30.04.2019

The revolution of UX design: the age of assistance

UX design is everywhere.
It surrounds the entire world and structures how people go about it.

Let’s take going out to dinner with friends, for example. In the past, a person would need to check if they had cash on hand, and if not, stop at an ATM before dinner — an annoying extra step. Then at the end of the dinner, they’d have to figure out who owes what and swap change. Never a smooth process. But today’s restaurant experience is entirely different since bank apps discovered how to meet users’ needs. With real-time payment, customers can pay the bill faster and easier, so they can get back to spending time with their friends and stop wasting time counting coins.

This experience sums up what UX design should aim to achieve: to make peoples’ lives easier without them thinking about the technology making it happen. There are some brilliant UX’ers out there doing just that, but most are already preparing for the next evolution in UX design: the age of assistance. But the age of assistance is not some futuristic design idea; it’s already happening today.

Picture of a man holding his smartphone on top of a product. The application then displays what the item is.
Introducing Seeing AI

Making life easier

A great example of UX making life easier is Microsoft’s new “Seeing AI” app. The goal of this app is to help visually impaired people become more independent by simplifying their day-to-day tasks, from picking out clothes to navigating their environment.

Let’s break down the main features to see how the UX seamlessly supports the user:

  • When a user opens the app, it immediately connects to the camera
    The app serves as a person’s eyesight, so it gets straight to the point when activated.
  • When pointing the camera at an object, a voice describes what it’s seeing and beeps if it’s detected something
    Audio assistance is automatically activated and present at all times.
  • The app notifies the user when it’s processing an object, so they’re aware of what it’s doing.
    The user is focusing on getting assistance and not on technology.

What is the result of this well-thought-out UX? Microsoft reports that people are using the app in more creative ways than anticipated. Parents are checking to see if their child completed their homework, (the app can read written text out loud), and retailer workers are using it to scan customers’ moods when entering a store to provide better customer service. In the end, “Seeing AI” offers a pure experience that allows everyone to create their own value.

Bringing medical care to the masses

Another example of an up-and-coming product in the age of assistance is Babylon Health. This London-based company aims to make healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone, no matter where they live in the world. Using a combination of machine learning, neural networks, AI and natural language processing, Babylon offers data-backed medical advice to people through their app and website.

Babylon Health Explanation

How does Babylon use UX to create accessible healthcare services?

  • A chat feature allows users to describe their symptoms to Babylon, and it checks a database to provide relevant and immediate medical advice.
    Babylon offers clarity and support using something most people are familiar with—typing.
  • If Babylon recommends seeing a doctor, the user can sign up for Babylon to speak with one of their in-house doctors via video chat or call.
    Babylon overcomes challenges of distance and price to provide the right medical attention to a user. In remote and rural areas, this might be the best way for people to book a doctor’s appointment.
  • If a doctor prescribes medication, the information is immediately sent to the nearest pharmacy and prepared for same day pick-up or delivery
    This feature takes into account accessibility and provides a solution for people who may have trouble leaving their home to retrieve the medication they need.

When we talk about the age of assistance, a doctor in your pocket seems like a future-proof solution. Behind the scenes,  there are plenty of technologies Babylon uses to provide its service, like deciphering languages, interpreting words and supplying medical answers. But the user does not see this or even think about it.

Instead, Babylon combines data and design to ensure the user only focuses on getting the information they need at the moment. Featuring a Conversational UI, Babylon is a multi-purpose platform which means it uses video calls, pictures and built-in forms to ensure it gathers as much data as possible to provide answers to users. The project is not quite “there” yet, but it is an interesting and ambitious case to see how societies tackle healthcare challenges today.

Designing everyday life

UX is not reserved only for the digital sphere, but the real world, and it’s quickly changing the way people go about their daily lives. From helping consumers find the right mobile plan to building their ideal car, we have experience finding unique ways for brands to get ahead in the age of assistance.

How can we assist you?

Marlies Ghielens

Marlies Ghielens

When she’s really passionate about something, Marlies really sinks her teeth into it. Her passions entail UX design, UI design and teaching children. Usually, none of those bites back.

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