Feature Design mylo COM-1
Feature Design mylo COM-1

A new approach to communication: more flexibility

Feature Design mylo COM-1Feature Design mylo COM-1

Imamura:College students on American campuses are our target users; we decided that early on. Almost all universities are connected by Wi-Fi, and students readily keep in touch by instant messaging (IM) and Skype. We think the mylo fits this lifestyle well and appeals to younger generations that like to stay connected with friends.

Actually, I've been interested in developing a WLAN-based communication tool for some time. What I looked into was what you might call "pre-communication," one step before you contact someone. When you might decide that someone is still awake, has a bit of free time, and wouldn't mind talking, for example. But that's not possible over the phone, is it? You can't guess if your friend is asleep, and you always have to keep their schedules in mind.

With IM, you know immediately if someone is online. And you can let your friends know what you're doing, what music you're listening to now, and so on. So they're awake and listening to that kind of music... "You're not asleep yet? How about the report due tomorrow? You like that music?" It can be a conversation starter, or users can just relax, feeling better knowing their friends are around. "Pre-communication" is appealing because of this flexibility.

Although I've imagined the scenarios and benefits of this kind of communication for years, it has been difficult to offer until now because of the need to remain constantly connected. Once you have to dial up to go online, the convenience is lost. It's no longer flexible, casual communication. The mylo was conceived to keep it easy. And a WLAN-based mobile device even frees you from needing a computer nearby. To me, the mylo was a chance to turn years of wishful thinking into reality.

Logic alone does not yield true usability

Feature Design mylo COM-1

Kubota:I'm in charge of user experience (UX) design, where we extrapolate conventional criteria of usability to assess the overall feeling of a product in use. All products must be evaluated and verified for ease of use, but too often, this merely ends up involving a check to make sure products are free of particular characteristics. Besides ensuring ease of use, how can we make products more natural and instinctive to use? More enjoyable? To do this, people in my role design the menu structures, the GUI, and specific product operation before subsequent product development.

From the standpoint of UX design, we can't always rely on sound logic to lead the way. Suppose you're looking for a track of music. It's logical to imagine that if internal and external memory is available, both should be represented as folders you can select. But from the user perspective, it really doesn't matter where tracks are physically stored; we just want to listen to the music. This led us to reorganize the mylo to help users find what they want more easily. The main abstraction is the "What's Up" screen. It's an integrated interface for Skype, Google Talk, and ad hoc apps. Unlike using a computer, you don't need to worry about starting different apps to communicate with different friends. Accessing this screen shows photo icons of registered friends. Those who are online are highlighted, regardless of their means of IM.

Practicality and refreshing innovation, joined in an endless loop

Tanaka:These functions and interactions are new, so we wrestled with how to express them in the product design. Although the shape of a mobile phone or PDA seems practical for calling or typing, these shapes utterly fail to convey what's appealing about the mylo. Instead, we wanted something interesting that piques people's curiosity. I noticed when testing different product shapes, holding devices, and making calls that I was inevitably touching the edge of the product. So we relaxed the outline into two joined circles, rounding it in gentle curves students will appreciate. This is the distinctive mylo shape.

Feature Design mylo COM-1

The glowing effect we imagined at the start happens along the edge. It's lit in blue in infrastructure mode and orange in ad hoc mode when communicating with other devices. It flashes during data transmission, and as a special touch, it provides visual feedback to users by the flashing intervals and light intensity, which signal the communication status.

,The last challenge was the keyboard panel color. Slice into a fruit, and suddenly the inside gives a completely different impression than the outside. That's what we imagined, but then we pondered which colors would be best. This is almost always left to the discretion of product designers, but we felt the colors must emphasize practicality and the mylo's winning features. In this as well, we benefited from the insight of our communication design experts.

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