We’ve been conditioned at birth to feel and touch our way through the world. It’s within that tactile human touch that we begin to catalog form, understand scale and weight, and decipher texture and material. It’s that innately human desire for touch that ultimately gives us a sense of our surroundings.
On June 29, 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone to the world; a technology that introduced human level gestures into an industry that historically relied on a balance between the physical (keyboard) and digital. The crowd roared and cheered its approval. Pinch, zoom, and swipe quickly became the norm. The future was close at hand if not in it already. Was this the beginning of true human machine interaction?
Fast forward eight years (2015) and Apple’s introduction to their new lineup of products is once again changing the norm for a world that lives, works, and plays within a highly connected digital ecosystem. From the Apple pencil and the reimagined Apple TV to the new iPad Pro, we’re beginning to see a new digital language emerge and it’s not only about efficiency but it’s also about touch. That human element that connects us to our world and responds to our very input.
Within the dazzle of shiny objects and Siri inspired navigation the most notable update comes to us by way of 3D Touch which will bring an entirely new dimension to the experience. A sense of pressure, a touch of brilliance.
When the first generation Apple Watch came onto the scene Apple introduced us to a new interaction language called Force Touch. This ability to interact with information at a deeper level simply by using more or less pressure. Several months later and it’s not surprising that Apple has introduced similar capabilities within the new iPhone 6s series. But in true Apple style they’ve not only introduced us to a new pattern of design and human machine interaction but they’re also giving us a glimpse into a very interesting future they call peek and pop.
3D touch, formerly Force Touch, brings an entirely new dimension to the ways in which we look at, respond to, and interact with information. For example: imagine if someone sent you a link to a web page and you could see a preview of that page with a simple soft press-and-hold instead of launching the website and, just as quickly, with a bit more pressure, pop open the actual page. Now if you didn’t want to open the web page, while finger still lightly pressing, the user can immediately swipe up in order to bring into focus appropriate menu options for that item, such as bookmark this page, share, copy link etc.
So why does this new 3D Touch matter? Well there are several reasons why this matters:
- Mobile experiences are no longer tethered to a linear system of navigation. We now have a third dimension to consider. The first level is what I call the surface level. This is the primary visible layer to the user. The second layer is what I’m calling the shallow layer. This layer is the soft touch layer that brings certain pieces of information into focus that was previously just below the surface level. The third layer I refer to as the deep layer. This is the hard press layer for the user. This is where the action occurs like popping open a website, taking a selfie, or calling someone in your favorites. So it’s no longer about “off-canvas” as it is about “deep-canvas,” those pieces of content that don’t just hide off the sides of the visible canvas but also just below it. It’s truly a “submersion” model of interaction.
- It’s all about User Efficiency. The ability to view a website, take a photo, share a link etc. with a simple press and hold ultimately gives users a way to accomplish common tasks without having to leave their current environment. For example on my home screen I can do a hard press on the phone icon and a list of my most frequently called or favorites pop up and I can simply tap on a number to call. The experience becomes frictionless for the user.
- Bringing human dimension to touch. 3d Touch at a very basic level is bringing a human dimension to our interactions by having our digital world respond to our physical presence by giving us an appropriate measure of tactile feedback. It’s that symbiotic relation between man and machine working together, responding and reacting to one another. Therefore tactile response is the new language that gets passed from human to machine and machine to human. It’s an understood vocabulary of action and reaction based on touch.
- Gives designers and developers a new playground to explore. Human touch as an interaction metaphor brings new possibilities for designers and developers alike to create truly unique experiences. It’s that multi-tiered invisible layer that gives us such imagination for the possibilities. But it will be the appropriateness
One of the ways we interact with other human beings and form social bonds is through touch, and probably most of us are not aware of the extreme importance of touch
– Leonard Mlodinow
Touch. This digital handshake between human computer interaction will only become deeper and more prevalent as newer experience models such as 3d Touch and higher fidelity sensors become commonplace. We are now entering into new arenas of interaction where dimension and touch will begin to play a deeper more purposeful role within the experience.
Now, within this moment, when 3d touch is still in its infancy, is the time to explore this new archetype of interaction. We must ask ourselves what is the immediate impact of this submersion or deep level interaction framework and where could it take us in the future. Because rest assured this touch of brilliance is just the beginning and the importance of multi-dimensional interactions is here to stay and will only get more immersive as technology affords us newer, deeper, and more complex capabilities.