I just asked Camilla, sitting next to me, that very question. She said that it’s two elements having a conversation with each other. The dictionary is saying “reciprocal action or influence”.
In terms of defining interaction, I think “feedback” would be a good operative word here. In order to perpetuate two things interacting with one another, they need to respond by providing each other
Feedback helps provide connection between the two interacting parties- confirmation of participation. We talked about the automatic faucet sensors this week: you always see that one person waving their hands aggressively in front of it before giving up in frustration (it’s always the faucet’s fault 😉). If there’s no feedback (i.e. water coming on), they’re walkin’ away.
I once read about Shigeru Miyamoto, the inventor of Mario Brothers, used Level 1, instead of instructions or a demo, to teach the user how to play. You simply learned and received feedback from just starting, even if you were new to Mario. This came from various visual and sound cues as you progress through the level. You have all the basics of game play and you’re only 20 seconds into the game, all thanks to great UI and UX.
Bret Victor laments about “Pictures Under Glass” (i.e. touch screen UI) mostly because our hands are meant to touch, sense, and react to things. If the only feedback they’re getting is the smooth touch of glass, and maybe a ping and a vibration or two, they’re not fulfilling their potential. A swipe with a single finger feels anti-climatic, especially since we’re talking about future innovation, here.
Chris Crawford quotes a Chinese proverb: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.” Surely to do and understand would require a memorable physical interaction, and I wouldn’t categorize swiping with a finger as particularly memorable. It’s such a small movement. We make bigger movements with our bodies when we express strong emotions. We take up more space. So maybe we try replacing the singular finger as the tool with moving the entire body to achieve a good physical interaction.
In order to provide an example of digital technology that’s not interactive, let me please resurface the hottest trend of 2012 (especially everyone at my ad agency): the performance hologram.
Ok, to be fair though, the idea of Tupac or Elvis returning to entertain an audience, or perhaps a generation, who were never lucky enough to see either of them live is pretty cool. Or someone like Hendrix, whose legend lives in the stories of his live performances. But still, as Crawford describes to us, this is still playing out as a movie does: a one-way conversation with the other party simply reacting.
How far are we exactly from being able to sit directly across from Hologram Tupac and actually have a conversation with him? How soon can we interact with him instead of just being a spectator? That’s a level of the uncanny valley I’d like to witness (but maybe not participate in because, I mean, it’s pretty spooky).