CIID students Kevin Cannon and Tobias Toft definitely think so, and developed a proof-of-concept UI while working on a 2-week study course with Nokia.
Check out the interactivity–“Little World” is genuinely user-friendly. The whole idea is to assign behaviors and people’s images to the UI so that you interact with the avatars the way one would think about interacting with the real person, right down to groups of friends standing near each other or a heavenly new girlfriend’s contact details being pinned to a cloud. Think of it as an ergonomic iPhone favorites menu crossed with a smarter Nintendo’s Mii Plaza, or simplified version of Sony’s PlayStation Home.
Though the implementation has a slightly too childish feel to appeal to many potential users, it does expose the current crop of Apple, Palm, Nokia and Android UIs as catering to the look-and-feel of glossy futuristic, nay sci-fi-esque gadgets. And while that’s resulted in some sleek technology, it may be missing out on the softer, more human side of human-gadget interactions, rather than “putting people first,” as Kevin and Tobias phrase it. Why not have a smart UI that had built-in social network-style format for contact management in a cute graphical UI (rather than Facebook’s clunky lists)? It would certainly make the otherwise mundane task of interacting with one’s smartphone into a more pleasant and amusing one…as long as it’s carefully crafted so is functions aid rather than hinder the interaction. If only Nokia, never particularly famed for the amazing qualities of its UIs, could take the idea of its £20,000 app-developer prize and try something similar for clever UI concepts like Little World. On the other hand, Apple’s usually all over the user-friendliness of its devices–remember “funnest iPod ever?”–so we have to say: Steve, did you see this?