Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


The fundamental nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has made people wary of touching surfaces. Currently, while the global population is rapidly adopting technology, they are also increasingly favoring touchless interfaces. As a result, the demand for sensory interfaces or ZERO UI is rising swiftly across all quarters.

Touchless interfaces are enabled by smart sensors and AI augmentation, where the visual interface is replaced by sensory interfaces like gesture recognition, biometric authentication and voice assistants, that are inherently more intuitive and instant. Increasing demand for Zero UI, thus signal towards a future in which the interfaces are embedded in our surroundings, enabling frictionless, responsive, anticipatory and predictive interactions.

According to an EY article, touchless UI will transform our methods of accessing information, making decisions, and also revolutionize user experience and navigation of the physical and digital worlds. A shift to Zero UI will involve putting smart devices across all spaces – offices, malls, restaurants, etc. to make the environments safer.

Transitioning to such an environment will also mean ushering revolutionary changes in branding, marketing, customer and employee engagement, etc., where communication will be hands-free and screenless in an eco-system of ambient intelligent surfaces. Although the journey towards Zero UI has begun, the world is not yet ready for such a holistic change.

That said, companies can’t ignore the calling of Zero UI if they want to flourish in the coming years. However, the transition is expected to be organic and unfold in small steps. And companies heading in this direction must adopt a human-centric approach, while remembering four imperatives:

  1. Reliability: When implementing a touchless interface, it must be ensured that the technology for different users and in different types of environments. Interaction with the interface must be repeatable and the touchless functionality must be reliable – only then will it be accepted by people.
  2. Security: Biometric authentication and access that is touchless involve great risk. Reliance on such sensory interface will only commence when it is clubbed with another additional authentication factor like physical movement or patterns of behavior. Two-factor authentication will mitigate risks and enhance security.
  3. Privacy: Permission must be sought from users to access and use their data, while providing them full transparency and control over the data they share.
  4. Choice: When switching to a Zero UI interface, customers must be given a choice. Transitioning to sensory interfaces will not happen overnight. Thus, companies must give customers adequate time to understand and use the new system, hence when deploying such technology, traditional alternatives must not be withdrawn suddenly.

EY Global Digital & Emerging Technology Leader, Dr. Aleksander Poniewierski opined that ZERO UI communication aided by novel cyber-physical systems would be more natural and if companies can execute the implementation responsibly and thoughtfully, these interfaces might also offer a competitive advantage.

Challenges for Zero UI

It is true that sensory technologies like voice assistants and gesture recognitions have evolved phenomenally since their debut, but these must overcome several hurdles to realize the Zero UI dream. Today, there are numerous instances where voice recognition systems stumble due to high levels of noise or different accents and gestures go unregistered due to poor lighting or for being too speedy.

All these drawbacks of the sensory technology must be rectified so that they achieve the operational integrity that is equivalent to touch. It must work every single time, for every single user, no matter the environment or location. The technology powering Zero UI needs to be more mature and the infrastructure must be made robust.

Security will emerge as a new and significant challenge, especially for biometric authentication systems. Tech companies must work towards strengthening the interfaces, while governments should introduce new regulations to safeguard the user privacy and data in a better manner. However, it is clear that very soon tech innovations will overcome these challenges and Zero UI will indeed become a reality and companies best prepared will definitely stay ahead of the curve.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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