Consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers’ heavy investment in user interfaces (UIs) often garner tepid adoption rates, due to a combination of technical immaturity and basic human resistance to change. Investment in simple, beneficial innovation that improves all consumers’ experiences, while specifically catering to the accessibility market is a great investment.
Device manufacturers are continually experimenting with new features and functions on remote controls, and in the broader UI realm. In many cases, these features add significant cost to the device, requiring the integration of additional sensors, complex software stacks increasing the CPU requirements of devices, and, in some cases, requiring consumer education, which impacts the out of the box (OOB) usability of products. All of these can increase product costs, decrease margins in competitive environments, and lead to consumer returns, which is one of the most costly challenges for manufacturers.
Simpler solutions sometimes appear on the horizon with strong potential benefits, but lack some of the adoption barriers compared to more advanced technologies. Replacement of traditional buttons with a scroll rocker (a textured, rounded rocker) can help consumers immediately locate the most commonly used buttons, including channel up-down, volume, and navigation, functions. Scroll rockers are an investment in ergonomics, as they require less pressure to actuate than typical remote buttons, while providing a strong tactile response. Scroll rockers could also implement pressure sensing to dynamically alter navigation speed. Scroll rockers are significantly less expensive than functions like gesture recognition, which require integration of a camera, as well as increasing microprocessor performance.
CONSUMERS ARE STILL REACHING FOR THE REMOTE
Despite all of the available options, consumers still reach for the remote for reasons described above. Newer UIs typically augment, rather than replace, existing UIs. In the PC realm, keyboards are still the dominant text input device, even after the waves made by Siri in the mobile realm. Speech to text input is catching on in mobile, especially for shorter communications, such as text messaging. Despite the number of options available, the most reliable UI will always have strong adherents and will remain a fallback strategy for mainstream consumers. In addition to the mass market appeal of improving the still-default device, there are additional audiences for whom ergonomic improvements in UI offer additional benefits. Audiences for whom the scroll rocker may offer additional benefits include:
Mobility impaired and those with severe arthritis
Aging populations with limited range of motion and dexterity
Blind audiencesbetter analogs to now common UIs, but in some cases, these examples fail to live up to the high standards set forth by mobile devices and any shortfalls are greatly exacerbated by these expectations. Ultimately, while many consumers try these new UI elements when the platform is new, if the function fails to operate reliably and repeatedly, or if it requires going back to the manual to remember the command.
NEW INNOVATION CAN FEEL FAMILIAR
Sustainable UI innovation today typically touches multiple layers of technology. Leveraging a basic hardware innovation, such as a scroll rocker, can best impact the consumer experience by integrating changes at the hardware, software, and UI layers.
Applying a scroll rocker to achieve low-effort and ergonomic volume and channel control can work at the hardware-level alone. Improving control paradigms around pressure sensing and fast volume adjustment and responsiveness could occur with hardware, as well as minor software-level features.
The most innovative uses of xcrool could leverage tray-based infinite content listings from modern live or VOD services, together with a UI makeover, to offer truly intuitive navigation. A scroll rocker could also incorporate additional functions to help reduce button clutter; for instance, by making the scroll rocker clickable (like a gamepad joystick), the user could readily switch between two sets of commands (e.g., channel up/down and page up/down). Condensing commonly used functions into one input/command element simplifies the UI, but needs proper labeling to ensure consumers know how to access the second tier commands.