UX Corner

How Gadget Makers Approach Digital Experience

Dan Rowinski • February 8, 2017

“Our number one goal is to design the software as well as the hardware that blends into their lives.”

The nexus of disruption as the digital world collides with the physical is the gadget.

Yes, we have lots of apps. We have platforms and clouds and a whole bunch of data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are coming to make sense of all that data. But the core brick in the edifice is the gadget.

The Internet of Things is a nebulous and opaque notion that is exceedingly hard to define. But the core concept of attaching sensors to everything and then attaching them to the Internet is fundamentally changing the fabric of society. Those things create data, that data is analyzed and new consumer experiences are formed.

The question that we want to answer: how do gadget manufacturers decide what those experiences will be like? How do gadget makers determine product/market fit? What product research and customer feedback did they get when determining how people will experience their gadgets?

At CES 2017, we went on a mission to discuss digital experience with companies. The key questions were: “how do you define digital experience and how does your company approach it?” We conducted a series of short interviews at an event called “Digital Experience” hosted by a company called Pepcom. Below is a sample of the answers we obtained from two gadget makers and an artificial intelligence startup on how each approaches digital experience in product design and implementation.

Tami Zhu – General Manager at Rokid US

*Rokid is a Chinese artificial intelligence startup that has a built a voice-activated personal assistant that understands Chinese and English. Rokid is only available in China but plans to launch in the United States potentially later this year.

Applause: How do you define the digital experience?*

Zhu: A digital experience for different areas is naturally different. Ten years ago, digital experience was just about the Internet … now digital experience extends beyond the Web to the Internet of Things, voice and artificial intelligence … and this is the year of AI. Voice is just the first frontier of AI but we are a long way from building the sort of digital experience that you could have with “Her.”

*Applause: How does your company approach a digital experience with your customers? * Zhu: The most important part of our product is to provide the best consumer experience. The end consumer may not know what the digital experience is but what they do know is what suits their lives the best. Our number one goal is to design the software as well as the hardware that blends into their lives … if it fits in with a digital experience, that’s great … if not, then that is OK as well.

Bill Thiele – Vice President of RCA Direct-Vu

RCA, longtime gadget maker, is relaunching the brand in a bid to reconnect with the customers that grew up with an RCA TV in their house. RCA has unveiled a full line of tablets, appliances, TVs and phones under the “Made for Moments” line. RCA is focused on the mid-to-low end consumer market.

*Applause: How does RCA define the digital experience? * Thiele: The digital experience with RCA’s products speaks for itself. We have introduced smart TVs aimed at Millennials that want to cut the cord and products that people can engage with on-the-go.”

*Applause: How will RCA provide a digital experience to its customers? * Thiele: You have to look at what the experience is. RCA is based around a family viewing or get-together so we are very family-centric. The digital experience is about bringing in more content for us, so the TV is the primary gathering point in one of two places—the kitchen or the living room. If you take what you can bring to the market as an affordable technology, then we have been sensitive as to what people want with innovation.

Chris Houle – CEO at Phazon

Phazon is a small startup out of Montreal that makes wireless earbuds for athletes. Phazon experienced some success with crowdfunding, raising $1.7 million for its earbuds through the likes of Indiegogo.

*Applause: Earbuds are an interesting cross-section of the digital and physical. How did you determine the experience people would have with the buds? * Houle: First we came with a basic need that truly works, because those wires are annoying. It is really about the user and what they can get from it. That is why we have so much function with the earbuds.

*Applause: How did you make your product decisions for how the customer will experience the wireless ear buds? * Houle: Initially it just started with the wires. Wired earbuds are really annoying and they make a mess and they fall off. We felt like we could solve that. With the help of several designers we went back and forth with several designs and we chose the various form factors with the use cases that we have.

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