The Era of Shared Touch is Ending
April 16, 2020
As our machines got more intricate and complex, touch made a lot of sense for mechanical devices.
Using our hands and bodies has been the dominant means of control since the dawn of time. This of course is natural for activities like farming and hunting and made a lot of sense as service businesses emerged. As our machines got more intricate and complex, touch made a lot of sense for mechanical devices, and interestingly enough even in the rise of electronics, using buttons, knobs, and various finger-based controls has been pervasive.
When I started Sensory 25 years ago, I thought the time had come for Sensory functions (gestures, voice, and computer vision) using AI to replace all the touch controls. My logic was simply that our consumer electronics had become so full of features and capabilities that we didn’t even know how to access them. One of Sensory’s early customers was called “Flashing 12.” I loved the name as it accurately stated the problem with VCR’s…a lot of them had flashing 12’s because nobody knew how to set the time.
Of course, I was right, but about 20 years too early. In the last decade we have seen the rise of voice interfaces and the value that they create at home and in cars and even on our personal devices like mobile phones. But so many of our shared devices still use touch!
Self-service checking in (airlines), checking out (stores), food ordering, information kiosks, etc.) has become one of the big boom businesses of the 21st century. Sellers improve customer service and lower cost by getting us to do the work. That makes sense! The problem is that numerous studies have found shared touch devices as unsanitary. Fecal matter is on food ordering touch-screens. It’s also commonly found in hotel rooms remote controls and light switches.
These numerous studies were enough to make food service and hospitality industries take it seriously. But change would have been slow. But not now. We are entering a new era of sanitation and cleanliness. The world is social distancing. Some predictions are that hand shaking will become passé. And although many businesses will be hurt by the huge economic toll of Covid-19, the smartest and forward thinking businesses will be looking at the changes in consumer behavior and demand, and will be making shared devices that no longer contain touch interfaces and rely on handsfree sensors (microphones, cameras, electro-magnetic, etc) enabled with voice control, gestures and other handsfree technologies to enable faster, more accurate, more secure, and safer control and transactions.
About the Author
Todd Mozer is the CEO of Sensory. He holds over a dozen patents in speech technology and has been involved in previous startups that reached IPO or were acquired by public companies. Todd holds an MBA from Stanford University, and has technical experience in machine learning, semiconductors, speech recognition, computer vision, and embedded software.