Feature Design TV Remote Control for Kids RM-KZ1
Feature Design TV Remote Control for Kids RM-KZ1

Children like to imitate their parents

Miyazaki: Next we considered what shapes would be easiest for children to use. Summoning my "inner child," I molded some clay models. Normally I would sketch what I had in mind, create a 3D model, and then try out a mock-up. This time, "thinking with my hands" seemed the most direct way to see what shape felt easiest to use, because it's something children will hold in their hand.

I created all manner of models. A donut-shaped remote held in both hands. A bean-shaped remote, narrower in the middle. A remote shaped like a controller, made with young gamers in mind. A flashlight-shaped remote, seemingly ready to shine a beam of light. A bar-shaped remote, and one with a button layout that made it resemble a face. Without further elaboration, I tested the ideas by sending the models to colleagues in the U.S., where children and their parents held them and commented about how they felt.

The remote that proved most popular was the bean-shaped one, which tapered in the middle. I was surprised to learn that most children liked it because it "seemed like a remote." But after all, children do like to hold things their parents hold and use them just as their parents do. In contrast, the models I thought (from an adult perspective) would please children-remotes in the form of game controllers or toys-were inconsistent with how children value their parents' possessions and behavior. In fact, this kind of bean shape dominated the pictures drawn by children who helped us by sketching their ideal remote. It convinced us of the direction we should take in styling.

Anticipating children's behavior

Miyazaki: There was a risk that in the hands of children, the remote might be used in unexpected ways, so we had to imagine all kinds of scenarios and refine the bean-shaped body. To make the ergonomic, concave body even easier to hold, we added strips of rubbery nonslip material, but the surface is smooth and glossy, making it easy to wipe and keep clean. The remote is also splashproof, which protects it from little mishaps such as juice spills. The buttons are slightly inset, so that the remote can be put upside-down on a surface without the risk of accidentally changing channels.

The buttons parents use to program channels children can watch by pressing the seven main buttons are concealed behind a cover. Once the settings are complete, you secure the cover with a screw. This way, children can't access the programming buttons. The same screw keeps the battery lid in place, which prevents children from accidentally opening the battery compartment. It's also convenient for parents, who can simply remove a single screw whether programming channels or changing the batteries. As for the batteries themselves, although many remotes use AA batteries, we chose a smaller size, AAA. For children, the lighter the remote, the better.

And because children tend to become impatient and keep pressing the same button again and again if a remote doesn't seem to work right away, we included three LEDs to send the signal-arranged for good coverage whether the remote is held horizontally or vertically. It's easy to imagine children holding a remote upright to see the buttons better as they control it. Normally this would send signals up toward the ceiling, but because signals are also emitted from the back of this remote, the coverage is much better.

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