Person wearing VR Headset
3 minute read

The future is already here

As a child in the late 1980’s, I remember my mother enrolling in a speed typing course that brought her typing up to what seemed like lightning speed to me then.

I also remember the ear-splitting sound that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum would make churning through a tape cassette while loading the 8-bit video game my pocket money had gone towards that week.

Despite my Sinclair ZX’s fully functioning keyboard, not to mention the floppy drive, my mother purchased an electronic typewriter with auto-correct Tipex built in. An expensive purchase then and at the height of what was considered modern technology. But what my mother didn’t realise then was that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, along with the Acorn computers and even the Arari, were all precursors to the next-big-thing; the home PC.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

(Here’s a picture of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum for those of you who had forgotten or never knew it existed.)

At that time, the ‘home PC’ was considered a science fiction thing, a long way off in the future, and unaffordable. Yet the technology had, at this point, existed already in other guises.

Fast forward to now, and where are we? Our lives are interwoven with technology. We have miniature computers in our pockets. These computers, or phones if you prefer, are many times more potent than the supercomputers of the 1960s that required entire warehouse-sized facilities to house them, or even the home PC.

With our mini pocket computers, we can do pretty much anything we can think of. Still, fundamentally we are using them to access information and interact with systems that make our lives a little easier. Emails and visiting websites aside, when was the last time you went into an actual bank?

We’ve all heard the phrase “let’s not reinvent the wheel”. Tell it to the FIA who are changing the regulations for next season’s F1 cars to allow for faster, grippier wheels. A long way from the original wheel hewn out of stone.

Matthew Laakvand, UI/UX Developer

We need always look to the future, or else we are simply playing catch up to it. The common frog is unable to sense the gradual change. Suppose you sit a frog in a cold pot of water and turn on the hob underneath. In that case, it will happily sit there as the temperature rises slowly through warm, hot, simmering, and finally boiling until the frog dies. It lived in the moment, unable to see the future coming. We cannot be that frog if we are to be effective for our clients and customers in the future.

People have heard of Google Glass or Oculus Rift, but these technologies seem far off now, right? Wrong! They are here now, but like how my mother overlooked my Sinclair ZX, most of us can’t see the benefits of using this new technology, opting for advanced but essentially old technology instead.

Google’s VR app

Google’s VR offering comes with an app to help you learn the basics.

We experience the internet through our mini pocket computers right now, using interfaces that we are used to. That is set to change in a way that will make how we experience the internet unrecognisably different, but at the same time, if people like me do their jobs well, effortlessly. As a UI/UX developer, I aim to create interfaces and processes to make the user experience of a website or application easier, faster, and better.

Something we can start doing now and should be thinking about more is ‘Responsive Web Development’. “We are already doing this,” I hear you scream. Well, yes and no. We can indeed make websites adapt to different devices, but what if I said it is possible to give your differing demographics different experiences of your website based on their age? An older adult, for instance, may prefer bigger type or muted colours. On the other hand, a child of seven may be drawn to brighter colours or content that will engage them more appropriately.

Imagine the Argos website. It contains thousands of products and offers ways of finding what you need as an adult, but if you are a seven-year-old child, you’re only interested in items that apply to your age and maybe gender. So suddenly, the website offers a more limited range of products appropriate for the seven-year-old child and perhaps even a simple way to share the item with Mum or Dad.

If you take anything away from this article, I hope it is that we should be planning to use technologies that seem futuristic. Planning to use them now before the technology becomes mainstream will mean that we are engaging our audiences when it arrives instead of trying to catch up when it is already here.