The rapid pace of technology has been beautifully explained by the authors, Erik Bryonjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, using an old Indian parable in their book, The Second Machine Age. The parable goes like this:
“When a grateful king asks a peasant what he would like in return for inventing the game of chess, the peasant, looking at the chessboard, requests that the king place one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, and four on the third, doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square until the king fills the board. Being amused by the peasant’s modesty, the king immediately agrees — not realizing that by the time he reaches the final square, the king will owe the peasant enough rice to cover the entire surface of the earth twice over!”
The point that Bryonjolfsson and McAfee are making is that humans are pretty bad at anticipating the power of exponential growth and technology has been improving at an exponential rate. The recent advances in emerging technologies like AI, Machine Learning, IoT and Blockchain are a testament to the fact.
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What are these Emerging Technologies?
Rapid advances in technology are impacting Customer Experience at an unprecedented scale. Let’s have a closer look.
We are now surrounded by smart, connected Objects everywhere. These objects can interact with us through speech, touch, and gesture. They can modify their behavior based on stimuli such as temperature, light, humidity and usage patterns. They can even trigger notifications to us when they sense a change. In a way, the digital experiences these objects create are valuable to us.
Intelligent thermostats, like the ones made by Nest, Smart lighting by Philips and Smart appliances by Samsung are just some examples of these intelligent objects.
Technology has made places more responsive, accessible and personalizable. For example, guests at a hotel can open their room doors with an app, and can also see the weather on the mirror in their rooms! Emerging technology like the AR/VR technology has even made it possible to virtually be present at a place even when you are not physically present.
This is exactly what a radio station in California did when they rolled out a VR App that allowed their listeners to be virtually present in the studio while the real performance was taking place. This is one example of AR\VR technology but the day is not far when this technology will be applied to many other aspects of the business.
Technology is gradually becoming just an extension of our bodies. Using mobile apps and wearables, you are already in an almost constant state of tracking and monitoring information about yourself. The data the users usually track about themselves relates to their health, finances, and even emotions. Enterprises are thinking of innovative ways to leverage wearable technology.
Levi, for example, has recently created an interactive jacket that converts every gesture of the user into an input. Samsung too has created a camera-enabled contact lens and of course, there was the Google Glass, which failed as a wearable product but might surely reappear sometime in the near future.
Designing New Digital Experiences with Emerging Technologies
Emerging technology can be used to create new digital experiences that are radically different than anything we have seen before. We need a set of new experience principles in order to design experiences that are truly transformative. But what should these principles be?
Contextualized Customer Experience
This means that the experience has to take into account the users’ context. For example, just because a person is entering a room does not mean that the lights should be automatically switched on. Perhaps, there are children sleeping in the room and the user doesn’t want them to be disturbed. Thereby, the situation of a user has to be taken into account for an experience to work effectively.
Nudge the Users to Make Positive Choices
As life is getting more complex, people sometimes need to be nudged to do certain things that are good for them. Technology has to help them make the right decisions. This requires that the enterprises understand the users’ context, and also gain a deeper understanding of their needs and emotional states. The customer experience has to be aligned to the users’ current emotional state for it to be effective.
Extend the Customer Experience by Combining Different Elements
An experience may need to be extended by combining data and functional elements from different services based on the context.
For example, Ford’s GoPark App combines user-generated data on the open parking spots with official parking regulations in order to ease out the process of finding a parking spot, thereby effectively combining different elements and enhancing the user’s experience.
Appeal to the User Senses
By making use of tactile and natural interfaces (NUIs) combined with emerging technologies like AR/VR technology, enterprises can design interfaces that appeal to the user senses. Disney has developed an algorithm that enhances touchscreen interfaces by simulating ridges, edges, bumps, and protrusion.
The emerging technologies are still evolving and the digital experience principles are subject to change. However, product managers and designers need to be abreast of the latest developments in these emerging technologies and should definitely adapt their processes to include at least some of these principles in order to design truly transformative customer experiences, based on emerging technologies.