One of the speakers at the recent Web Directions South conference in Sydney was August de los Reyes, the principal design director for Microsoft Surface.

His talk detailed the importance of emotional design, and the shift towards a new type of user interface; the natural user interface (NUI) and the motivation behind Microsoft Surface.

The aim of an NUI is to enable a more natural interaction between the user and the technology through multi-touch — using natural hand movements or physical objects instead of clicking with a mouse.

“Natural user interface […] leverages the way people behave in non-digital situations,” de los Reyes said.

Microsoft Surface is a combination of hardware and software that enables this kind of interaction. It is a tabletop computer with a touchscreen, allowing multiple users to interact with the technology simultaneously.

“The intent is to strengthen the bond between the people sitting around the table,” he said.

The purpose of natural user interfaces is not to replace the existing user interface types, said de los Reyes.

“Why natural user interface is important to us on the design team at Surface is because […] for many people out there today, technology is so bidding and isolating and we’re trying to present technology in a way that solves that problem,” he said.

According to de los Reyes, an interface should be more than just function and usability — the emotional aspect is also important.

However, he believes that an experience cannot be designed, but merely enabled.

“I believe that designers can’t design an experience […] The experience is actually the outcome of what the design does. I’d say we design the enabling”.