As dependent as most of us are on our computer keyboards, the input devices that were once only seen in science fiction are increasingly playing a bigger role in our world today than many of us realize.
This steady trend is having a strong impact upon product development, design and custom software development.
Here are some of the technologies that are taking us beyond the keyboard, today and into the future.
Voice Recognition: Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has come a long way since it was first developed in 1936. Computer voice dictation is now built into Mac and PC operating systems and iOS, Android and Windows phones and can be used to call upon virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri.
One of the largest markets for hands-free technology is the automobile industry. According to IHS Technology, more than half of all new cars—55%—will incorporate voice recognition into vehicle controls by 2019. That figure is up from an already significant 37% in 2012.
Wearable Tech: From fitness trackers like the Fitbit and Nike+ Fitness Band to the category-busting Apple Watch, computers we don’t just use, but actively wear are creating exciting new ways to track movement and give us access to calendars and e-mail like never before.
One of the downsides of many of these contemporary devices is that they must sync to existing devices to enjoy their fullest impact, such as syncing our fitness data with our smartphone or computer or answering a call by a touch to the wrist to a device that requires a smartphone to function.
In the future, their uses are expected to be more self-contained.
Touchscreens: Tablets and smartphones have made touchscreens ubiquitous, but they are also being employed in display screens for in-home entertainment systems, home and business security, as well as thermostats.
Another category where touchscreen innovations are appearing is in “smart appliances” that often link refrigerators or washer/dryers to the Internet. Many of these devices carry 4-digit price tags and while their worth toward accomplishing the tasks at hand may be negligible, they are becoming more desirable as gadget have-to-haves.
Gesture: Whether through the subtle movement of the tilt of the head as can be used in the futuristic Google Glass, or the swipe of an arm read by a motion sensor-operated game controller, building body movement detection into computer devices is expected to increase despite some speed bumps along the way, including human error.
It turns out that waving one’s arms in one place to control action in another is too abstract a motion compared to manual controllers. But due in part to more sensitive sensors and technologies such as augmented reality that mimic real-world environments, gesture will become more important in future product development and design.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs): One of the most advanced technologies conceivable today are being investigated in the medical community where a means of communication can be developed to connect the human brain with an external device.
One potential application under exploration includes signaling the movement of an artificial limb. These devices, called neuroprosthetic devices are the mostly commonly researched use at the present time.
Companies such as NeuroSky are already incorporating passive biosensors into consumer wearables that can take electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) readings to be used in health solutions.
This blog post is written by Robert Chang, Director of Engineering at SETA International, a global software solutions company.
SETA is a top consulting firm, which specializes in custom software and application development, onshore-offshore model staff augmentation and quality assurance testing. Read more from Robert on the SETA blog.