All of the product launch seasons are fun for designers, not so much for the big announcements, but to see which early-stage trends are moving to the mainstream. Recently, we have seen a shift in the cutting edge of interaction design; moving interactions off the touchscreen and into the behavior of the product itself.
In some circles, this is hardly new. MIT, CMU, and other universities have been hotbeds of haptic interface and ambient informatics work for the past ten or fifteen years. But this tangible, behavioral interface has been slow to reach the mainstream.
So while our cold-numbed fingers will definitely appreciate using the Nokia Lumia 920's new sensitive touchscreen from the comfort of thick winter gloves, we are especially jazzed by the JBL PowerUp speakers that launched more quietly alongside. The casual seamlessness of dropping your phone onto a charging pad, of tapping a speaker to shift the sound stream to it, is exactly the sort of natural interface that we see people primed to expect. A latent need waiting to be expressed.
The technology impresses us by working invisibly, seamlessly. This effect is not easy to accomplish. It requires talented designers and engineers collaborating closely and treating the physical and digital sides of the product as an integrated whole. Nicely done.