Remember when we had to interact with other human beings? The good ol’ days

How does technology change human interaction? All too often we focus on the specs of a gadget, its price, market value, future potential (which are all very important without a doubt) but seldom do we sit back and think about how it changes the way we interact with our environment and with other human beings.

Many technological advances and applications have reduced the need (and maybe desire) to interact with other human beings. Why interact with others when you can get the information with a few keystrokes and a touch of a button? Remember the the time when we used to stop and ask for directions? “Hey how do you get to the conference center in downtown Seattle?” or the time when we used to ask about good restaurants in a new city – “I am visiting Wisconsin tomorrow. Can you tell me about the top 10 dinner places in the downtown area?”. Yeah. That was before Yelp and Google maps.

Tell me about the best restaurants in this new city

Tell me about the best restaurants in this new city

Remember the time when you were craving pizza or your favorite mexican food? You had to either go in person to pick up your food or call the restaurant for delivery. Now with apps like ‘Grubhub’ and ‘Eat24’, you do not have to. It remembers your previous order along with your credit card information. All you need to do is to hit the reorder button. You do not have to pick up the phone, and say the obligatory “Hi, How are you?” or end your order listening to “Thank you, have a good day”.

One click order - no more talking

One click order – no more talking

I feel embarrassed to admit this, but a lot of times, I have chosen to order from a restaurant in ‘Eat24’ over one that I have to call to order because I got lazy and did not feel like talking to the person on the other line taking the order!

Domino’s recently launched a new campaign called ‘tweet-a-pizza’, where their regular customers will be able to order a pizza by tweeting a pizza emoticon. Yes! This is true

Remember when you used to call a cab company to schedule an airport trip? Yeah, that was before Uber and Lyft. Now all you have to do is tap your location and voila! your car arrives in a few minutes. When I first started using Uber, I used to get in the car and give directions to the Uber driver on how to get to my destination.

Book your tickets - in just a few touches

Book your tickets – in just a few touches

A few months later, Uber introduced a new feature where the passenger can enter their desired destination and it will automatically appear in the driver’s app with directions. Another embarrassing fact: There were many Uber rides where I have gone from point A to point B without uttering a single word (in a stranger’s car). 🙂

This also extends to flight booking – no more interaction with travel agents just pick your travel dates and book online.

Another great example is Amazon. I am a huge fan of Amazon and online shopping in general. The convenience, shipment speed (Yes I have Amazon prime), customer service is just amazing. They also have grocery service (Amazonfresh) in my city. When I was a student it was primarily books, but now I shop for almost anything on Amazon – no asking a store attendant for prices, or suggestions (just read customer reviews), no bargaining. Just click and receive your shipment.

Effect of technology on human interaction

Effect of technology on human interaction

With the exponential growth of adult sites and dating apps, we have managed to reduce real interaction for even the most basic human interaction. Apps like Tinder and Zoosk make it easy to check out or hit on a member of the opposite (or same) sex – in just a few swipes! Before you had to go out and actually approach and talk to people.

This also expands to meeting old pals and catching up on each other’s lives – now we mostly just use Facebook! Even when we do meet up in person, we are constantly checking Facebook on our phones.

I was thinking about this and realized that if I choose to (outside of work), I can live my life – shop, order pizza, hail a cab, get from point A to Point B, book my flights (to anywhere in the the world) , find the best places in a new city without having to talk to another human being. This is both miserable and magical at the same time!

Taking these trends into the next decade are 2 key developing technologies – Virtual reality and Augmented reality. These technologies are similar in some ways but fundamentally different. Virtual reality is the technology that creates a completely fabricated world for the user. Imagine examining the surface of Mars, just sitting in your living room! Gadgets like Oculus Rift are aiming to create a world that is believable, interactive, immersive, computer generated and explorable. You can actually move around the area my moving your head and attempting to touch the objects like you would if it were actually there. This is created by powerful 3-D graphics.

One way to get a fully immersive experience is to use a head mounted VR display. See image below.This picture is very telling of the future – and about the potential effects it might have on human interaction.

Virtual reality and virtual interaction

Virtual reality and virtual interaction

The other key technology is ‘Augmented reality’ – it is the ability to insert and overlay digital information in our physical world. Imagine you are at a museum and you point your phone at an artifact – it will instantly tell you about its history. Another example of a use case is at a store. Pointing your phone at the shoe or dress you like could give you information regarding its price, descriptions and size.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality use case

The biggest boost could be in the education sector – you could potentially learn so much more from online classes. Once fully developed, this could drastically reduce our interaction with a human tour guides, store attendants, classrooms and teachers.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not about bashing technology, rather on how we cope with these trends. It takes a lot more effort now than it used to take to interact with humans.

While it is mesmerizing to see the amazing growth in technology and its widespread applications, let’s not forget about the basic human desires to love, care and interact with each other – the good old fashioned way!


Swathi Jay

Tech Blogger, Georgia Tech Engineer, Microsoft Program Manager

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