Hirohito Kondo (“Henry” to his colleagues), is the lead planner for our smartwear Experience range. Following the announcements in Berlin at IFA we caught up with him to talk planning, designing, creating…
Sony’s wearable strategy may run along separate (parallel) paths but it is informed by the same principles. We’re currently running a two-strand strategy. There’s the “smartwatch” evolution, a process that began in earnest almost a decade ago, and reached a new stage with the announcement of smartwatch 3; and there’s the smartband evolution that began more recently with SmartBand and reached its next phase in the form of smartband Talk. Both devices fulfil a very different role in our overall portfolio but it’s surprising when you look at the way they come together, how similar the creative process is that underpins them is.
Our approach is supported by different themes, which together, shape a lot of the way we make decisions about these products. We’ve talked before about our approach to what we call “adaptive geometry”. This is the process by which we decide how to balance the demands of traditional technology with the demands placed by human beings on their wearable tech. It’s not surprising that technology is easiest to build and design in rigid boxes. But human bodies don’t work that way, so if you’re designing something to be wearable you need to balance the demands of the technology with ergonomics of a wearable device. So for example, the curvature of core in the smartband SWR10, and the same curvature of rigid body element in smartband Talk, all of that is governed by our approach to adaptive geometry.
We know when someone buys a normal watch, they are doing far more than buying a way of telling the time, the same is true of a smartwatch. The watch you buy says something about you and this poses a number of challenges to smartwear planners – how do you balance creating a product that blends in with someone’s lifestyle, that is unobtrusive, with one that people want to show-off, a product that makes a statement? We call this the “Human tech” question. It’s about balancing the competing roles of technology and wearables. The flip side of this question is about individuality, we know that no-matter how great the design, people want to express themselves through something personal. With this in my we try to build in element of “wearable style” to all our new wearable products, it is an approach that has lead us to our modular designs – where the smart core of a product can be removed from the strap and re-contextualised by the user. This also allows us a degree of flexibility to work with new partners.
In the end the smartwear Experience will always be a balancing act between native capabilities of a product and the overall connected experience. For Sony products, the Lifelog application is an integral part of this. It’s designed to create a more emotional connection between people and their smart wearable devices. We know that people need more than stats if they are going to want to wear a device every day, so Lifelog is all about re-creating that emotional connection by involving the SmartWear in the everyday moments that have real significance to people. We said the whole concept is based around the notion of “life is a journey”. And we meant it – you start to love your SmartWear when it starts to play a part in your everyday experience of life. Health trackers are fine, but they don’t help you to experience anything other than exercise and for me at least that’s not enough to justify wearing one day in, day out.
Wearable technology is an essentially human category, even more so than a smartphone in that – if you’re not wearing it, it is playing no part in your day-to-day experience and it’s only by using the principles that we’ve talked about here that we can create the devices that matter to people. Through some of the new features in smartband Talk and smartwatch 3 we’ve taken some really big steps in the right direction and we’re excited about delivering them.