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Designing a Whole New Way to Experience Smart Speakers

LUVAR is a family of products focused on fortifying the relationship between smart speakers and its user. Founded upon the idea that conversation design between humans and devices can extend beyond rational dialogues, LUVAR aspires to enrich voice user experiences with luminous visual cues.

Here's the thing...

Users often have to look at their smart speaker for visual cues to confirm if the device had heard them.

And the problem is...

In many use cases, the user is seeking help for an occurring task and having to take their mind off it can be bothersome.

Which begs the question...

Instead of intentionally looking, wouldn't it be better if the users could simply feel the voice assistant's presence?

OBSERVATION

Most of the smart speaker's states are silent.

Waking
Listening
Thinking
Silent
Speaking
Sound

Simplified states of Amazon Echo*, similar applies to Google Home and Apple HomePod.

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

  • I interviewed smart speaker designers and smart speaker users, focusing on what the voice assistant's presence in the home should be and the pain points of using voice assistants. 

  • Conversation design principles and design guidelines for Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

  • Lighting design principles and why lighting is the best medium to communicate emotions within a living space.

QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH

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So what's the deal?

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The displacement between the user and their smart speaker can make or break the voice user experience. From conducting research, not knowing if the smart speaker heard what the user said is one of the biggest pain points. It takes trust to communicate with a smart speaker from across the room, especially when visual cues on most devices are subtle and only works best when in close proximity.

Thanks to conversation designers, the dialogues from smart speakers are user-friendly and concise. However, dialogues are only a part of what creates a meaningful conversation. It is the visuals that help us perceive emotions, stay in focus, and build trust in a conversation.

The majority of smart speakers are headless devices with an attention system. These visual cues report the states of the voice assistant to give its user peace of mind.

Newer iterations of smart speakers are screen based devices where visual aid comes into play. This proves the importance of visuals in helping users quickly absorb information, 

but what about the sentimental aspects?

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HomePod Square.gif
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Visual cues of headless smart speakers: Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Amazon Echo

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Visual cues of screen based smart speaker: Google Home Hub

CONCEPT

Smart lighting products that emit visual cues in sync with the smart speaker.

The illumination brings out Alexa’s presence into the room to engage in a meaningful conversation with its user. The visual cues are carefully designed to display emotions that match the different states Alexa goes through. This lighting experience is designed to restore empathy that is lost from the smart speaker's subtle visual cues. The stronger attention system also boosts the user's confidence to communicate with their smart speaker from a further distance.

PRODUCT POSITIONING

How can this experience be delivered?

Syncing visual cues with smart speakers are intentionally designed for an enhanced experience. Therefore, smart lights that possess this function also need to accommodate for multiple use cases in order to fit into people's lives. 

User Personas

I developed user personas from my survey participants who are both smart speaker and smart light users. These user personas served as a guide to help me effectively introduce this experience into their lives.

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John Wu

John is looking to purchase his first smart speaker and smart lights. He is looking for smart lights that can adapt to his varying lighting needs and is open to new experiences.

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Elsa Turner

Elsa loves all forms of entertainment. Whether it’s for movies, music, games, or parties, Elsa is looking for smart lights to elevate her entertainment experiences.

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Dave Robinson

Dave is a daily user of smart speakers and smart home products. He owns multiple smart speakers and actively looks for new products to enhance his experience.

Choose Product

INDUSTRIAL DESIGN

Crossing the consumer chasm.

Smart lights that sync visual cues with smart speakers is a new concept. To adapt to different consumer lifestyles, the product has to be designed for multiuse. The product's presence should be like a piece of furniture, blending into the home environment.

 

I designed three smart lighting products with the qualities mentioned.

Click on each of them to see what makes each of them quintessential for providing this experience and more!

Pick a Product

Designed to delight.

LuvarSound

Designed to adapt.

LuvarPod

Designed to elevate.

LuvarStrip

PROCESS

Designing Emotions

Waking

Listening

Thinking

Answering

Capturing Emotions

Before designing visual cues, I created visualizations that resonate with the different states that Alexa goes through during a conversation. The point of this exercise was to try to capture the emotions that were apparent to Alexa's different states.

Keeping In Mind

During the design process, I had to consider the design principles that apply to the smart speaker experience. Examples are how the interactions are meant to be clear and concise or how voice assistants were designed with a certain character. These considerations resulted in the pace, rhythm, and form of the animations.

VISUALIZATIONS

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“Right at your service”

Instant

Greeting

Concise

Appear

Power On

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Listening-Oscillate-Circular.gif

“Take your time”

Mirroring

Calm

Respectful

Undivided Attention

Slightly Nodding

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Thinking-Ripple-Random.gif

“Please wait…”

Bouncing around

Ideation

Emerging

Loading…

In Loop

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“Here you go”

Instant

Accomplishment

Rewarding

Winning

Hand Out

These visualizations later served as a guide for me to create the lighting cues that glow from LUVAR’s products.

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Designing Emotions

PROCESS

Designing Visual Cues

Prototyping

Following the visual guide I created, I coded Neopixels to capture the same emotions.

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Simplification

The final design simplifies the visualizations to provide clear and concise visual cues. Many factors were taken into consideration, such as the form of the product, the presence of light, and what users might find annoying. 

Waking

When the user wakes Alexa, LUVAR lighting products turn blue.

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Listening

Light gently pulses and loops.

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Thinking

Light alternately pulses in corners.

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Answering

Light bursts and stays on as Alexa responds.

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Also check out...

The Industrial Design Process

LUVAR is a marriage of user experience and industrial design. Click the button below to visit each product's industrial design pages to see the process.

Project completed in Fall 2018.

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