Any psychologist can tell you, it's difficult to understand what people are really thinking. Sure there are non-leading surveys, and GSR dongles, and eye-tracking, and study deception, but these are all still guided behaviors and can be translated in different ways.
Psych is still a relatively young discipline, compared to other soft and hard sciences. Thus, there are bound to be some growing pains. User research is an even younger field, and as I get more engrossed, I start to identify some of the behavioral measurement issues in UR that psych once (and might still kinda) faced.
So what's the point of bringing this up?
I am convinced there is more to UR than is currently available. Web/game/app analytics are getting better everyday. There is no longer a need to overtly ask a user/participant what they are doing because their behaviors can be tracked with minimal, if any, interference. Biometrics and VR in gaming is starting to poke its head out to gather even more data on what players are doing and how they are physically responded to stimuli. Consumer electronics that track physical activity and sleep patterns are getting cheaper and easier to use. Mountains of data about my body please!
The data is out there. The problem is making sense of it all. The even bigger problem is making sure the sense that is made of the data is actually correct. UR has the tools in place, it just a matter of genuinely understanding what a user is thinking and feeling when interpreting these data since users/participants don't always know what they're thinking or why.
I've been working on and off for the past couple months and have noticed a pattern. Getting things done when you don't have all the skills to accomplish these goals is difficult. I set out to develop a physical therapy application that would track and test hand motion. By using the large touch interface available on the iPad, for example, I could build an app that would provide various stretches to strength range of motion. However, I don't know any programming languages, nor have used Xcode.
I made the decision to pursue psychology during my numerous years in school. Three psych degrees later, I have limited my abilities to research methodology and technology user research. If I had changed my mind a little earlier on, I could have had a stronger computer science background, thus providing me with the skills I now desire to get things done.
Moral of the story: it's never too late to learn. It is, however, too late to be really really good at something you didn't set out to do from earlier on. I will continue to push myself and grow my breadth of understanding, even if I'm not the best of the best at something I picked up recently.