Award Winning Entertainment
Last October, this column highlighted the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) 2018 International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) winners in the “Home” products category. This category covers a lot of territory. Along with home environments, building materials, furnishings and fixtures, housewares and cookware, it includes major appliances, countertop appliances, and home control systems. The dominant theme emerging from the 2018 IDEA Home category winners was “connectivity.” Eight of the 19 award winners in the category, or 42% of the total, featured internet-connectivity as a key product attribute.
We’ll complete our assessment of the 2018 IDEA winners by focusing on the “entertainment” products within the consumer technology category. The consumer technology category covers smart phones and IT-related devices including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, servers, monitors and input and peripheral devices. Traditional consumer electronics products—now termed “entertainment” products—round out the consumer technology category and includes televisions, gaming equipment, home audio equipment, digital cameras, headphones, and related accessories. Like the home product category, the key attributes that make this category of interest to appliance DESIGN readers are the diversity of materials and finishes specified for these products, the range of manufacturing processes used, clever electronics packaging techniques, and innovative user interface technology. This category also delivers these advancements across a broad range of retail price points, from sub-$100 items to thousands of dollars. The two gold award winners in the entertainment category were personal entertainment products, possibly indicating a shift is underway in how we entertain ourselves. We may be moving away from the more traditional communal entertainment products like home theater systems and concert-hall audio system componentry in favor of personal and immersive entertainment.
The Vive Focus VR headset by HTC is an excellent case in point. Designed to deliver a highly personal entertainment experience, its built-in CPU and battery pack eliminates the need to attach to a smart phone for processing power along with the associated cables and trackers. In order to accommodate as many users as possible, the HTC Industrial Design team analyzed large anthropometric datasets including head size, head shape, gender, age, race and other metrics. This data was then synthesized into the design of a triangular-shaped head support mechanism that distributes the weight and pressure points comfortably and eliminates the user fatigue associated with the long-term usage of typical VR headsets. The only other gold award-winner in the entertainment category also followed the path of creating a highly individual, yet universally adaptable product for personal entertainment. The nuraphone wireless Bluetooth headphones, a collaborative effort between the headphone manufacturer, nura, Tricycle Development, and the Office for Product Design was designed to automatically adapt its sound profile to match the individual listener’s hearing profile, while delivering an immersive feel associated with noise cancelling headphones. The result is music that doesn’t leak out nor let outside noise leak in. The nuraphone user experience actually starts with a smartphone app. The app guides the user through a 60-second objective hearing test that results in a personalized hearing profile that is applied to all songs played through the headphones.
Two 2018 IDEA Gold winners alone may not indicate the future of entertainment is entirely about a personal, immersive experience. In fact, one of the four silver winners in the entertainment category went to a Samsung large screen TV display that reverts to a static digital artwork display called Art Mode when not in use. Called THE FRAME, its minimalist aesthetic mimics that of an “analog” art frame one might see in a fine art installation. It’s also possible that the 2018 gold-award recognition is due to the fact that personal entertainment technology is simply catching up with its large-format siblings. Note however that two of the four silver winners were personal entertainment products, the Google Pixel ear buds that connect to the Google Assistant through a Google smart phone and the Oculus Touch VR controllers. Look for additional signs of this trend in the results of the 2019 IDEA Entertainment category, presented at the IDSA’s 2019 International Design Conference (IDC) held in Chicago August 21-23.
For a complete look at all 145 2018 IDEA gold, silver and bronze award winners, covering all 20 award categories, visit www.idsa.org/awards/idea/gallery. You’ll find all prior year winners as well. For additional insight on the 2018 IDEA, pick up the fall 2018 issue of the IDSA quarterly journal, Innovation.