In celebration of multi-touch in Windows® 8, this new VAIO® turns the tables on "personal" computing, making the computer the centerpiece of family entertainment. VAIO® Tap 20 redefines computers as a way to bring people together and spark communication. Is this the future of home computing?
Shimizu:Multi-touch is a big draw of Windows® 8. It offers a more hands-on experience than traditional mouse-based computing where monitors are just for viewing. Computers as we know them are clearly changing. In this direct interaction, as you touch a screen with your fingers or a stylus, the first thing you notice is the difference in the sense of distance relative to the monitor. And once you're touching the screen, you realize that several screen positions are conceivable—perpendicular, tilted, and so on. In design, the physical, touch-related aspects of the user experience are therefore much more important. Another consideration for us was that as a broader range of applications emerge, personal computers may not necessarily be particularly "personal" any more.
We sensed that adding tactile and group-oriented elements would change how computers are used. This would surely make people appreciate computers in new ways. What form should a VAIO® with these qualities take? Our project began by delving deep into this issue to conceive a tangible answer.
Early in development, we identified viable user scenarios, based on a solid understanding of the market, to derive new user cases. From there, we worked out scenarios and visual representations in collaboration with our designers in Europe, where we had already established a sound framework for this kind of design work. Together we repeatedly brainstormed and traced out situations of people using their computers, which we then visualized to evaluate these scenarios in detail.
Emmanuelle:Prop the screen up as you type on a keyboard to work during the day. Tilt it back for browsing when you want to take a break; relax and control it by touch. In the evening, lay it down flat to play a game with your child. After imagining many scenarios such as these, we ended up with illustrations of several user cases. Over the course of this work, the optimal shape of a computer for these situations became clear.
Shimizu:What helped us imagine scenarios with a few people using the computer together was a scene of people talking as they sat around a magazine lying open on a table. Attempting to recreate this kind of communication led to a computer that can lie perfectly flat.
Uehara:Another reason for enabling horizontal usage was that conventional monitors in a fixed upright position seem inadequate for multi-touch interaction. An upright screen must be moved a little each time to face the user trying to touch it, but a screen lying flat on a table is more flexible and easily within everyone's reach.
Shimizu:Still, some of us were skeptical about using it flat on a table. Would people really use a computer this way, rather than in the familiar, upright position? What dispelled our preconceptions were key visuals showing friends or family members sitting around a computer lying flat on the floor; enjoying it as if it were a board game. The scene demonstrated a new user behavior and introduced a new appreciation of computers—their potential to spark genuine communication. Seeing this, we knew VAIO® Tap 20 had to be able to lie flat.