What does it mean to “make tech speak human”?

What does it mean to “make tech speak human”? With the emergence of new technologies like touch and gesture, technology needs to learn how humans use those methods to communicate with our world. Let’s look at gesture, for example. When we talk we use our hands to emphasize and illustrate what we are trying to communicate. Other people understand what we are trying to say by watching our hands. In other words, gestures have a language that we use to communicate to our world. When we teach tech to speak human, we help translate what people need, expect, and understand so that the technology is easy and natural for them to use.

When the focus is on what the technology can most easily detect, the gestures people have to make feel foreign and silly. When it comes to usable products, this is a tremendous barrier. Remember The Clapper? Part of what made it so amusing were the ridiculous commercials aimed at the elderly and smarmy, but the real issue is clapping as you are falling asleep is counter-intuitive and goofy. It was successful as a novelty, but didn’t manage to become indispensable. In the same way, gestural interfaces that make you do grandiose moves are fun in a game context (where it’s ok to step out of your comfort zone), but not when you’re trying to change the channel on your TV. Those big gestures feel like yelling, and when I’m on my couch watching TV, I’m more interested in feeling calm and tuning out. If the gestures feel foreign or goofy to me, I’m going to have a hard time remembering them and a harder time seeing how this product fits into my life.

To “make tech speak human” is to translate these expectations and needs into an interface that communicates in a language people understand. A great gesture set is easy to remember, feels comfortable, and makes the user forget life could exist without it. Natural, like a conversation.