What is the Next Interaction Model Breakthrough after Touchscreens?

The only undisputed champion of interaction models/devices since the mouse is the touchscreen. No contest. The trend and industry is trying, often too hard, to push the next frontier of interacting with devices toward voice. While I think voice interaction is crucial, I don't think it is being thought of in the right way yet.

There are inherent problems with voice. Natural language recognition isn't perfect, and likely won't be for a while. If the system has "keywords" you've failed before you shipped and the biggest concern of all is probably privacy. I'm not talking about Google or government knowing your every move type of privacy, I'm talking about old fashioned privacy. "Don't let the guy next to me know what I'm saying to my wife" privacy. There is a reason messaging is still king (cough, WhatsApp for $19 billion). Messaging is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a major player in how we communicate. Yes people will dictate messages, but often we're in public or a quiet place and just don't want to share what we're saying with everyone. Expect a piece on this soon, but let's leave it there for now.

So how do we advance to the next interaction model if it isn't voice? There is nothing left between us and our content; we are literally touching it. No more mouse or scroll wheel in the middle. To answer the question, you've got to change the perspective a little bit. 

I think the next interaction model is going to be proactive and intelligent technology. We have seen signs of it today, Google Now being the best example by far, but don't forget Android's (third party) context aware lock screens. These are just the start, but it is a sample. Your first thought is probably "that isn't an interaction model, I still touch the screen or use voice commands." That is true, for now. That changed perspective I was referring to is to accept that voice and touch are likely to be around for a very long time. They'll be a big part of this. This proactive technology isn't replacing touchscreens any time soon, but it will fundamentally change how we use technology. For the first time, the interaction will be a two way street. That is the interaction model breakthrough.

There are concerns and problems to be solved. We've gotten used to getting this type of thing for "free," but nothing is really free. If you aren't paying for the service, then you are the thing being sold. To achieve this level of proactive technology, the devices will have to know us very intimately. This means collecting data, a lot of data. For now that means privacy is diminished, but eventually that will (largely) come to pass. Encrypted devices send encrypted anonymous data to servers to process and analyze with anonymous (encrypted) results sent back. As with anything with technology, this can and will be hacked, but if the value is high enough people will allow it. They've moved all of their communication to free email and free (or free-ish) messaging haven't they?

It is tough to say what the solution will look like, but I anxiously await the day my technology drives the interaction with me and not always the other way around.

How Long Until Wireless Display is Open and Ubiquitous Like WiFi?

Intel has branded wireless display as WiDi, Apple has AirPlay, Google has Chromecast, and now Amazon has entered the market. The value of platform lock-in is tremendous for these companies, so the incentive to move to a more open standard isn't very high. But how much longer can that be the case?

This isn't comparing apples to apples, with wireless displays the control has to be tighter since only one person can have control of the screen at a time (or perhaps a small subset of people) unlike WiFi which can handle huge numbers. Yet the principle is similar. A protocol to dictate who is in control as an admin, who controls the screen, how the bit rate and quality are negotiated, and more. This protocol isn't unlike the 802.11 protocols that dictate the security, handshaking, and data transfer for WiFi.

At work we plug into 1024x768 projectors with a VGA cable from Dell laptops. That sentence could have been written in the late 90s and would have been relevant... ouch. 

I use AirPlay at home frequently. Many family members have Apple TVs that allow the same, but with Chromecast costing a third as much and Android sales booming, it stands to reason that cross platform wireless screen sharing is going to be in high demand soon*. Or are people (and companies) going to need to buy one of each? Google has gestured toward cross platform screen casting, but it is far from ubiquitous. What level of cultural adoption would be required for Apple to consider adding support for it at the expense of AirPlay?

I don't know how long it will take, but eventually something (probably) has to give. 


*I know Chromecast is cross platform, but iOS limits the support to apps that build in support themselves. I'm talking about native system-wide screen casting.

The Case That Twitter is for (Nearly) Everyone, From an Anti-Twitter Convert

I joined Twitter in February of 2009, and it seemed like I was late to the party – a party I wasn't just skipping, it was something I was actively avoiding. If you are against joining Twitter, I ask that you consider what this article has to say with an open mind and we'll go from there.

Twitter isn't for everyone, but it probably isn't what you think it is either. In short, Twitter is for you if you have a hobby, interest, friends who share content, or a topic you follow or share about. Sound hyperbolic? It really isn't.

What Twitter Isn't 

The things that Twitter is not are, in my opinion and that of many of the people I have converted, perhaps more important than what Twitter is. So let's outline some key items that Twitter is not.

  • Twitter isn't a stream (or firehose) of stuff you don't care about.
  • Twitter doesn't have to be time consuming, many enjoy it so much they choose to use it a lot though.
  • Twitter isn't Facebook or glorified group SMS (it technically can be the latter, but relatively few use it in that way).
  • Twitter doesn't require you to post anything. Ever.
  • Twitter doesn't require a real life identity, it can be as anonymous as you want.
  • Twitter isn't public unless you want it to be.
  • Twitter isn't a two-way sharing of information unless you explicitly want it to be. You can anonymously exist on Twitter and follow topics that interest you with no one ever knowing who you are.

What Twitter Is

The shortest description is that Twitter can be anything you want it to be. 

  • A stream of headlines you care about on any topic or group of topics you're interested in. There's a Twitter feed for everything imaginable. Cute cats, gardening tips, and monster trucks? Follow @emergencykittens, @Gardening_Ideas, and @theallmonster. Done – easy.
  • Private. If you want to post to only people following you, it's easy to do. Or you can never post at all. Your call.
  • Following is one way. If someone follows you, you don't have to follow them. You'll never see their updates if you don't follow them, and they'll never see yours if they don't follow you. This is one of the biggest differentiators from many social networks.
  • An extraordinary source for breaking news in any particular region or all regions. News outlets were way behind and embarrassingly inaccurate during the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings, but the right Twitter sources were timely and accurate.
  • Real time local news. I have learned about school lock downs, break ins, and road closures with up to the minute accuracy by following local sources, local police, etc.
  • One-way flow of information - either in or out. You don't have to follow anyone and you don't have to let anyone follow you. If you want to broadcast, you can broadcast. If you want only to receive information from your curated list, you can do that too. I know several people that only use Twitter to gather information.
  • At-a-glance and in-depth information. You can opt to glean information at a glance reading headlines and 1 sentence blurbs or you can use it to dive into detail on a topic, perform research, or read endlessly. When I'm getting gas I read headlines for 45 seconds, when I'm at the DMV I read interesting things for hours.
  • No one has to know you joined Twitter. You don't have to use your real name. You can disable being discovered by your email address. You can exist on Twitter without anyone ever knowing it is you.
  • Multiple account support. If you want one account to follow friends and one to follow news, you can easily do that all within a single app.
  • Amazing apps. Twitter, unlike Facebook, can be accessed through the official Twitter apps or countless third party apps. You can find an app that is designed the way you like, with features that you like, with customizations that you like. More on this below.

When to Twitter

One of the remarks against Twitter is the lack of a need for more streams of information. Another counter point is that there is little time for yet another social network. Mix these with the misconception that you don't have control over how much content you see in Twitter, and there's a pretty strong case against it. I believe that is misguided though. I (and my convert friends) went from believing these things to genuinely loving Twitter.

You have absolute control over how much is in your Twitter feed. You chose who to follow and you don't see anything else. You can disable one person's retweets (when they re-post someone else, you can disable that to only see their own content). You can also mute people; for example I have instituted a 24 hour mute on @gmail because of their overzealous April Fool's Day posting – it was getting old, but I know I still want to follow them long term.

Since following is one way, there's no obligation to "Like" posts, no social pressure to comment, no two-way pressures at all. If you never read a Tweet, no one cares. This makes Twitter perfect for waiting in line, sitting on the bus, filling your car with gas, etc; whether you have 4 seconds or 45 minutes, it doesn't matter. Check it once per month, or every 5 minutes, your choice.

If you have any amount of time to follow or share information on any friend, family, hobby, or interest, then Twitter is for you in some capacity.

Mobile Twitter Clients

There are countless apps to access Twitter, though some of the most prolific should suffice for just about any Twitter user (not to put down the small developers, if you have a Twitter app you'd like me to review, please contact me). There are also desktop clients and tablet clients (some below are hybrid phone/tablet). My focus here is smartphone since I find that's the best way to interact with Twitter.

iOS Clients

  • Tweetbot ($4.99) - My absolute favorite app for the iPhone – period. That easily makes it my favorite Twitter client. The iOS 7 redesign has only made it to the iPhone version, but that's alright. This app is worth 5x the asking price.
  • Twitter (Free) - The official Twitter app is capable enough if you don't want to spend the money. It supports things like two factor authentication where any desktop login request has to get verified via this app.
  • Twitterific (Freemium) - A great Twitter app that is free with in-app purchases to turn off ads, enable push notifications, etc.
  • More - There are countless Twitter apps, so I encourage you to explore. I highlight these key players to give you a good first experience with Twitter to figure out if Twitter is for you before diving into the world of finding the right client (if these aren't quite right).

Android Clients

I asked for some feedback from some faithful Twitter users and Android device owners since my experience on the platform has been more limiting than I wish. Any of these people that once had an iOS device first remarked strongly wished Tweetbot existed for Android. It doesn't, so here are the top choices.

  • Twitter (Free) - The official Twitter app seems to be a top choice. It supports things like two factor authentication where any desktop login request has to get verified via this app.
  • Tweedle (Freemium) - Clean interface, simple to use, solid set of features.
  • Talon ($1.99) - Feature rich, nice design.
  • Fynch (Freemium) - Twitter client that offers summary views to get a higher level idea of the content of your Twitter feed.


There is some Twitter lingo that helps to be aware of. Thankfully if you Google just about any weird thing you see and surround your search query with "what is" and "on Twitter", you'll probably find the answer.

  • RT - retweet. You're re-sharing a tweet that someone else posted. You used to have to manually do this, but now there is a retweet button.
  • MT - modified retweet. Same as a retweet but modified slightly. Often used to truncate someone else's tweet to append your own thoughts.
  • .@<handle> - A leading period before the @ is used to disable Twitter's conversation threading. Without the period, a reply is only seen by those that follow you and whomever you reply to. More details here.
  • HT - hat tip and/or heard through. Used to indicate that the information was heard through the mentioned source.
  • More - Check out the complete guide to Twitter lingo.

Moto360 Q&A Highlights

A few points of interest from the Moto360 event going on now on YouTube. [Update: Event is over.]

  • Wireless charging - I'm inferring this, they didn't explicitly say it, but implied it strongly.
  • 1.8" (46mm) diameter.
  • Won't comment on battery life, "but was designed with power efficiency in mind."
  • Targeting mass appeal, so not intended as a men's watch.
  • Works with all Android devices running Android 4.3 or later.
  • Water resistant, details forthcoming.
  • No camera embedded in the watch (thankfully).
  • Genuine leather.
  • "With this watch, you'll always be able to tell what time it is." (Subtle jab at Pebble?)

More updates posted as they're revealed.

Why Tesla and CarPlay Matter to Everyone

Tesla, along with Apple's recently announced CarPlay, are positioned to have a major influence for everyone planning to be driving a car in the foreseeable future. This is independent of whether or not you're driving a Tesla or a car equipped with CarPlay.

Stuck in the (Technology) Dark Ages

The auto industry has managed to remain uniquely positioned with respect to technology. Low to middle-end cars are the worst offenders, but in this class cost almost always comes first. Higher end cars are still behind, but not as far. You could argue that Ford has had their voice control service for a while now, other companies are on a similar trajectory, but the offerings are entirely underwhelming at best.

Here are a few key reasons the auto industry is able to have inferior technology and charge such a premium for it; these are inferences I'm making, not based on inside knowledge.

  1. Cost is king when people shop for new cars.
  2. The tech we're used to isn't designed for as rugged of conditions. Your iPad's operating temperature certainly doesn't cover -15 degrees, but your car's touch screen does. Vibration isn't likely as much of a concern.
  3. Design cycles are long for cars, there's a reason cars debut so long before they're ready to buy. The tech available in that car will lag what is thought to be current because it was designed a couple of years (?) beforehand.
  4. There is a vested interest by auto makers to prevent major software feature upgrades. These comforts, when outdated, can become driving forces behind another purchase.
  5. Proprietary barriers exist. Supporting only Apple or only Android is highly limiting and until now there was no official protocol to support. If they chose to support an unofficial protocol, there is no guarantee it would continue to work, which would result in very angry customers.

Driving Change

So where do Tesla and CarPlay come in? I think CarPlay is fairly obvious. It is the first major step at taking the brain of the technology out of the car and putting it into the phone. Phones are a lot easier to upgrade. As long as compatibility to the CarPlay protocol is maintained, this is a vast improvement over the current situation. The most obvious issue is that CarPlay is Apple/iOS only, and likely always will be. I suspect cars will eventually need to ship supporting CarPlay, Google's solution, and maybe even Microsoft's to remain competitive.

Inside Man

Tesla has the potential to disrupt from the other side, the inside. They're the first actual shot at being a successful and forward-looking auto maker. They have high tech at their very core, it is what they are built on. Tesla has embraced the smartphone revolution in a very serious way giving you a tremendous amount of control over your vehicle from within their app.

Progress in this industry will only come if it is successful enough that auto makers can't produce cars without competitive technology. The CarPlay features are low-cost to implement with the potential for high return. Tesla is sweeping the industry with their incredible design, tremendous safety, and aggressive adoption of new technology. I'm not declaring these two products as the long-term "winners," but I do firmly believe they'll serve as excellent propellant to move this industry out of the dark ages.