Human Machine Interface

How (and why) the user experience is becoming more of a priority for smart device operators

Kuldip Singh Johal, VP of sales for subscription broadcasting, Universal Electronics

Interoperability Kuldip Singh Johal W

ith 22 per cent of UK households currently owning a voice- controlled smart device, a

number set to rise to over 60 per cent in the next five years, and the global smart home market expected to be worth over $53 billion by 2022, competition within the field is heating up. As operators vie to capture a slice of this lucrative market, improving the user experience is becoming a priority. After all, to stand out from the crowd, you have to offer consumers a better experience than they can get elsewhere. But, how exactly are smart home operators creating more user-friendly devices and what will this look like in the coming years?

28 July-August 2019

Often, the biggest challenge for smart device users is setting up the device in the first place, with research finding more than 40 per cent of households are not confident setting up a smart home device. As almost a quarter of households in the UK now have more than one smart device, setting up and connecting these devices with each other can be even more of a challenge, particularly if those devices are not from the same brand. However, interoperability is becoming more of a focus for operators as they attempt to put the user experience first and streamline the process of connecting devices. As a result, some manufacturers have created initiatives which will allow the smart device to talk the user through the device setup as well as using IR codes to find other devices, including non-smart ones, within the home with which it can connect. This is helping to make the setup process simpler and faster and enabling users to easily connect multiple devices to create their own ecosystems – an offering which could clearly set an operator apart from the rest.

Custom commands

Thanks to advances in natural language processing, operators are able to make smart devices much more intelligent and far easier to communicate with in a bid to improve the user experience and offer seamless interaction. Some smart devices now even allow users to develop their own commands or phrases and configure what happens on these commands. For example, saying ‘goodnight’ could be configured to trigger the lights being turned off and the security alarm on the front door to be set. These commands will

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then be as reliable as pre-set commands. In addition to this, we are seeing smart devices becoming much more intuitive, with action or feedback tailored to the first comment the user makes. For example, if the consumer says, “what time is ‘X’ programme on tonight?”, AI will process this initial command and intuit what the user might want next, perhaps asking the user if they would like to record it. Through the use of AI, the device has an awareness of the user as a person and what they might want tied to the original command, as well as the other devices the user has within their home. This means users can communicate with their devices more naturally and get to the action they want faster than before.

Beyond voice control Currently, there are some interactions that aren’t quite suited to voice, such as turning the volume up or scrolling when looking for a film to watch. As a result, in the future, we’ll see more smart devices featuring sensors which can detect movement to allow users to create physical commands for these actions. In these scenarios, users would be able to move their arm up or down to indicate which way they want the volume to go or move their arm across to prompt their television to scroll to the next page. While we may see some smart devices introduce facial recognition to potentially create individual user profiles based on who is in the home. However, operators would need to consider privacy worries which could come as a result of this. We could instead see sensors being used to help devices recognise each user based on their build. This means that users won’t have to be concerned that their device can actually see them and record their image. This will also be more convenient as smart device users won’t need to carry their phone with them for home control.

Investing in the future Essential to ensuring user experience remains a priority is research and development; it’s vital smart device operators are designing and creating products that are not only desired by consumers, but can be quickly adopted and ultimately make their day to day lives easier. Understanding what users want, need and expect is critical to getting this right. However, taking it a step further, it’s also important that smart devices can be used in a way that suits the consumer; including functions that are difficult to navigate will result in a failed product, regardless of the features it boasts. Universal Electronics’ ‘Smarter Living’ devices are a prime example of this; fundamentally, they are an evolution of traditional remote controls, driven by the knowledge that voice commands in the speaker market were an integral area of development. Combined with the fact that the kits can connect to non-smart devices means consumers are provided with a solution that doesn’t involve having to reinvest in a house bursting with smart technology. Ultimately, operators have to produce

products that address a need; even if it’s a need that people are consciously unaware of. Just as we deliver on the arrival of voice 2.0, it’s important to remember that voice 3.0 is just around the corner and R&D teams don’t have time to rest on their laurels.

The smart device market shows no signs of slowing down, as such there’s a great deal to gain from securing a bigger share of this lucrative market. Equally, there is a lot for users to gain from this competition as operators put the user at the forefront of their endeavours to create seamless interaction and greater capabilities. As the market continues to grow, we will see operators begin to innovate even further, pushing the boundaries beyond voice control and into image control.

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