Zero UI: Computing Without Screens


Visual appeal is at the forefront of nearly everything we experience today. As technology continually aims to improve the user experience with greater visual appeal, companies such as Amazon and Nest took it one step further. Recently, innovation experts have focused on a concept called “Zero UI.”  Zero UI refers to the automated interfaces that will complement or replace current touchscreen user interfaces (UI). The Zero UI model removes the need for a traditional screen–and having no screen may provide a better user experience than using a touch screen.

The new Zero UI devices aim to revolutionize the user experience and immersion with technology. The latest gadgets use an interface that is designed to replicate human experiences including voice control, artificial intelligence, haptics, and computer vision. Companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple are already using artificial intelligence through Amazon Echo, Google Now and Siri to customize the experience for users through simple commands. However, true Zero UI involves humanizing the entire process.

Zero UI’s humanization process will shift designers’ focus from aesthetics to data. The new Zero UI systems will emphasize the use of collected data to make smart suggestions and choices for users and may use gestures in virtual reality environments. Experts are quick to note that generational gaps or cultural gaps may result in different gestures for the same tasks. Data analysis will help the new systems bridge these gaps to result in a seamless experience for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Zero UI “interface” also changes the presentation and feel of devices. The modified user experience focuses not just on the aesthetic appeal. The Amazon Echo is one of the first devices that uses the Zero UI approach. A “smart” speaker, Amazon Echo is designed to deliver information based on commands. The speaker can play music, give the weather report, share sports scores, and more. The speaker has been outfitted with an artificial intelligence system called Alexa, much like Apple’s Siri. Alexa is able to understand a user’s preferences and tailor the information or music choices to that particular user. Echo can play music from both personal libraries and streaming sites. Its far-field voice recognition technology enables users to give Echo commands even from across a crowded and noisy room. Amazon Echo also has interconnectivity with Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue to control lights and switches in the home as well.

Amazon Echo is just one of the first steps toward the ultimate Zero UI experience. As focuses shift from visual appeal to a data-driven approach using smart technology, the number of Zero UI devices will continue to grow. These Zero UI devices aim to eliminate screens, as well as cultural and generation gaps with an adaptive approach that uses artificial intelligence, voice control, haptics, and computer vision. While the Amazon Echo is a great cornerstone for the Zero UI movement, it is just the start. In the future, these devices might know what you want before you do-only time will tell.