Can anthropormorphism help two factor authentication?

You know those lovely little calculator like devices that some banks use to help make your Internet Banking logon secure, do you enjoy using them? Do they make you feel happy? Are they a comforting security blanket? A necessary evil in the increasingly hacky/phishy world? Or are they yet another barrier to the easy access of your financial data? Or even worse a right pain in the backside? Different things to different people I suspect. My feelings on these devices fall somewhere between necessary evil and pain in the backside.

‘Those lovely little calculator like devices’ are known as two factor authentication devices. They allow you to generate a one time password (OTP) to help verify with your bank that you are who you say you are and that you are not some chancer half way round the globe that has worked out your normal logon and password. I was wondering if you could make these devices more enjoyable/tolerable by making them seem a bit more human or at the very least painting a smiley face on them complete with some wobbly eyes?

An article in Wired by Russell M. Davies kicked all this ‘thinking’ off. It tells the story of Russell buying a Sony Rolly, which is a small barrel shaped motorised speaker that can spin and flap in time to music, disappointingly it is not a robotic East End Poodle.  As Russell explored using the device he found that it ‘…demonstrated to me that it takes only the slightest bit of pet-like or anthropomorphic behaviour from an object and we’re highly inclined to form a deep emotional bond with it.’ so the more human the device seems the more we are inclined to form a relationship with it. Some form a relationship so strong that they declare robots are nothing but heartbreak.

Speakers are not really a technology that is without love from consumers already but what about the vacuum cleaner? What was the effect on the relationship people had with those devices following the introduction of smiley faced bowler hat wearing HenryBen Terrett recently tried to find out who designed the face of Henry and as he looked into this he discovered a great quote ‘[The face was]…put there because the lonely cleaning armies of the early morning and late night liked to use an object they could address as a friend.’ As well as having a new friend did this addition of a face make the task of vacuuming more enjoyable/tolerable?

Of course making what is essentially a single function calculator compare on the cuteness scale with a dancing robot or a jolly red hoover is going to be difficult but small keychain size devices have in the past won over the hearts of a great number of people. Who remembers the Tamagotchi?

‘Make robots adorable and semi-useful and we’ll invite them into our lives faster than a Trojan horse in a meerkat suit’ Russell Davies

Unfortunately two form factor authentication devices are neither robots or invited. In a more fun world they would be both.  Can you imagine a cute little dancing and spinning palm sized security access robokey? It would make a satisfying metallic unlocking sound when you generate the password or maybe a kerching or a warning cry of ‘do not go in there‘ in a comedy ‘I have just done an awful smelling excretion’ kind of way depending on the balance of your accounts. This would of course be prohibitively expensive but can you really calculate the ROI for bringing a bit of joy into peoples lives?

Please let someone build one of these dream security devices in the not too distant future or perhaps better yet come up with an alternative solution that makes a separate piece of hardware to log on to my online banking obsolete. On second thoughts that is complete madness.


Rob Lewis says:

Interesting thoughts Aden.

What is the likelihood that banks will begin to use mobile apps to do two-factor authentication? Are we more likely to accept and embrace it if it’s done on our beloved iPhones and Androids?

Aden Davies says:

Pretty sure some banks in Europe and South America have already started doing this so there is a good chance it will happen over here. I think the next 18 months will see a lot of these questions answered and a lot more questions raised as mobile banking and payments gain in usage.

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