Connected devices need to be better, not just different

We have entered a “time of confusion and ill-conceived stuff,” Ammunition design studio founder Robert Brunner said at the Gigaom Roadmap 2014 conference Tuesday. By “stuff” he meant the hoards of connected devices arriving to replace our appliances and tools, many of which do just fine as dumb devices.

But connected devices do have their places. In order to determine where exactly those are, Brunner offered five pieces of advice:

  • Seek purity of purpose: Not every device needs to help you access your email. “Always stay close to what that original purpose is,” Brunner said.
  • Make it a better thing: Different is not enough. A connected device should truly make its users’ lives better.
  • Don’t ask your audience to do too much: People shouldn’t have to take out a screwdriver, let alone make major changes in their life to accommodate a device.
  • Make information actionable: Tell people what is going on, but also give them the ability to understand and take action on what exactly they can do with it.
  • Build a relationship between design and data: They need each other.

Ammunition is behind the design of the now ubiquitous Beats headphones, plus products like Adobe’s Ink and Slide iPad stylus. In the case of Ink and Slide, Ammunition had to rethink the pen and ruler to adapt it to a tablet. The same went for Polaroid’s Cube camera, which is meant to take the place of an instant camera without being as intimidating as a GoPro.

“I’m not a base jumping, double black diamond kind of person,” Brunner said. “I just want to strap a camera on my toddler’s helmet.

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