The best gadget I got in lockdown was a set of motion activated lights. They have no user interface. I walk by them in the dark and they turn on. Midnight piss? No fumbling for a light switch, no shouting to a digital assistant, no logging in to an app.
Simple. I love it.
It got me thinking about other things which have "zero interfaces". Once they're set up, they just keep quietly working.
The most obvious is a thermostat. If set right, it keeps the heating off in summer and on in winter.
Bank rounding is a fairly modern invention. Every time you spend less than a whole pound, the remainder is swept into a savings account. Spend £3.76 on a muffin? The bank pays the merchant and then transfers 24p to your savings.
Taxes - for most people - works the same way. If you have an ordinary job, tax codes and payments are automatically deducted from your pay cheque. You don't have to think about anything.
Anyone who has been sat in an office conference room will know that the lights go off when they don't detect movement. Not ideal if you're sat on a video call! So you end up waving your arms around like a fool.
Just because the inside temperature is warm, it doesn't mean that it feels warm. So heating occasionally needs a boost.
Taxes are usually calculated yearly - but paid monthly. So starting a new job can occasionally result in the automated systems thinking you're earning more - or less - than you should. Which usually means either waiting until the end of the tax year, or making a manual intervention.
How do we build more "set and forget" solutions? What are the limits of zero interface products? Should users be able to override the "Breathe-o-Smart" settings?
If people don't have to constantly interact with something, will they forget that it is there? What consequences does that have?