camera lenses that let you place virtual objects in the real world using the app’s camera.
    3. Gaming: Pokémon Go
      AR Pokemon Go
      Reality Check: The Technology Behind “Pokemon Go”
      “Pokemon Go,” a game that has millions of people roaming around the physical world to capture virtual characters, has been the hit of the summer of 2016. The allure is largely due to the app’s reality aspect, which in technology terms advances virtual reality one step further to a place that not many gamers have been. “Pokemon Go” takes what is known as augmented reality (AR) from a niche technology to mainstream.


    AR Design Tips

    Purpose:

    • Do not lose sight of your objectives. Define why you want to adopt AR technology and what you want to achieve from it.
    • Make sure the experience adds value and is useful, steer away from being perceived as ‘gimmicky’.
    • Remember that people are searching for experiences not technologies.
    • Stay true to your brands’ values and image.

    Visuals:

    • As AR implements moving graphics, make sure elements such as colour and text can be viewed well when the user moves the screen in different surroundings and circumstances (e.g. lighting conditions).
    • Labels and links need to stand apart from the rest of the design in order for the user to know that selecting these specific text cues will result in an interactive experience with the application.

    User Testing & Feedback:

    • Carry out user testing on your AR application to identify problems for users before launch. As the technology is relatively new to most users, it is important to ensure that they understand the concept and can interact with the application with ease.
    • Track interactions to uncover future improvements and opportunities.

    If you would like more information on how to test your AR application contact us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at info@usability247.com.


    AR & UX

    With augmented reality comes a new type of user experience. This in turn brings about new challenges and opportunities within the UX industry.

    The main challenge for UX designers is that design best practices for AR have not been established yet and so designers need to develop an understanding of users’ current and future expectations of this technology. This offers an opportunity for UX designers to lead the development in how users experience this emerging medium and experience reality.

    “A key feature of AR is that it is highly adaptable. This will require UX designers to create seamless experiences across environments, and multiple devices, with an acute awareness and sensitivity to shifting context where the user is always at the centre.”

    AR is a type of interface in which tasks are accomplished using contextual information collected by the computer system not the user. The user experience will be based mostly on physical gestures and natural language recognition. This will involve designing UX flows of voice-activated commands and interactions.

    Wearables are also widely used in AR applications (e.g. headsets or digital glasses) and this adds an extra layer to the experience. Users will need to be analysed as to how these are used in their environment.

    The potential of this technology is great, with the ability to provide a seamless, low-effort, yet rich user interaction with the real world. It will grow to encompass much more than it does now and is likely to change standardised customs within society (e.g. shopping, gaming etc.), but as always, the key task for UX designers is to make the users life easier in this new type of experience.

    Testing Augmented Reality

    With AR still very much in its infancy, user research is more vital than ever in this continually developing field.

    Usually, usability testing involves a lab set up with participants on screen actions and opinions being observed in an artificial environment. However, as AR is not restricted to a screen and is integrated into the real-world environment, different usability testing methods need to be employed and adapted to suit this type of technology and provide the required results.

    Testing AR

    Remote testing in the intended environment is important for this technology. For example, if it is a navigation app, test it on the streets or if it is a shopping app, test it in a store.

    If testing in the real environment is not possible, building mock ups can be useful. Consider elements such as the size of the space, obstacles and any other external factors likely to influence the user.

    A video recording of what the user is seeing as well as an external recording of the participant can be reviewed later to show how the user interacted with the graphical elements of the app and how these elements affected their interactions with the real-world environment. For example, if the app involves a hologram, how do users react to it? Do they treat it as an obstacle and move around it or do they walk through it?

    In general, keep in mind that user issues that arise during AR testing will be more subtle and complex and users will make a larger number of errors.With AR the physical user experience is a large part of the testing and needs to be considered alongside the functionality of the app.

    If you would like to discuss how to test your AR application contact us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at info@usability247.com.

    The Future of Augmented Reality

    This year has seen leading organisations announcing their support for AR and implementing it into their long-term strategies.

    Facebook outlined its plans to take AR mobile with the launch of a ‘Camera Effects Platform’ ( available within Facebook’s camera feature) at its annual F8 developers conference this year. The platform provides a set of tools for outside developers to build augmented-reality apps that you can access from the existing Facebook app’s camera. It will allow developers to use precise location, object recognition and depth detection to create their effects.

    Increased investment into Mobile AR has lead experts to predict that mobile augmented reality will be a $60 Billion Industry by 2021.

    future AR chart

    A Recent report by analysts at digi-Capital suggests that the industry might be sitting on a ticking time-bomb. A bomb filled with loads and loads of cash, as they predict that Augmented Reality in the mobile space with be worth as much as $60 Billion a year by 2021 and potentially be used by as many as 1 Billion people.

     

    Another key player in the future of AR is Microsoft. The organisation continues to venture further into AR after the release of its wearable HoloLens it has debuted its AR glasses prototype.

    The potential of AR has also seen increased research in new industries such as healthcare. For example,this article explains how an app using Microsofts’ HoloLens enables doctors to use augmented reality during spinal surgery.
    Many AR applications so far have still been testing the water of what the technology is capable of. With so many AR products and services in development the future will reap the benefits of AR technology, continually changing social norms and improving user experiences in many more sectors.