MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) announced last week that they've invented a device called AlterEgo that can transcribe your thoughts.
Are the possibilities really that big?
The increasing popularity of wearables shows that users are looking for a less intrusive digital experience, but the user interface is still a barrier of awkwardness, whether that's gestures, buttons or voice. Enabling a user to interact with technology without doing anything is a big step.
That interface question isn't just one of the public shame that comes when you're trying to speak instructions to your watch (or your glasses; Google's latest patent in that regard uses speech and a single button). Users who don't have the physical ability to gesture accurately or communicate well using speech could suddenly have that barrier removed.
Is it going to replace the smartphone?
Ultimately, it has to. When this can deliver the same experience as a smartphone without the need for physical or voice interaction, surely everyone will make that move. But that's a longer term play.
And even now, few people would use it, even if for no other reason than the aesthetics. Google Glass had everything you might want at the time it was released, but the look of the thing stopped people from engaging with it. Something that makes it look like your ear's grown an arm is never going to reach the masses unless it's genuinely life-transforming, but that's only a box for a design team to tick.
The thought recognition itself is sitting at around 92% if the MIT studies are to be believed, which is the same level that Google's speech recognition was sitting at in 2015. Given advances in deep learning since then, there's a good chance this will be addressed faster than the design issue.
So how does this affect me?
Increasingly, users are opting to interact with technology using non-traditional means. Even way back in 2014, only two years after the introduction of "Ok, Google", more than half of American teenagers were using voice search every day. And recent research by comScore highlighted that 43% of voice users weren't using it at all a year ago, so usage is significantly growing.
Those organisations that are optimising their content for voice will attract more users, particularly among digital native consumers, who will prove the key for long-term success. When thought recognition catches up by stripping away the obstructions (whether transcription accuracy, price point, aesthetics, time to set up or the all-important privacy question), we will surely see a similar trend in that direction.
How will users interact with your organisation and your competitors in one year's time? How about in five-ten years? Getting a headstart now may make all the difference.
...at the moment, the use of [digital] devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with...