Big Data And Context: Moving To A ‘No Interface’ Future

Forget moving towards a “paperless” world. Golden Krishna, senior designer at Samsung Innovation Labs, wants us to move towards a “screenless” one.

In his SXSW Interactive talk “The Best Interface Is No Interface,” Krishna said that with so many apps, smartphones and screens, “our love of the digital interface has gotten completely out of control.” He believes that it is his goal to solve people’s problems, but as an industry we are losing sight of that goal.

To illustrate this unwavering devotion to the screen, Krishna examined an automotive app used to unlock a car door. After fishing for a smartphone, entering the password, locating the app and finding the unlock feature, the user went through 12 steps to unlock the car. Of those steps, 10 involved fiddling around with the smartphone.

The designer gave three steps for people to evolve to a no interface style of thinking.

1. Embrace Typical Processes Instead Of Screens

Krishna argues that it is this blind devotion to the screen that is obscuring what is helpful and what is not. Using the previous example, simply using a key would be a two step process (locate the key, unlock the car), or taking advantage of technology that was available at the end of the 90s could help your unlock the car in one step (key is in your pocket and as you pull the handle the car unlocks).  “Somewhere along the way we got confused. We tried to make user experience equal user interface,” he says. “Good experience design isn’t good screens, it’s good experiences.”

2. Leverage Computers Instead Of Catering To Them

Instead of serving computers, Krishna argues that we should reverse the relationship and have computers serve us. To illustrate this idea, he talked about caving headlamps for search and rescue. A doctor who would help people in caves had a problem: when he looked out on the terrain the lamp brightness was awesome, but when he needed to look at his map at a close range, it would wash it out. Petzl saw this problem and designed an interface that was aware, knowing the difference of looking “out” versus looking “down” and would adjust the intensity of the beam, helping save the doctor time in finding the people to rescue. Krishna pointed out “when computers serve us, they can help us save lives.”

3. Create A System That Adapts For Individuals

“It takes a really smart team to solve most things for most people,” Krishna says. Big Data and data science help consider the individual. He talked about an experiment that IBM did with a rugby team. Rather than having this team log into a health portal and use a graphical representation of a person to point out what hurts, IBM placed sensors on the players during practice and the game. This uncovered new information about the players that enabled the team to predict injuries before they happened. “We can make systems that help you before you know you even need help,” Krishna says.

This is what gets me so excited about the next app revolution. If the last five years were about mobile apps, the next five are going to be about contextual apps. Rather than opening an app and inputting information, contextual computing can take this information automatically. This ability to easily gather data, the accessibility of that data and the availability of cloud computing power to interpret the data solves what is needed to get to Krishna’s “screenless” world. This could have dramatic impacts on our health, well-being and efficiency in the very near future.

What are your thoughts on the “no interface” future? Are we too dependent on screens?

Garrett Heath develops content and supports customers on the Rackspace Social Media team. His previous experience includes technical project management in the cloud, content marketing and social media marketing. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation and telling stories about the people behind the tech. You can also read his work at In his free time, Garrett writes about food and local San Antonio culture at SA Flavor.


  1. I agree completely. Our systems need to be more intelligent so they can make smart choices on behalf of their users. We need less configuration, less rules, less filters, less interaction with user interfaces. We are at the point where our user interfaces will be replaced with smart lifestyle devices. Companies need people who understand process management and process cycle improvement to increase quality of service and high value personal interaction. Pair the two up, and we will have a revolution instead of an evolution in quality of service.

  2. I very much like the tone and direction of this approach. Contextual app is a great idea. May it have its 15 minutes of fame and then demonstrate its own merit by fading into the background where it truly belongs, mission accomplished. The less we think about it, the better. Unlike the flashy GUI/Screen stuff that quickly becomes distracting noise.

    This also part of another architectural development. Much, if not most, processing and communication will be machine to machine with a human not consciously in the loop, even when directly served. Consider push to start in many modern cars. The Rugby team example hints at whole new class of killer apps based on body sensors for health and many task of daily living and work. Long live getting ‘er done without showing off!

  3. It’s already been build for Mobile. It’s called Choice and allows you to control the collection, flow and use of your private ‘contextual’ data. It makes the web contextually aware of who, what and where you are and allows web services to adapt in real time based on that information.

    And its shipping now.

    CEO 3PMobile.


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