Feature Design x-Application

Design can make or break products

Shingo Utsuki

Utsuki: Most electronics manufacturers develop software for particular purposes to implement hardware functions. In this case, keeping operation as easy as possible is basically all designers have to consider. But with today's multifunction products, even the GUI can't be designed without defining the "what" and "how" of user enjoyment, which makes our design work more difficult.

Software development can be an opportunity to solve this issue. The mode users select determines their intention, which determines the right GUI to help them do what they want to do. By keeping this in mind, we plan the optimal interactivity between users and products. It's also how we guide users who might be somewhat overwhelmed by versatile products that do everything—how we explain what product features are and how users can enjoy products through particular operations. In the sense that x-Applications offer users many of these tips, developing the suite was a valuable experience for us, too.

Always ready for inspiration outside of routine

Ippei Tambata,Shingo Utsuki,Kazuto Mugura

Tambata: x-Applications were actually inspired outside of our regular work routines. Voluntary workshops about three years ago presented the opportunity. Some fifty designers, marketing reps, product planners, and engineers met across disciplinary boundaries to brainstorm. What user experiences should we offer? What was needed to make it happen? These were the ideas we discussed. Organizing our thoughts into a one-minute explanation, having one group refine another's ideas and so on, led product planners to summarize the key concepts. From this, we decided that approaching design from software development would be best.

Mugura: Even before the workshops, we were keenly interested in how to gather ideas from outside our daily routines. Actually, we often hear of cases where programs informally developed by software engineers for personal enjoyment are somehow noticed by designers, end up impressing everyone, and are then officially developed. On the other hand, designers' ideas are still only illustrations, no matter how immersive the graphics may be. There's no way to evaluate an idea until software engineers are assigned the programming and we try it out with the hardware. Only then will we know if it's truly enjoyable. The workshops proved very effective in solving this issue.

In fact, we still have many more x-Application ideas from those sessions up our sleeve. How will we develop them, and how will they shape future product development? We'll be exploring the enjoyable and compelling new experiences ourselves along with you as the apps are distributed in various forms, including free releases. Look for more exciting developments in Sony interaction design.

*x-Time Line is available in Japanese only (as of February 1, 2008.)

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