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Tech push or user pull?

By Adam Haynes - Last updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014

The smart watch market has long been touted as the ‘next big thing’ but tech developers have been underwhelmed by the slow adoption of wearables to date. According to a leaked report back in October 2013, at least 30% of Galaxy Gear watches sold by the US-based chain Best Buy were being returned by unsatisfied customers. The situation hasn’t particularly improved for the market since then. How come? The recipe seems correct – a plethora of readily available devices which contain incredible technology, miniaturised for the first time in beautifully sculpted forms for users to flaunt on their wrists – yet the results speak of a marked reticence to adopt.

This seems to be a classic example of ‘technology push’ overriding a genuine ‘user pull.’ In the rush to commercialise these new technologies, there has been something of an oversight concerning how to actually improve people’s everyday lives. Discovering what users actually need and desire from a product is vitally important to ensure technology is embraced rather than overlooked or, worse, discarded at considerable time and expense for both tech developer and consumer.

For me personally, the main attraction of wearables has been the sensing capability. It has allowed me to analyse my personal health and activity. I understand for this to work the sensors need to be in contact with my skin, so therefore I’ve been willing to tether such an outwardly simple looking device to my wrist.

However, the newest generation of smart watches goes a step further – they are bristling with rich user interfaces which don’t just show health monitoring data but allow for scaled-down interactions with our smartphones. What I fail to understand is why interact with such a device directly at all? Apple’s unveiling of its watch left me unconvinced. User interaction with such a small form factor seems counter intuitive considering the phablet generation has grown so accustomed to giant touchscreen content. Whilst squinting at the watch’s tiny display using the equally miniscule dial with my other hand, my phone doesn’t seem so far away down there in my pocket! The key to success for smartwatches will partly involve providing functions that aren’t a second-rate version of what I can achieve using my phone. The other key to success is nailing the ‘I don’t know what it does but I want it’ aspect!

At Cambridge Consultants, our user-centred design group – consisting of industrial designers and human factors engineers – interrogates the subconscious conversations we have with new technologies. We research and discover the ‘user pulls,’ in order to understand what people need and desire. We then work alongside our in-house technology and product development teams to ensure we deliver an appropriate product and enjoyable experience.


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AuthorAdam Haynes


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