You can talk speeds and feeds, specs and features, build quality, materials and engineering all you want. The Moto X is far more “human” than any other phone.
It feels like a friend and an ally, a sentient being that’s loyal and thoughtful. And these endearing qualities can actually trigger emotional attachment to the Moto X. Here’s why.
Intel anthropology researcher Genevieve Bell says that as consumer technology becomes more advanced, our feelings for our gadgets grow stronger. And these feelings mean that people are forming a “real relationship” with our gadgets.
The reason our feelings are growing stronger is that interfaces are getting “better,” which means by definition more human-compatible. And the more human-compatible they become, the more our brains perceive them to be sentient beings rather than the unthinking, unfeeling machines that they actually are.
Imagine a version of Siri that interacted with you in 200 languages simultaneously — every time it talked to you, it spoke in English, French, Klingon and so on, all at the same time.
This would be a magnificent feat from a technology point of view, but a disaster from a user interface point of view because it wouldn’t be compatible with what people want, or what they can even handle.
So let’s discard right up front the commonly held delusion that advanced technology is better because it’s advanced. It’s only better if it’s more human-compatible.
So what is human compatibility, really?
A human being is basically a talking chimp designed by millions of years of evolutionary processes to function in a small, highly social group of other humans. We live in a human world and our brains are hardwired to think of everything in terms of human beings.
Here, let me show you. This is a Photoshopped picture showing a young woman with four eyes and two sets of lips.
An objective, rational and robot-minded creature would look at this picture and just see it for what it is. But because we are human beings with human brains, we can barely look at it. Our brains won’t accept the picture. It causes elevated heart rate and anxiety. Our eyes struggle to hold still on the image.
The human face is hard-wired into our brains. The picture shows what must be a human face but at the same time cannot possibly be a human face. So our brains freak out at the sight of it.
We understand the world in anthropomorphic terms, which is why we talk to our cars (“come on! Start!), why the “uncanny valley” phenomenon exists, and why children play with plush bears, dolls and toy vehicles they way they to, ascribing human thought, motivations and actions to inanimate objects.
We also can’t help but think of our PCs and consumer electronics in human terms.
It’s useful to separate human-compatible interfaces into two groups. The first includes gadgets designed for a human environment and human senses. The best example I can think of is the Apple iPad, which has a large screen and a very responsive touch interface that makes on-screen virtual objects behave convincingly like objects in the real world (sliding, zooming, etc.).
A multi-touch user interface with physics and gestures is superior to the more abstract WIMP (windows, icons, menus and pointing-device) interface precisely because it’s more like the environment as humans perceive it. For example, if you want to move a leaf on the ground, you reach down and touch it directly, nudging it over with your finger. You don’t reach two feet away to some plastic object and move it indirectly, as you would with a mouse.
The iPad mimics the human environment, but it doesn’t make us think the iPad itself has human qualities (unless you use Siri).
The second type of human-compatible interface is designed to simulate another human being in some meaningful way, to convince our human brains that a gadget has a mind, the capacity for attention and a will of its own
And that’s where the Moto X rules.
Why the Moto X is the Most ‘Human’ Gadget You Can Buy
The most interesting unique features on the Moto X trick your brain into ascribing sentience, personality, will and even virtue. As a result, the Moto X is the most human-like gadget generally available.
For example, even when you’re not using a Moto X, it already “feels” more human than other phones. The reason is that you know it’s listening. The Moto X has special electronics that always listen for the command “OK, Google Now” and ignores all other phrases. When you say the magic words, it wakes up and listens for your Google Now question or command.
After using it for awhile, your brain understands that the Moto X is listening to you, and that knowledge subtly changes your relationship to the phone.
The Moto X also tricks your brain into believing that it has virtues. For example, the Moto X exhibits the virtue of loyalty. The first thing you do when you get your Moto X is train it to recognize your voice. So when you’re in a crowded room, and have the Moto X sitting on a table next to you, you know that the phone will ignore everyone else and respond only to you. It’s a very endearing quality.
When you pull the Moto X out of your pocket and look at it, the phone instantly shows you the current time, and also any recent notifications, such as recent emails or social media messages.
The fact that it’s paying attention to what you’re doing, and voluntarily showing you what you probably want to see makes it “feel” like the phone has some level of awareness and is using that awareness to help you in small ways.
And the Moto X is discreet, like a friend with a clue or a good personal assistant.
Other phones — the iPhone, for example, gives you two options regarding notifications. The first is to be interrupted with an non-discreet message — or you can opt to not know about incoming notifications. So if you’ve got notifications turned on, and your iPhone is on the table, an incoming SMS will be visible to everyone at the table. It’s the equivalent of a bad assistant throwing open the door during a meeting and saying: “Hey, your wife called and said your neighbor is being a jerk again.”
A good assistant would write the message on a piece of paper, fold the paper in half so you control who sees it, and quietly hand it to you. And that’s what the Moto X does, essentially.
While off, the Moto X quietly and every few seconds shows the time, plus whether or not you have notifications and from where. So, for example, it might show an icon for Gmail, another for Facebook and another for Messaging. It doesn’t reveal who sent a message. And it doesn’t show any part of the message.
When you press the on-screen button in the center, however, it instantly displays that information — who messaged and part of what they said. The millisecond that your finger stops touching the screen, that information instantly vanishes from view.
The action feels like lifting up the corner of that folded message to peek inside to discreetly see the message.
The Moto X makes you feel like it’s guarding your privacy — a sentient and protective act.
The human mind is highly attuned to the safety and security of environments and situations. For example, a woman inside her own car in her own driveway with her own husband at noon might feel like she’s in a secure environment. She won’t clutch her purse and look around for threatening strangers.
However, when she finds herself alone at night in a foreign city she’s never been to in what looks like a bad neighborhood, she feels like she’s in an insecure environment, and is likely to have her guard up.
The Moto X can exhibit similar awareness of secure and insecure environments and situations. You can set up what Motorola calls Trusted Devices. You simply enter the Trusted Devices section of the security settings and pair the phone with one or more Bluetooth devices. When the phone is within range of any of these Trusted Devices, it doesn’t make you enter your passcode or otherwise prove that it’s you using the phone. It assumes it’s you, because the locations where these Bluetooth devices exist (home, office, car) are familiar safe places for the phone.
But when the phone finds itself all alone in a strange place, it puts its defenses up.
Trusted Devices is offered as a convenience. But it also has a subtle psychological effect of making your human mind belief that it’s paying attention, shares your sense of safe and unsafe environments and situations and is therefore sentient and somewhat human.
The Moto X is the most human device on the market. And it’s this psychological feeling of humanness and the affection it engenders that Moto X users are trying to express when they tell you what a great phone it is.
The net effect of all these unique Moto X features convince your human mind that the Moto X is a sentient creature that’s loyal to you and looking out for you. These are endearing qualities that make us feel emotional attachment to our phones.
And that’s why the Moto X is the best phone on the market. It’s the most human and therefore the most lovable.