Prototyping Alternative User Interfaces with Screenless

Justin Sinichko, Former Hardware Developer

Article Categories: #Design & Content, #Hardware, #User Experience

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Think of Screenless as Bootstrap for AUIs.

There is neither a perfect, nor a natural, nor even a Holy Grail of interfaces.

Every interface requires some amount of training or intuition. For those conducting human-computer interaction research, this is a familiar and welcomed challenge that has, at times, felt unrealistic. But times are changing, and some pie-in-the-sky ideas we had a few years ago are far more manageable to consider today.

To showcase emerging technology, and highlight the relative ease by which everyone can begin exploring alternative user interfaces (AUI), Viget created an experimental project that allows users to interact with computers in nontraditional ways.

Traditionally interactions that were once inarguably the domain of Command Line Interfaces (CLI) (think DOS) became the domain of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) (your computer) and are now open to AUIs (touch screens, speech recognition). One reason for this change is simply the advancement of technology: today there are fewer technological constraints. Essentially our toolbox, as product designers and engineers, has caught up with our vision for ideal experiences.

More recently, low-cost computing power and ubiquitous connectivity has led to the “Internet of Things” (IOT), a network of physical devices and connected systems. While this industry is still in its infancy, we recognize its potential to provide a massive infrastructure from which AUIs develop. This convergence of innovative interfaces with large networks represent a tremendous opportunity. So how do you innovate? What is the best way to prototype and develop an idea? How can you apply best practices for product development in such a nascent space?

Viget created a toolkit that you can start with right away. We call it Screenless, and it’s premised on the idea that by simply removing a screen you are forced to think creatively about a product’s interface. By adding internet connectivity this may create a more desireable and seamless user experience.

Screenless #

Screenless is a mug-sized alternative user interface (AUI) for rapidly prototyping a screenless interface. It rocks four button inputs, a buzzer, accelerometer, and LEDs. Everything from the hardware to the software is open source. Think of Screenless as Bootstrap for AUIs.

Further, Screenless is a connected device. It’s built on top of the Particle ecosystem which includes a phenomenal toolchain, community, and platform for scaling.

What Screenless Enables #

We believe a prototype should move beyond tinkering and address viability concerns, so stakeholders can answer the simple questions—Is this product technically feasible? Does it have legs in the market?

Our Graba & Screenless example solves for a common office problem by integrating Screenless with the room reservation service. The door-side device conveys the current room state while also encouraging intuitive human interaction to create new room reservations -- all without the traditional screen-based hassle.

The meeting-free workplace may still be an eon away, but we expect relevant solutions to evolve with the already changing workplace. Design thinking asks us to consider intuitive solutions and Screenless enables us to quickly prototype those concepts.

We increasingly see new products using innovative AUIs like Screenless. We’re excited by Screenless’ existing capabilities, and look forward to sharing similar AUIs that explore gesture, speech, and vision.

Innovative NUIs will transition from the current hype to a new normal. Along this road we will address concerns such as device control, security, and machine learning. We believe that rapidly developing products which rely on innovative AUIs will accelerate their adoption and prevalence.

Viget was established in 1999 to help organizations at any stage leverage the Internet and other emerging technologies to advance their cause. Find out more about Viget Experience and Hardware.

Visit the Screenless GitHub repo to get started.

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