Notes from SXSW: AI is the key to improving human experience

As a researcher, I am no stranger to conferences, but my experience at SXSW managed to leave me a lot more surprised than I anticipated. I usually go to technical conferences, but this time, most of the AI talks focused on the end user benefits perspective rather than the technical details. The beauty of attending these types of events goes beyond just learning, it allows you take a step back and gain an entirely different perspective within your own industry. It’s like I keep telling people, diversity, especially in regards to knowledge and backgrounds, is the key to success!

Here’s what you need to know about the importance of user experience according to the people at SXSW:

Communication Goes A Long Way

Here is a common assumption most researchers make: “once I have identified a problem, finalized my research and found the solution, my job is done.” Albeit they have a point, this only corresponds to the first phase of the process. Have you ever heard the expression :” You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”? Welcome to your next great challenge, developing a way to insure that your “solution” has a long-lasting impact. What is the point of creating something that people will try, but never use again? Not only do you need to influence people to use the product, you need to communicate it in a way that makes sense to them.

Even though your success is directly tied to the experience and satisfaction of your user, you also benefit from monitoring their behavior. Gaining a crucial understanding into their activity and preferences, gives you a unique opportunity to make precautionary changes before it’s too late. Another great insight we received during SXSW? The right design advocates for a customer’s time, attention and well-being.

User Experience Is Key

UX isn’t just about creating complex and impressive interfaces, it’s also about creating interfaces that fits the users’ needs and impact the user in a positive way. It isn’t difficult to understand that building experiences that subtly help improve someone’s life, is a lot better received than offering a disruptive experience, no matter how much better the tech is. Adaptability is a human strength that has allowed us to evolve to the top of the food chain and we have a arrived to a moment in history where customization is the only strength technology has to survive our short attention spans and incredibly high standards.

Speaking of customization, it’s important to note that we aren’t talking about personalizing in terms of preferences, but rather the ability for a system to recognize what it can do to make your experience more enjoyable and in the end, improve your life in some way. You’re probably wondering how a machine could even ask itself this question, well the answer is quite simple: AI.

AI Makes Everything Better

Customization is also about understanding context. Human beings exist in a wide variety of contexts and in order to make relevant suggestions, we need to integrate AI into the equation. It’s also human nature to question what we cannot control and our confidence will often depend on our level of trust.

AI doesn’t always have the perfect answer and the only way to create experiences that work when prediction cannot be guaranteed is by going back to the first point I made: communication. By including the user, we shift the conversation from imposing to suggesting.

The AI experience is immersive and offers cross-platform opportunities that range from smart home devices to smart cities. The idea is to create an ongoing collaborative process between what users want and technology that can anticipate what they will need.

The biggest takeaway is this: while you are researching and developing your tech, step out of your shoes, slip into the ones of your user and ask yourself: “How can I make it simple, fun and meaningful?”

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