The Other Interface of the Future

Kortina, 29 June 2016

Spaceballs Image

Given all our talk about the conversational / natural thought interface from scifi / Samantha / HAL, people often ask us, "when will conversation be the interface for everything?" In short, never.

Text / speech as an input method is awesome, especially when software is smart enough (ie, has enough context about you) to accept your raw stream of consciousness as input and make sense of it.

But there are lots of tasks where a (gasp!) full keyboard still wins and will continue to win.

Writing an essay is much better done with a keyboard, because the work is not so much "writing" as editing. The backspace button, arrow keys, punctuation keys, shortcuts for copy+paste--all of these are much faster than dictating the editing operations. (Vim takes this "editing" mode ad absurdum.)

For understanding and parsing information, visual interface (on a big screen!) is far more efficient than text / speech. This is handy in essay writing for visualizing the relationships between sentences, in Excel for visualizing relationships between various data, and for browsing and exploration of data where you're not sure exactly what the right answer is.

To make another scifi analogy, the futuristic interface for visualizing and editing information is much more the Minority Report interface than it is Samantha.

Minority Report Image

Behind the scenes, our operations team spends most of their time (1) finding information for and about Fin customers and (2) editing an internal graph of knowledge about the context of every Fin customer and about the world. They don't quite yet have the Minority Report interface, but they do use an information dense, keyboard-shortcut-driven, custom interface (optimized for dual 30 in monitors) to navigate the Fin knowledge graph.

One of the reasons I am particularly excited about the latest release of our app is that it exposes all of the effort we invest in structuring stream of consciousness data into a searchable, browsable graph directly to customers.

For me, it feels kind of magical to be able to instantly search all the thoughts I've shared with Fin, or see well edited lists like "People to Spend Time With," "Movies to Watch," and "Work Todos" taking shape without any of my own effort.

If you want to work on building the Minority Report interface for the collective stream of consciousness, get in touch ;)