Re-shaping the Expected Future: Novel Interactions for Emergent Users

Emergent users are the hundreds of millions of people from the poorest regions of the world. Challenges in these areas range from low technological and textual literacy, a paucity of relevant, appropriate content, to a lack of affordable, high-bandwidth data connections.

Future interactions

The most likely future in the next 5–10 years is that emergent users will have access to handsets that “developed” world users are now taking for granted — devices that are equipped with rich sets of sensors, connectivity facilities and output channels. While there is plentiful research on how to use and extend these platforms for more “natural” interaction, the work has largely been from a “first world” perspective; designed to fit a future, in terms of resource availability, cultural practice and literacy, that is out of joint with that lying ahead for emergent users.

Project goals

Our aim is to radically innovate for key information interaction needs, drawing on a network of organisations and individuals deeply connected to emergent users, along with emergent end-users themselves. Our aspiration is to uncover fundamental, generally applicable interaction and transaction techniques for these sorts of users. In the developed world there are key base interfaces and interactions, such as textually-rich query-result search, drag and drop, document cutting and pasting, and persistent network-dependent content. A driving question in our work is, “what are the equivalents of these sorts of enabling interfaces for emergent users?”

About the project

This project is funded by the UK’s Science Funder EPSRC (grant number EP/M00421X/1) and supported by a range of partners, including iHub Research, IBM Research India, Microsoft Research UK, Microsoft Research India, University of Cape Town, MercyCorps, IIT Bombay and Social Impact Lab. The project is based in the Computational Foundry at Swansea University.