Sugawara: I specialize in interface design. Although I had overheard talk about "Rolly" since early in development, to be honest I wasn't interested. I've worked on many products over the years, and specifications or the design concept alone is usually enough to give me a good idea of what a product will be like. This time, I was in for a pleasant surprise when I actually saw the prototype myself. It was totally different from what I imagined. I can't explain it, but it's just interesting and enjoyable. I found myself thinking that it was a great idea, but that it needed some work.
First, we sorted out the information we were dealing with. People initially wanted to pack "Rolly" full of all kinds of features, which would complicate the controls. Things seemed to be getting out of control, you might say. We filtered out all of these ideas, with "movement" as our guiding concept, until ultimately, we succeeded in making "Rolly" itself become a switch for various functions. The volume can be controlled by twisting "Rolly." To play the next track, slide "Rolly" forward. For shuffle mode, pick it up and shake it. I think controlling playback by moving "Rolly" this way matches the key concept of motion well.
"Rolly" is different from conventional music players that emphasize usability. I think what sets the design concept apart is how we have eliminated concrete elements (such as a display for track titles or album covers) while providing straightforward feedback for operation, in the form of lights or tones. We've taken steps to ensure users know the playback mode intuitively by these lights and tones. Light blue illumination on the sides means normal mode, and purple means shuffle mode. That's all new users need to remember.
Actually, the design also incorporates a number of characteristically "Sony" traits. "Rolly" signals fast-forward by flashing twice while changing colors, which is reminiscent of how "WALKMAN" remote controls beep twice for the same operation. You can notice this attention to detail in many places. Achieving these exact colors and the subtle timing and gradation when the lights flash required a customized simulator. Development was painstaking, but we concentrated and spent ample time on it because these are the things that most appeal to users' senses.
Sugawara: I also contributed to the UI design for "Rolly" software. With Motion Editor, users can choreograph how "Rolly" moves.
On the screen, the progression of music and general mood are represented graphically along a vertical timeline. This forms a point of reference enabling the user to freely program the direction of each moving part. New users shouldn't worry about mistakenly programming unsupported or dangerous moves; warning messages will help you out.
An unexpected feeling came over me when I tried this myself. After a while, I wasn't content to make "Rolly" simply move in time to music, but found myself wanting to compose music that would provide the best dance moves. It made me want to insert breaks in the music at certain points to let "Rolly" move in particular ways at specific times. In some ways this may change how people think about music.
My only concern is that people won't appreciate how entertaining "Rolly" is until they see it for themselves. People who have only heard about it, and even those who've seen video clips of "Rolly" in action online or on TV - I'm sure their jaws will drop when they see it firsthand. They'll be surprised at how enjoyable it is. I want as many people as possible to interact with "Rolly" themselves.