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A Primer on Natural User Interfaces

A Primer on Natural User Interfaces

Natural User Interface (NUI) technology has been evolving for years and becoming more mainstream with each passing day. For instance, the most common NUI device currently on the market is Amazon Echo. This speaker uses voice recognition to respond to commands that users give it.

 While NUI-powered devices are ideal for entertainment, they also exhibit significant potential in business settings. For example, they can be used by healthcare providers to seamlessly interact with patients or by managers to communicate with employees. Owing to the same, this article explores the fundamentals of NUI. 

Let’s explore

  • What is NUI
  • What can natural user interfaces do?
  • How do they work? 
  • Which type of applications are best suited for Natural User Interfaces?
  • Benefits of NUI

What Is NUI?

Natural User Interface (NUI) replaces the traditional Graphical User Interface (GUI). NUIs use physical elements such as gestures, speech, and facial expressions to enable users to interact with computers. The most common NUIs include Amazon Echo and Google Home, which respond to voice commands like “play music” or “turn off the lights.”

NUI relies on two components: sensors and algorithms. The first component is obvious – a sensor is any device that detects something in the environment, be it sound, light, pressure, or movement. The second component is less obvious – to do anything useful with these sensors, you need an algorithm to tell them what to do with the information they’ve collected.

What Can Natural User Interfaces Do?

NUIs let you interact with computers in a way that feels more natural. For the purpose of explanation, recall how sci-fi movies show actors using their gestures to control high-tech computers. (Marvel’s JARVIS robot’s conversation with Tony Stark via voice commands serves as a good example here).

In essence, NUIs encompass everything about how you interact with the interface itself:

  • How do you ask questions and get answers back?
  • How quickly can you find what you’re looking for?
  • Is it easy to take action from your search results (like buying something online)?

How Do They Work?

NUIs are designed around the idea of touch, voice, and gestures. Here are some examples for more clarity:

  • Touchscreens: Your finger or stylus lets you tap, swipe, or drag objects on the screen. Touchscreens aren’t limited to mobile phones; they’re also used on desktop computers and tablets.
  • Voice control: You can instruct the device instead of pressing buttons or using a mouse. This is especially useful for people who find it difficult to interact using their hands because of injury or disability.
  • Gestures: You may have heard of “gesture controls” before – these are simply movements made with your hands (such as waving them over the device to take a screenshot) to control it without having to click buttons or press keys on its keyboard!

 NUIs use cameras and sensors to track eye movements and facial expressions, allowing people to control the computer through non-verbal communication.

As a result, the technology is able to create more natural and intuitive interfaces for devices like wearables, V.R. headsets, and even smart home appliances like refrigerators or ovens.

Which Type of Applications Are Best Suited for Natural User Interfaces? 

Natural User Interfaces are best suited for applications that don’t require a lot of input from the user. The most obvious example would be voice-activated assistants, like Siri or Alexa. They’re also highly applicable in the gaming and entertainment industry.

And that’s not it. In fact, research outlines how NUIs would be highly applicable in the “Reality” sector since “augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (AR/MR/VR) [would] require new types of input methods.” The traditional Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) methods used today are too heavy-weight for the close-knit interaction that cognitive virtual experiences could provide. So, the possibilities are endless, and that, too, across industry verticals — be it educationmanufacturing, etc.

Benefits of NUI

NUI is the future of user experience. Here are some of their most prominent benefits:

1. Increased Efficiency

NUIs allow users to interact with digital systems more naturally and intuitively. This can increase efficiency in tasks like completing forms and responding to emails. With a traditional GUI., users need to learn hotkeys, which can otherwise be a cumbersome affair.

2. Increased Speed of Use

NUI technology allows users to interact with the application using natural language rather than requiring them to learn a new interface. This means that users can get up and running faster and spend less time learning how to use the app or any digital system, for that matter. In short, there’s no need for intensive training. And this also bodes well for NUIs’ applicability to AR and VR.

3. Exceptional User Experience

As mentioned above, NUIs are designed to be intuitive and immersive. This allows users to interact with the interface in a manner that feels more natural than traditional interfaces. To put it simply, NUIs feel more like a natural extension of yourself. Plus, when you consider the exceptional capabilities to empower people with disabilities to interact, it’s pretty clear to see how NUIs are the future of user experience.

Summing Up

To sum up, NUIs allow users to interact with devices without using traditional input methods like keyboard and mouse. They usually include voice control features, touchless gesture recognition systems, and eye tracking. As such, they empower businesses to offer unique and personalized experiences that blend into and enhance the user’s everyday life. 

NUIs are still evolving, and while there are many challenges to overcome, there will also be plenty of breakthroughs along the way. Interested in implementing NUIs in your offerings? Connect with us today for a free consultation.

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