Future of Displays with Voice Assistants & Far-field Interaction

Future Of Displays With Voice Assistants & Far Field Interaction
by Suchit Shah

CES2019 had multiple announcements of far-field voice assistants enabled devices with displays from Google, Amazon and Facebook. These new sets of devices have opened up a new paradigm of not only communication & media consumption devices but stepping stone for future computing devices.

Graphical user interfaces which emerged in the 1980s made computers easier to use allowing users to interact with keyboard and mouse. With the ability to control computing devices with more than one input method opened up different types of devices including laptops (keyboard & touchpad), smartphones (keyboard & touchscreen) & gaming headsets (gesture sensing & touch) beyond traditional personal computers.

“A multimodal interface acts as a facilitator of human-computer interaction via two or more modes of input that go beyond the traditional keyboard and mouse.”Amazon’s Echo Show led the multi-modal interface in consumer devices by adding display capabilities to its Alexa smart speakers in 2017.

But have the behaviors of consumers interacting with voice computing devices evolved at same pace as the product launches from tech companies?


The original Echo Show has been compared to “internet appliances” by NY Times referring to a comparison with Jef Raskin’s vision of the future of computing. Clearly with the limited functionality of what a typical user can do with Echo Show screens, the definition of “internet appliance” fits better with the device than future of “voice computing device”. There’s a whole lot of tasks that these multi-modal devices from Amazon, Google, Facebook won’t be able to do that can be easily performed on other computing devices like laptop, smartphones & tablets. The displays on these devices are designed for “voice forward” interaction and limit the user for any multi-tasking activities.

Voice and screen-based interaction are converging, from two directions:

  • Screen-first devices like smartphones, tablets, and televisions are being enhanced with the addition of voice control systems.
  • Voice-first devices like smart speakers are being enhanced with screens, such as the Echo Show, Google Home Hub, Lenovo Smart Display etc.

Currently the screen on a voice-first device is curated to provide visual information to your voice commands only. But with the launch of Alexa Show Mode on Kindle tablets, it opens a whole new paradigm of what a user can do by adding far-field voice interaction to an existing near-field interacting computing device.


Based on the 13 principles of display design by Christopher Wickens, the future of displays for voice-first devices needs to comply with perceptual principles (deals with the way a user perceives the visual information is presented), mental model principles (deals with the expectation of the user from the system based on past experiences) principles based on attention (deals with enabling multi-tasking & ease of accessing information)and memory principles (deals with information cognition).

It is expected the way people interact with their current smartphones, computers. tablets & laptops will completely change by the next decade. With the technological advances in Mixed Reality and Brain-Computer Interfaces, it would be interesting to observe whether consumers quickly adapt to visual information on displays from voice-first devices or as history repeats itself — these products will be disrupted by newer technology with “near-field displays” from personalized wearables like AR/VR headsets & smartwatches.

What are your thoughts about Future of Displays for the Voice-First Devices? Share your comments.

About the author

Suchit Shah
Suchit Shah

A curious mind trying to build products for people to help visualize information and entertain....

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