Modern customers expect tailored engagements, compelling businesses to prioritize seamless customer experiences (CX) that set them apart from their competitors. To ensure spontaneous and intuitive user interactions, businesses are leaning toward a multimodal user interface (MUI) that bridges the gap between customer needs and their usage.
MUI combines various user inputs, from voice commands, gesture recognition, touch interactions, and typing to facilitate natural interactions. Additionally, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) further refines user experience (UX) by understanding needs and engagement patterns. This aids UI/UX designers in crafting functional, personalized, and human-centered user interfaces.
Importance of MUI in human-computer interaction (HCI)
As computers and smart devices powered by AI become integral to human lives, the demand for seamless and human-centric HCI experience is on the rise. HCI analyzes users’ cognitive capabilities, experiences, and emotions to provide human-like interactions.
Designers can provide multiple ways (auditory or visual cues) for users to interact with systems, enhancing overall accessibility and convenience. By deploying present mental models, avoiding unrelated images, and using consistent fonts, they can minimize cognitive load leading to improved UX.
A common example would be a smartwatch using the synchronicity of touch and blink events to carry out regular user activities. In another instance, computers with olfactory sensors or e-noses can help health experts diagnose illness from patients’ breath samples using computer-generated data. Furthermore, MUI can help enterprises foster inclusivity by addressing user needs with disabilities or limited device knowledge.
Customers use products in different ways with distinct contexts. Here, offering a single modality can adversely impact the product experience. Hence, it is essential to understand the core elements of MUI, to design user-friendly interfaces that cater to a wide range of customers and their usage. Here are its basic components:
Modality components: Enables users to interact with technology through different modes of interaction, enhancing adaptable UX.
Interaction manager: Optimizes user and system interaction by selecting the best modality considering the context of use and device capabilities, for seamless transitions.
Data modules: Collects, stores, and processes data to generate personalized and context-based responses while maintaining user profiles and synchronizing data.
Application logic: Defines how a system responds to user input and governs system behavior through algorithms to identify and resolve problems to prevent data loss and ensure tailored UX.
Different modes of interaction: MUI combines different interaction modes, such as speech recognition, touch interfaces, and gesture recognition, based on user preferences and context, offering flexibility and enhanced user journeys.
User feedback: A user-centric interaction system must involve users in the feedback process, as it is vital to understand their specific needs and preferences. For instance, providing textual feedback to hearing-challenged users ensures they know their input is registered.
By embracing these components, designers can develop MUI systems that make a tangible impact in the real world, providing businesses with a competitive advantage.
Real-world applications of MUI
Businesses have largely adopted MUI and are witnessing its success in driving exceptional CX. Let’s look at a few examples:
BMW’s iDrive: Breaking down the barriers between the real and digital worlds, BMW’s in-car communication and entertainment system seamlessly combines touch, gesture, and voice inputs to ensure safety and convenience while driving. Moreover, the intelligent assistant fosters personal connection with drivers and passengers through natural language-based interactions, allowing users to express different emotions non-verbally and respond to them as per context. In addition, the assistant identifies who is talking and provides relevant information on the curved display angled either toward the driver or the passenger.
Chase Bank’s Voice ID: The voice identification (ID) technology is helping bankers redefine user experiences. The technology enables banks to ensure secure and quick authentication by identifying the user through a unique voice print. After a successful login, users request services, including transferring money, paying bills, or voicing out complaints.
Amazon’s Echo Show: Human-machine collaborations have become simpler with virtual assistants using text, touch, voice, and gestures to interact and gain inputs from users. For instance, Amazon’s Echo Show has been utilized to support the health and care needs of older adult households. A study by the University of Bristol, UK, demonstrated that the Echo Show has delivered tangible benefits in healthcare and well-being by supporting unique home-based care methods, social engagement, and collection of health information.
Utilizing HTC’s multimodal interfaces
HTC is at the forefront of AI-powered multimodal CX, striking a fine balance between security, usability, and accessibility.
Case in point: HTC’s multimodal interfaces have been implemented in a virtual reality (VR) training app for a major theme park operator. They use visual cues and audio feedback to create an immersive experience. Moreover, in contact centers, multimodal interfaces are utilized, including feedback collection through IVR, voice, touch, and text-based chat interfaces, to enhance accessibility.
AI and NLP and its impact on MUI
AI and NLP (natural language processing) are changing the way multimodal interfaces interact with users. According to a recent report, AI capabilities will be integrated into more than 70% of customer interactions by 2025. Multimodal AI is a new cognitive frontier that weaves AI, NLP, and computer vision, enabling UI/UX designers to build human-centric UIs while comprehending unstructured data. In addition to helping users gather data from disparate sources, Multimodal AI can help reduce noise and variability in data while providing an enhanced focus on relevant inputs, thereby improving data accuracy and user interaction. It is quite evident that the role of AI, NLP, and computer vision in enhancing journey navigation, minimizing friction points, and meeting rising customer expectations is all-industry pervasive.
However, the path towards interactive user journeys is not without challenges.
Challenges and considerations
While businesses have displayed a strong interest in integrating multimodal UI, creating a comprehensive solution poses difficulties. Businesses must overcome challenges in:
Integration: Integrating diverse modalities seamlessly, such as transitioning between voice and touch interfaces, can be complex and requires fluid transitions for an enhanced user experience.
Privacy: Users have concerns about how their data is recorded and processed, necessitating robust privacy policies and data handling practices.
Adaptability: Designing for diverse user needs and preferences, especially in a multimodal context, poses challenges for ensuring the interface is adaptable and inclusive.
Evaluation: Assessing the effectiveness and user satisfaction with a multimodal UI system is essential and requires a comprehensive evaluation process.
Another essential factor is implementing robust security features, such as advanced encryption and multi-factor authentication, to safeguard user data and privacy while utilizing the full potential of multimodal technology.
The core of personalized UX: MUI
MUI has far-reaching benefits across industries. It revolutionizes patient care through efficient communication and data input. The automotive industry benefits through in-car assistants and safety measures. In retail, it elevates the shopping experience by blending touch, voice, and visuals for seamless and interactive transactions. In the insurance domain, it has the potential to streamline claims processing and enhance customer interactions.
As technology advances, single-channel experiences are becoming obsolete, making multimodal customer experience inevitable. Businesses adopting multimodal experiences enjoy better resolution rates, improved customer satisfaction, and outperform unimodal experiences in the long run.