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“The screen is dead”: What this means for the future of technology

Stephanie Kong  |  February 06, 2018

Here at UserTesting, we believe that companies can only improve and grow when they listen to the needs and preferences as voiced by their customers. Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting some of our customers at an all-company event. Among many things, they shared with our team how they use our products to gather customer insights that support bleeding-edge innovation.

The screen is dead

Not surprisingly, the topic of Artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-interaction interfaces was discussed at length. With in-home personal assistant devices on the rise and Amazon’s Alexa reported to have a dominating 70-76% market share in the U.S., progressive companies are eager to understand this evolving market. One panelist made a comment that caused many members of the UserTesting team to sit up and take notice. She said,

The screen is dead to me.

A phrasing typically associated with one’s distaste for a nemesis was instead meant to convey this employee’s reality: that soon, our technological experiences will be screenless and completely immersive. Many industries have been adapting to this imminently screenless existence. Practitioners of search engine optimization (SEO) have been changing their strategies as the search experience has transitioned from desktop to smartphone and now to voice-based search. And a retail study indicates that 19% of consumers and nearly half (43%) of Millennials have made a voice-based purchase in the past year. This no doubt has implications for many industries that rely on online transactions for business success—retail, travel, and entertainment included.

Could vs should

When I reflected on what this all means, I thought about the differences in experience between a screen and a voice-based search. The experience on a screen is one of curation. The effort is meant to offer the user options from which they can make their selection. Yet in screenless, voice-based search, the experience is not a presentation of options. Instead, it is the delivery of the single, most accurate and relevant answer. For the consumer, the former is active and involves informed choice, whereas the latter is passive and involves effortless reception. So while curation tells the user all the things they could be doing, the delivery of a single, best option conveys what the user should be doing. It signals technology’s growing responsibility and increasing involvement, taking on more of the onus of analysis and decision-making. For example, when Google Maps tells me precisely the route I should take from the many different options that I know go from point A to point B, I place my trust in Google that the work has been done to supply me with this answer. I rarely question it. I just push “Start” and I follow the directions as they are provided to me.

AI is everywhere

This trend extends beyond consumer tech into many aspects of technology impacting all phases of our lives. Martech (marketing technology) has evolved beyond the “spray and pray” tactics of the past. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence now guide marketers and sales teams towards the accounts and prospects most likely to convert. The same is true with recruiting, where having lots of candidates is anathema. Instead, recruiters are turning to data science and gamification to identify elusive ‘purple squirrels.’ And from customer service to personal counseling, chatbots employ natural language processing to predict the right responses and effectively participate in human to “human” conversations. The trend even extends to the products we build here at UserTesting. We know that our customers have a lot of products, projects, and initiatives that they could pursue. But by asking and then listening to their needs and preferences, customer-first brands hone in on the changes, updates, and optimizations that have the greatest impact and are therefore worth pursuing first. In this sense, our technology provides the customer insights that serve as the ‘North Star’ in a world of immeasurable options. My Google Maps example, then, is sort of the most inadvertently fitting metaphor for the evolution we see in technology. Whether it’s asking a screenless personal assistant for a recommendation or using software in our professional lives, we rely on technology to guide us down the straightest, most direct and fastest path to get us to where we want to go.  

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About the author:

Stephanie is a product marketer with over ten years of experience in brand and product marketing spanning the publishing, online advertising, consumer electronics, and SaaS enterprise products industries.