Ideas and Pain-Points
Lush Labs is an internal Lush Concepts initiative dedicated to satisfying our curiosity and need for exploration through design sprints. These design sprints largely involve experimenting with tech ideas. Say hello to Listenly, a concept born from our most recent session.
The elevator pitch:
“For people consuming media on desktop and mobile devices who need a private yet comfortable listening experience, Listenly is a personal speaker that makes listening to media content more enjoyable. Unlike portable speakers and headphones, the product is ear-free and can only be heard by the person using them.”
In layman’s terms, only listeners positioned in front of the device can hear the sound coming from it. Listeners will no longer have to deal with things in their ears, restricted movement, and pesky wires. Yes, all of these benefits without compromising the privacy that headphones afford.
Listenly would be a device that pairs with laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It was designed to fit snugly on the edges of these devices. Additionally, a small clip located behind the device allows it to be fastened onto clothing or propped up on flat surfaces.
Its controls are simple the device can be turned on and off by pressing and holding the top face. Listeners can pause sound by gently tapping the device twice and resume sound by tapping it once.
Listenly would intelligently measure noise levels in the surrounding environment by leveraging mics onboard devices it’s paired with and set volume levels accordingly.
Where it could come in handy:
- Consuming media at work
- Consuming media when someone is sleeping nearby
- Consuming media while being active
- Consuming media while riding the plane, train, or bus
- Anytime you’re listening to “I Don’t give a ****” by Peaches
How did we arrive at Listenly? We started by asking ourselves the following question: what we would like to design/redesign? A system, service, or product?
We settled on designing a product and set the following criteria:
- It needed to be simple
- It needed to be useful in an everyday kind of sense
With this loose criterion in mind, we looked at design-thinking exercises that could help us generate ideas.
When ended up going with A Day in the Life, an exercise for examining people’s lives in detail — everything between waking up and falling asleep.
Here’s a step-by-step for anyone interested in recreating this exercise (make sure you have sticky notes, markers, and a flat surface):
1. Start by mapping pieces of someone’s entire day on a timeline e.g. alarm goes off in the morning, they then shower etc. Take those pieces and order them under the following headlines: morning, afternoon, and evening.
Begin from personal experience and gradually move onto different perspectives e.g. family, friends, colleagues, and classmates. Give it your all and aim for quantity.
2. Examine the pieces of someone’s day for places where pain-points may exist e.g. woken up abruptly by the obnoxious alarm clock in the morning or packed into a streetcar like a sardine.
“Waking up significant other with excessively loud alarm clock” This was the pain-point that sparked ideas around sound isolation, which in turn, led to exploring scenarios where sound isolation might prove useful.
3. When a nice body of pain-points has been generated, start thinking about products that lessen or remove those pain-points all together e.g. forgetting chargers at home = a device that converts energy from pedalling a bicycle into energy that powers laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
4. Aim for 50 to 100 product ideas and mark ones you find most interesting after finishing.
5. This is the tricky part, reduce your list a single idea, this is the idea you will be taking forward. If you’re having trouble narrowing things down, enlist others to help you discuss ideas and cast votes.
Once we had a direction, we looked into tech that could theoretically be used to actualize our ideas. The technology we came across is parametric speakers.
Here’s how they work: piezoelectric transducers produce two ultrasonic waves (red and blue), both at frequencies too high for humans to hear.
The transducers beam out modulated waves that travel in a single focused column — much like light beaming from a flashlight.
When the two waves hit someone, they slow down and demodulate, producing a new wave (green) whose frequency is much lower — equal to the difference between the red and blue waves. The frequency for this new wave is low enough for humans to hear.
When no one is positioned within the beams path, the wave keeps traveling without producing an audible noise. Moreover, the beam is inaudible to people nearby because these sound waves do not diverge from the source that makes them audible, unlike regular speakers.
At the present time, the technology is somewhat large and expensive; however, there are people currently trying to make it accessible.
Listenly is still very much a prototype. The industrial design process started with materials like paper and gradually progressed to more complex materials like hard-density Balsa Foam. At each stage, prototypes were scrutinized — flawed ideas were shelved or iterated upon.
Here’s a breakdown of our rapid prototyping process:
Stage 1. Basic sketches
Stage 2. Paper prototypes
Stage 3. Foamcore prototypes
Stage 4. Clay prototypes
Stage 5. hard-density Balsa Foam prototype
Tools of creation:
- Cutting board
- Ellipse stencil
- Flexible ruler
- FoamWerks foamboard cutters
- Generic wooden sculpting tool set
- Hand-held rotary cutters
- Sanding paper
- X-Acto knives
The final stage of the process involved 3D scanning the model and mending the mesh with Rhinoceros and CINEMA 4D. Our biggest hurdle was designing a form factor that was inclusive of all devices from a UI, UX, and ID perspective.
Having parametric speakers integrated into our devices is the optimal route. However, devices such as Listenly could exist as pioneers that validate market interest. Interested in knowing more? Have specific questions? Feel to reach out @edwinslara.