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Touch me, tease me, think me - How will you control your future smartphone?

March 29, 2012

Touchscreen interaction with electronic devices is something that I, for one, could only dream about back in the day (yeah, I’m so old that I remember the time when “dumbphones” were cool). Yet soon enough, touchscreens might become obsolete, as more and more companies are competing to come up with new, innovative ways to capture the public’s attention.

Gesture and voice UIs have already been implemented in a bunch of devices, and we’re just a small step away from seeing mind controlled gadgets. Well, not exactly a small step, but it’s pretty clear now that some of the things we saw in movies a decade ago are close to becoming reality.

Based on a press release issued by IMS Research earlier this month, we can safely say that touchscreen interaction is about to become such a plain feature as, say, a camera on the back of a phone. The future will surely be different, but the question that arises right now is how different will things stand in two, three, or five years? Moreover, when can we say enough is enough and things have gone too far?

Gesture interface

Gesture recognition applications are probably the closest to replacing (or at least to offering an alternative to) touch-based devices, and Microsoft has, of course, taken the lead. The Kinect-enabled Xbox 360 is the perfect example of how technology consumers can be offered a more engaging and challenging interaction with a gadget. But we all know that Windows 8-based laptops and tablets will be featuring gesture control, as well, and that they will arrive pretty soon.

What about Android? Well, if Apple doesn’t seem keen to make huge steps forward in this area anytime soon, Google will most likely debut Android-based smartphones and tablets with gesture control as soon as the end of 2012. How popular will the feature prove we shall see, but I’m guessing it will make quite an impression.

Voice interface

Because I have mentioned Apple and Microsoft one too many times already (we are, after all, on an website dedicated to Android), I am not going to talk about Siri, Windows 8, Xbox 360, or Windows Phone any further.

Fortunately, Google has a very well addressed strategy for this area of development as well. The Google Assistant (formerly known as Project Majel) is reportedly in the final touches stage, and it will most definitely see the light of day before the end of the year.

Unlike Siri (dang it, I did it again), the Google Assistant will not be released as a standalone app, and should, in fact, be easily integrated into all sorts of apps. Also, according to unconfirmed rumors, it should control most of the features and functions you commonly use on a tablet or smartphone, which might mean that, soon enough, it could theoretically replace touch-based interfaces altogether.

Mind control and beyond

I’m not going to talk very much about mentally-controlled user interfaces either, as we can’t say that there are currently any confirmed projects working towards such a development. Nevertheless, we can’t exclude such a breakthrough from taking place sometimes soon. When it does happen, it will undoubtedly be a game changer.

To wrap up this article, I should refer to the question in the title of the post and try to find an answer. Well, I’m not going to, because it’s practically impossible to predict the future of such a rapidly evolving field such as technology, and, in particular, the Android world. However, I’m going to say this – progress will be made, and, no matter if they will become obsolete or not, touch-based user interfaces will not dominate the market for much time to come.

On the other hand, the touch, gesture, voice, and even mind controlled interfaces might work together and complete each other, to offer users the easiest and coolest way to interact with their devices. Whatever the future holds in store for us, it sure seems exciting.