The future where we have touchscreens on our toasters may be closer than previously thought. Gorenje’s iChef+ (unfortunate name aside makes a very compelling case for the immediate benefits of touch-based appliances. From a purely aesthetic point, touch systems create the opportunity to clean up the often-times cumbersome collection of dials and buttons necessary to run our everyday appliances. That alone would be a step in the right direction. However, I think the most compelling advantage lies elsewhere.
The appliances we own in the future could potentially have much longer shelf-lives with a touch-based interface. Due to constant wear-and-tear, the buttons, dials and other physical interface elements can be the first thing to break on a machine. The parts can be hard to find or not worth the time/money to get fixed. Additionally, the appliance could grow and even improve over time through software updates. Your refrigerator may no longer be a static device that would eventually just outlive its use. From the makers’ side, there could be much more rapid and responsive improvements to their interfaces. I would love to see scenario where there was a standard Maytag interface system for all their products. Once you have used one Maytag appliance, you have a pretty good understanding of how to use them all. From a long-term cost perspective, using a touch system could be cheaper as less auxiliary parts would need manufacturing.
Touch interfaces are only going to become more pervasive in our everyday lives. I think the advantages are wide-ranging and compelling. However, they do not come without costs, most obvious are the potentially serious accessibility issues to those with vision disabilities. Perhaps the physical button and dial will always be around, but it may not be our only (or primary) option.