The efficiency and satisfaction of our interaction with things around us depend on how natural that interaction feels. Similarly, our ability to interact with everything determines how effective the interaction will be. Interactions are vital to everyday life; however, not all interactions are excellent or smooth. Interactions with many things can be annoying and challenging, making us want to never interact with those things again. Furthermore, an interaction can feel like a waste of time if it doesn’t occur as intended. This can also be summarised as a flawed user interface of that particular entity.
A user interface is a medium through which a user interacts and communicates with another object, such as a software application or a website. This interaction can be one-way or two-way, depending on the type of website or software. For example, a two-way interaction would mean that the software allows the user to add input and receive some output from it.
Some software applications have straightforward and easy-to-use interfaces, allowing users to use the application without difficulty. However, sometimes, applications can have challenging interfaces, which give the user a hard time interacting with them. A challenging user interface is always a bad idea, and our goal should always be to achieve its opposite.
Natural User Interface provides users with a natural and seamless experience. A Natural User Interface’s purpose is to ensure that the interaction between the human and the machine is as smooth as possible. The interaction should be natural enough that the user doesn’t realise he is interacting with a machine.
For a better understanding, let us look at some examples of a NUI:
An everyday-life example of a Natural User Interface can be the touchscreens of our mobile phones. We touch the screen, and it responds to our touch and gestures. For example, we can drag and move icons on the screen by tapping, holding, and moving them. Moreover, we can zoom in on pictures by pinching them on the screen. Smartphones and tablets are some examples of Natural User Interfaces in everyday life.
Another incredible example of a Natural User Interface is Microsoft’s Kinect, a motion sensor for the Xbox 360 gaming console. With Kinect, the Xbox 360 allows gamers to interact with the game through their body movements, gestures, and vocal commands. Kinect is designed to recognise gamers’ voices and bodies (gestures and movements).
Speech recognition is another example of a NUI that allows users to give vocal commands to the system. The software then intercepts the commands and converts them into machine-readable code for comprehension. Speech recognition software is often included in smartphones, speech-to-text programs, and other hands-free operations in machines.
Natural User Interfaces have changed how humans interact with computers and machines. The growth of NUI technology is an ongoing process. But, like everything else, Natural User Interface also has its benefits. Let us have a look at some of them.
Humans are attracted to things that are naturally associated with them. It is in their nature. Therefore, people are more likely to be attracted to devices that provide a natural and smooth interaction. If a human experiences a seamless and hassle-free interaction with a device, they will likely want to interact with it again.
Furthermore, since touch screens in mobile phones and computers have become a thing, people have enjoyed technology more. The good old-fashioned keyboard and mouse are no longer in the game. Instead, touch screens provide a more intuitive experience that eliminates the feeling that you are interacting with a machine.
The speech recognition software has changed the game for those who hate to type commands. You can turn on the microphone and give your smartphone a vocal command, which will be executed. It is quite fascinating. Moreover, speech recognition also benefits those busy elsewhere who need to use the phone simultaneously, such as drivers. When a driver’s hands are busy on the wheel, he can operate his phone using verbal commands. Speech-recognition software can do everything from making important phone calls to opening the map to check out the direction to your destination.
The most significant benefit of a Natural User Interface is that even the most novice users can interact with it. People with difficulty interacting with technology can enjoy interacting with systems with a Natural User Interface. NUI saves you the trouble of learning to operate systems such as smartphones and computers. The users can use their skills from everyday life to interact with a Natural User Interface. These skills include speaking, hand gestures, body movements, etc.
A Graphical User Interface or GUI is a type of interaction that requires a keyboard and a mouse to operate it. On the other hand, a Natural User Interface enables users to interact with the system directly and without the involvement of peripheral devices. A GUI requires a mouse to scroll through a website or click its buttons. However, a Natural User Interface allows you to interact with the objects directly. It feels like you are directly touching the objects on the screen and operating or interacting with them.
A Natural User Interface unfolds an intuitive set of operations when a person is operating a system. A GUI system displays several menus, lists, and buttons simultaneously, and you can use a mouse or a keyboard to further operate the website by clicking on the buttons and menus. Lastly, a Natural User Interface is designed to adapt itself according to the user’s convenience. For example, you can use speech recognition if you cannot use your smartphone’s touch screen. The Natural User Interface would make your interaction more intuitive. Compared to NUI, a GUI expects its users to adapt to the technology. It expects you to understand the system and operate it accordingly.
In short, a Natural User Interface is smart, intelligent, and responsive to its users’ availability and convenience at a particular time.
A Natural User Interface is designed to feel natural to its users so they can interact naturally. Its operations should be intuitive and predictable to feel like a routine task in our everyday lives. A Natural User Interface designer should ensure that the interface takes advantage of the user’s everyday life skills and knowledge. Novice and experienced users should have the same natural experience with the Natural User Interface.
Ultimately, it is all about ensuring an improved user experience. The aim of designing a Natural User Interface is to ensure your users have a smooth and natural interaction. Staying mindful of how seamless your design is is essential because a Natural User Interface is not supposed to outsmart the user.