360 UI & Interaction Trend Report… this baby is finally done!

Finally! After a good couple of months of research and analysis, our UI+Interaction Trend Report ’10-’11 is finally finished and ready for our clients to take advantage of it.

The borders between purely physical products and the digital world are becoming increasingly blurred. Over the last 40 years, with the price and size of components steadily dropping and microprocessor capabilities constantly increasing, products have the potential of becoming more and more intelligent. This translates into new, exciting features for the users, but it also poses challenges for designers on how to manage the added complexity through an easy to use and efficient interface that allows smart products to fulfill their promise of making life a little easier and more pleasurable.

We at VanBerlo, believe that a proper understanding of the present and  future of people’s interaction with products will create great new possibilities in the world of design and therefore, as part of my work at one of Europe’s leading design studios, I had the responsibility to develop our very first trend report focusing on the world of interaction and user interface design.

These award winning trend reports are part of VanBerlo’s  360 creative services offer and they focus on providing up to date, global and detailed insights into the relevant trends in product development.

As a special treat, here’s a sneak preview of some of the content you’ll find in our full, 160 pages long report (including high resolution photos and HD videos) .

Body Movement As Input

It does not feel that long ago since the science fiction movie “Minority Report”awed the general public with scenes of a futuristic display that allowed a police agent to manipulate and control a computer system by waving his arms and performing hand gestures in mid air. This interaction model is no longer science fiction but a reality, as some modern systems can now be controlled by a user’s physical (full) body movements.

This motion tracking can be achieved through the handling of control devices equipped with sensors such as accelerometers and digital compasses (think of modern smart phones), through the use of external sensors to track the position and motion of the user such as infra-red cameras and proximity sensors (think of Xbox Kinect) or though a combination of both approaches (think of Nintendo Wii and Playstation Move)

Digital and Physical Interaction Together

Apart from multi-touch capabilities, some devices are also capable of recognizing and interacting with objects placed on top of the touch surface, allowing the users to control the system by simultaneaously manipulating physical objects and digital items through direct touch.

Very similar is the interaction with a product through the manipulation of physical devices that represent qualities of the digital system. For instance, by shaking an iPod, the shuffle function of the music player will be triggered and the order in which the music is played will be mixed. This action is a direct translation from the physical world, where you can for example mix the contents of a bottle by shaking it.

Control Harmonization

The world of product user interfaces does not pertain only to digital interaction through screens and similar output displays, but also to the physical controls that serve as input in some of the products we use on a daily basis, specially in those cases for which physical feedback acts as an added value from a usability perspective.

Harmonization of controls between products is a way for brands to create a strong brand identity and lower the learning curve for related products. It creates a recognizable look and feel to all products in the portfolio, as well as familiar interaction paradigms.

This is mainly done by using a strong repetitive shape in the main buttons and other controls, combined with a consistent use of icons and other visual cues.