Humanizing technology has long been introduced to the tech world. Albert Einstein once wrote: “Concern for man himself must always be the chief interest of all technological endeavours”. Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic co-founder once stated on Rolling Stone Interview: “Technology is nothing, what important is that you have a faith in people”. Nowadays, humanizing technology has become the facade of technology that bring success for many tech giants. Tech start-up, therefore, need humanizing technology as its core value.
Humanizing Technology Defined
Technological progress will not stop; it is constantly evolving. Hence, technology experts are now facing a big challenge: how to humanize technology. This has become the primary concern for technology developers and providers: enabling users to understand the technologies. Consequently, this will enable users to fully utilize on the innovations and to differentiate between the useful from the worthless.
In other words, humanizing technology is the capability most useful when humans are able to understand and use the technology to full extent. This leads to new technologies integrating themselves seamlessly into our lives. Humanizing technology is about comprehending the mental models that people use to make sense of technology and not the other way round (Webb, 2014). As Ren (2016) puts it, “when designing technology for human-computer interaction, the emphasis should always be placed on the human and not on the computer and it will be dangerous if it was the opposite that happens.”
Development of Technology Throughout History
When computers were first created, programming languages were the main method of communication between humans and computers and were primarily used by scientists and engineers – the only people with sufficient knowledge on how to operate the machines back then. Computers have always revolved around keyboard commands, codes and programming languages, which requires specific knowledge and skills to fully master.
In order for computers to be accessible and used by the masses, researchers and developers had to find a way to place emphasis on the user than the machine itself. One of the major contributions to this effort was the advances of hardware, such as Moore’s Law that enabled the chip’s ability to double computing power, and software that encouraged easier usage of computers for users. This led to computers to be mass produced and used by the general audience. Today, billions of people roam the Internet from their personal computers and smart phones.
Humanizing Technology – The New Facade of Technology
The need for humanized technology is a reason why there is an abundance of mobile apps and software nowadays. These apps and software were developed to provide users with the ability to maximize their devices’ usability. They allow you to utilize functions on your device with just a click of the mouse or a tab of a button. Mr. Shneiderman, a professor at University of Maryland, United States shared that the best people in the industry are those that possesses both a deep knowledge of technology and a real sensitivity to the needs of human beings when using technology. Hence, to understand how to humanize technology, technology developers need to get out into the field to observe how people really use products so to create technology that can empathize and fulfill customers’ needs.
As time progressed, technology developers discovered that maximizing the capabilities of the computer is pointless if the humans using them are unable to operate them to full capacity. However, humanizing technology was not an ideology that emerged recently; in fact, it was the basis that Steve Jobs applied when he founded Apple.
Humanizing Technology the Apple Way
As the iconic Steve Jobs put it, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience first and work backwards to the technology, not the other way round […] we asked ourselves, ‘What benefits can we give to the customer’ instead of ‘What awesome technology do we have and how are we going to market it’.”
Steve Jobs had always shown interest in technology, but he was also curious about other aspects of life such as music, world culture and philosophy. His experience in these areas contributed significantly to his humanistic approach towards technology. This portrayed a rising emphasis of human-centric technology that Apple is proud to be known for.
It is also one of the primary reasons that make Apple one of the most profitable companies in the world. Apple placed emphasis on the user’s experience, understanding the cognitive process of humans and shaping their technology to match it. From their innovative devices, to their user-friendly interface, to their apps that improves the device’s capability, Apple products have always been praised for their user-friendliness and ease of usability, a major contributor to the global success the tech giants are enjoying today.
Implementing Humanized Technology for Start-Ups
For start-ups in the tech industry, being able to create humanized technology can be a stepping stone for them to stamp a mark in the market. The reason behind Apple’s success lies in it being able to make their technology approachable and relatable to the masses. If they are able to create a product that can relate to both the young and savvy tech users, as well as the elderly, then their product will be a sure-hit.
Vitamins – Elderly-Friendly Technology
One such example is a project done by the design studio, Vitamins. When Samsung approached Vitamins to design a phone to target the elderly, Vitamins did something out of the norm. Rather than adopting the usual approach of creating a phone with bigger buttons, bigger screen and simplified functionality; their solution revolved around the standard smartphone.
Vitamins created two hardcover books with cutouts into which the mobile device could be placed. They designed the book in a way that enabled it to become a simple walkthrough guide, with step-by-step guides for the elderly to navigate through the smart phone’s functions such as making phone calls and accessing Facebook. The book also contained illustrations and arrows that pointed to the relevant buttons on the phone that is involved in the specific tasks.
The example above shows an effective way of humanizing technology by Vitamins. They understood that the elderly preferred to obtain information by reading physical materials such as books and newspapers and also noticed that the elderly would take a longer time to understand the functions without illustrations, so they used illustrations and arrows to simplify the learning experience for the elderly.
Head Movement Technology – Catered for the Disabled
Another humanized technology that can be used as an example for new tech startups is head movement tracking technology. Technology developers such as Madentec and NaturalPoint are using head movement technology to enable the physically disabled to move your mouse by moving your head in a certain way. Just place a reflective sensor dot on your head, which will then trigger the movements of the mouse when you move your head.
As technology advances, it is important that the core for the creation of technology in the first place – user experience and utilization of the technology is not lost. You will not be able to fully utilize what you do not understand and this is an important reminder that future tech start-ups should keep in mind when they create the next innovative technological device.
Article Written by Jonathan So from iPrice Group