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Consumer device boom heralds user interface innovation, says Gartner

Consumers will add more devices to their personal portfolio instead of consolidating, says analyst Gartner

The number of computing devices each person owns is set to increase rapidly over the next two years, with consumers in mature markets owning between three and four devices by 2018, according to statistics from analysts at Gartner.

The global installed base of devices will hit 7.8 billion units next year, and 8.3 billion units by 2018, said the research organisation.

Users will increasingly build their personal IT estates from a mix of “main” and “niche” devices, with main devices including smartphones, tablets and notebooks, while niche devices will mostly include wearables such as smartwatches, fitness bands, connected glasses, e-readers and portable cameras.

Research director Anshul Gupta said there were a number of factors pushing this diversification.

“The combination of the high level of adoption of technology, the availability of faster networks, and decision-making becoming increasingly dependent on real-time information, will undoubtedly lead to more devices per user," he commented.

Voice, gesture and emotion

According to Gartner’s Lillian Tay, the increasing variety of devices on the market will herald a new bout of innovation in user interfaces (UIs), as manufacturers incorporate gesture and voice alongside existing keyboard and touch functions.

With around 60% of total PCs set to be running Windows 10 by 2019 – so say the analysts – if only half of users opt to activate voice and gesture commands, that will still mean that 30% of the global installed base will be using the function, she said.

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“Speech and gesture will bring new usage and productivity gains in the commercial sector," said Tay. “Take, for example, in-field service, where a worker can have hands-free access to files and documents by using a gesture to flip a page.

“Similarly, at home, voice and gesture provide a nice fit with a hands-free PC interaction scenario. For example, waving to a screen to change the page of a recipe book when the user is cooking.”

Many devices will also become adept at recording human emotions, having already nailed heart rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns.

As many as 20% of wearables could be enabled with these sensors – which will register emotion through capturing facial expressions over a digital camera – by the end of the decade, predicted research director Annette Zimmerman.

Users will be better able to track more metrics about their own health, while employers gain new insight into stress and fatigue levels of employees working in strenuous or hazardous environments.

“Organisations will be able to translate voice analysis into training tools for customer service employees, and smartphones will be able to analyse conversations and provide feedback on how to improve client interactions,” she said.

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