Human machine irritations: a future perspective from UX expert Eduardo Gomez Ruiz

Technology and Business

Phil Brown

Phil Brown

11-05-2020

       

Determining what exactly makes us love or hate automation can seem like a difficult task. According to user experience expert Eduardo Gomez Ruiz, it’s how we are encouraged to engage with these machines that makes the difference. He talks us through how the right tech can make us fall in love with, and feel safe in, driverless cars.

Having worked with global companies like Google, Mitsubishi Electric and Uber - where he led the creation of their loyalty programme, Uber Pro - Eduardo Gomez Ruiz understands the impact UX research can have on businesses, products and consumers. For those unfamiliar with the concept of user experience (UX) it can sound complicated, but essentially this field of research is all about optimising a user’s interaction with, well, pretty much anything, ranging from products all the way to entire organisations.

 

Eduardo explains, “great user experiences are designed with the needs of the user in mind.”  However, they are not only designed once. As users’ needs change, so does their experience. As a result, Eduardo tells us that user experiences “follow an iterative process to constantly adapt to the ever-changing users’ demands and their context.”

 

 

 “Great user experiences are designed with the needs of the user in mind

 

 

As technology develops at a faster rate than ever before, user experience has become increasingly important. We are experiencing a hyper-growth of consumers using platforms which they’ve never used before – the explosion in popularity of systems which help us to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of this.

 

“Designing experiences catered to global users and adapting products and services to make them even more accessible and easier to use for these new digital users,” Eduardo explains, “are two of the main duties the UX community owes to the world.”

 

He goes on to suggest that, as a result of this growth in digital, we are starting to see a countertrend towards disconnecting and simplifying. Eduardo says, “I think we are getting more and more overwhelmed by the pressure of being always connected. To support this, UXers should explore meaningful ways to simplify the increasing complexity of our (digital) world.”

 

 

“We are getting more and more overwhelmed by the pressure of being always connected”

 

conference style autonomous vehicle
Image: getty.com

So how does this affect the progress of automation? Driverless cars, Eduardo says, are “here to stay and to make our lives easier.” But they will follow the same trends as any other developing technology and should be designed with the user experience in mind.

 

Eduardo explains that there are three things a UX professional should think about when designing: “the users’ needs, their context and how to influence stakeholders.” So, is this concept fulfilling a real need? How does a user’s socio-cultural context influence their experience? And how will this impact business?

 

Really this is all about helping organisations to become more user centric. “This is not only about gathering valuable user research findings,” Eduardo says, “but also about contextualising it in a way that is seen by the organisation as the ‘new common sense’ and is therefore acted upon.” 

 

For Eduardo, when it comes to driverless technology this new common sense should include reimagining what travel can mean for passengers. He goes on, saying, “I’d love to see ways for people to get so immersed into a multi-sensorial activity that they fully disconnect from everything else by blending visual, olfactory and tactile experiences.”

 

As the focus of car journeys moves away from driving, Eduardo instead imagines “playing with the seat distribution to create an experience closer to a first-class flight.” Ergonomics are important here in maintaining that sense of luxury, but without the usual restrictions imposed by traditional car design, perfecting seat distribution is an exciting task. In driverless vehicles, Eduardo says that designers and UXers will instead have to consider “the different activities passengers may want to do while travelling, keeping in mind the risks of motion sickness.”

 

In terms of user experience, automation will therefore provide the opportunity for a more luxurious, relaxed experience on the road, with greater scope for personalisation. Ultimately, though, Eduardo feels that safety is a top priority as it remains an important concern for potential users.

 

 

 “The emphasis should continue to be on trust and safety in order”

Picture collage of Eduardos career
Eduardo got immersed with drivers from all over the world during his fieldwork research for Uber

He says, “I’d love to see the sensors, radar and lidar more connected to the broader car ecosystem to provide a safer experience.” In fact, the future of automation seems bound to improving vehicle-to-everything connectivity, where every car is connected to any internet of things device which may affect them in order to ensure safety.

 

Eduardo agrees that this is the right direction to develop in, saying “the emphasis should continue to be on trust and safety . Both attributes are intertwined, and we need to ensure the user has both a total trust and a feeling of safety while being driven by a machine.” This is particularly vital as we progress towards autonomous driving level 5, where a vehicle can perform all driving functions, as humans will still need to react if the car encounters any issues on the road.

 

In the build up to fully autonomous cars therefore, Eduardo believes developers should “concentrate on evolving the technology in a way that makes journey feel so smooth and safe, that this would act as a deterrent to a return to manual control.” In this way, the move to widespread automation will seem like a natural one.

 

To make the transition between machine and human control quick and effective, Eduardo recognises the need to design new mechanisms for a safe and multi-modal machine-driver handover. Making this simple for users will only further build trust in AVs.

 

 

 “We need to constantly unlearn and relearn the ever-changing user needs”

 

Uber data and UX tracting
Eduardo testing the newly launched Uber driver app during a UX Research study

Looking forward, many of the trends Eduardo identifies in the future of UX will have a significant impact on the development of driverless technology. He predicts that designing for privacy and transparency will be more broadly adopted, remote working – and all the tools which are needed to make that effective – will become the new normal and customers will demand more personalised and curated experiences.

 

In line with the development of automation, Eduardo says, “human-machine interactions will conquer vast areas of our lifestyle, multiplying the touchpoints for companies to learn about user behaviours,” and thus refining user experiences. As these trends continue to change and develop, “UXers,” he explains, “need to constantly unlearn and relearn the ever-changing user needs, the ‘invasion’ of digital in their lives and the new paradigms anchoring their experiences.” This process of relearning and a public sense of digital ‘invasion’ will perhaps be most clear on our roads.

 

The question remains, how will UX grow alongside autonomous vehicles? What would make you feel safe in a driverless car? How important do you think UX is to design? Get involved and let us know your opinions in the comments section below.

 

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