A Personal Touch | MCD Partners


INSIGHTS | September 12, 2012

A Personal Touch

Recently, we've noticed a trend in both consumer mindset and new digital offerings. We are gravitating towards human elements in our products and devices.

And this is more than just Siri telling jokes.

smart home product
One space in which this trend is particularly apparent is authentication. Even beyond voice and facial recognition – areas that are sure to continue to advance as this trend expands – we've seen a host of new technologies that attempt to re-imagine the authentication process, bringing in new elements and actions to prove that we are, in fact, our distinctive selves.
The upcoming app, LaunchKey, considers our smartphones to be exclusive extensions of our human selves, encouraging us to forget our passwords and rely on the one-to-one nature of our phones instead. In other words, while we might lend or share a laptop, our phones are much more individually connected to each of us. So much so, the company believes, that we can use them to securely confirm our identities. This is how it works: in order to link your online accounts to the LaunchKey app, you first enter your username on each desktop site you'd like to login to, but instead of entering a password to verify your identify, you simply press a button on your smartphone. You are then free to sign in and out of each account with the flip of a switch in the app. A more biometric example of this authentication trend is Carnegie Mellon University's BioSole shoe sensors – a technology that can identify you from your unique gait in just three steps. The technology has over 99% accuracy, and the university imagines a plethora of uses for it including security and even disease detection. Sign us up!
In addition to authentication, another aspect of this humanistic technology trend is the notion that a device can learn. While this isn't exactly a new concept, we'd argue that consumer expectation and demand have grown tremendously for proactive tech that absorbs information and adjusts accordingly – you know, like a person might do. A great example of this is Nest. Dubbed "The Learning Thermostat," the device learns your regular schedule and programs your home's temperature correspondingly throughout the day. Yes, you can also access and adjust the thermostat remotely through an app, but the real value here is in saving money and energy without having to do anything at all.
So, why is this trend taking off, and what can we learn from it? We believe the main reason the pendulum always swings back towards incorporating human elements is the same one that drives brands to tell great stories: we are emotional beings. Siri isn’t really your friend – she's a bunch of zeros and ones. But it's more compelling to us to give her a personality and have her speak to us as a person would. This may seem obvious, but as product people, it's critical to keep in mind. A great user experience is not only born from easy paths to task, but also from an infusion of emotion – whether that be a sense of accomplishment, connection, individuality or otherwise. We like to relate to things, and to feel personally identified – even if it's all a ruse. Plus, the human form is some pretty amazing technology in itself, and each of ours is unique. So why not capitalize on that?