Media Center Voice Remote – A Design Challenge

The industrial design of our voice remote for media center was one of the major steps that we had to accomplish to get to market. The media center software plugin that forms the basis for our voice interface had been in development for almost eighteen months. The hardware development of the associated remote control internal electronics had been progressing for at least twelve months. These were needed first, Use Of Technology In Different Fields to demonstrate the idea. But to make it real we needed a form. A shape to contain the magic. This was one of the most interesting aspects of the project for me. I have previously been involved in high volume consumer devices, but not something so tactile. It needed to round off the product and provide the final polish. The outside appearance needed to measure up to the internal advanced technology.
We worked with industrial designers to get to the final design. The first step was to give them a brief, the guidelines that we thought were needed to do the technology justice. The brief took a while to crystallize, but it soon became obvious after some discussion. A voice remote control has to stand out from the crowd, because it’s not just another remote control, it’s got voice! It has to look distinctive, and still function as an ergonomic, usable media center accessory. There were also the technically detailed aspects of the brief such as button type, layout and styling to meet the Hans Swildens Linkedin criteria for a media center addon product. But more importantly there were the higher level, aesthetic elements, which we eventual summarized as “distinctive, stylish, a new type of interface device”.
Our industrial design partners initially produced three prototypes which were used to examine possible directions. One of these want on to be what is now in the shops. The two that went by the wayside were interesting and we may yet do something with the design ideas they showed. We incorporated some aspects of each into the final design.
I believe we succeeded in achieving what we had specified in the initial brief. The finished product is a sculpted, ergonomic design in black with silver highlights. The buttons are hard covered with a positive action. There is subtle back-lighting of the whole face. The distinctive logo at the top highlights the microphone, and gives visual feedback to the user. This distinguishes it as not just another remote control.

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