Smart Monitor

This project was focused on improving the work from home experience. We designed a smart monitor with a built in camera, microphone and speaker components. Our objective was to simplify workflow, minimize workspace and limit the need for accessories. 

We first did a full market scan of both traditional and smart monitors. We focused on design, user experience and price point. This allowed us to see gaps in the market that we could try and improve. Speaker sound quality was lacking in most smart monitors and was considered unbalanced. Microphone performance often was mediocre and did not have easy privacy controls. Integrated cameras were low quality for the most part We reviewed smart monitor currently in market as well as traditional monitors to see what areas could be improved.. 

We have some ideas - let's get some feedback!

We started with concept testing and interviewed 15 people for a total of 60 minutes. We focused on participants who work from home or hybrid. Our questions centered around their existing workflow, their likes and dislikes about products they use. From our market research, we had some initial ideas on how we could build a high-end monitor that would help users work more efficiently.

 Aside from the expectation of having a high quality display, there was high interest in having premium speakers, microphone and camera. Privacy was a top concern and was brought up repeatedly by participants. Multiple participants expressed interest in having a simplified mute option, finding a common action used daily harder than it should be. Multiple people mentioned covering webcams with tape, paper or a 3rd party privacy slider.

The challenge of designing an integrated camera focused on privacy

When the integrated camera is on, the lens is visible and a white status light is shown. When the lens is closed, an internal slider covers the camera and the status light turns off. The physical camera slider on top of the monitor allows users to manually turn the camera off. There is also an option of turning the camera off using the software. Users liked having a manual option of turning off the integrated camera but expressed concern that in low light situations it was hard to tell if the camera slider was closed or opened,

"Am I really, really sure my camera is off?"

Users repeated expressed the need of having 100% confidence in camera status. For an additional indicator, we added a status light that shows for 3 seconds after the camera slider is closed. This received positive feedback from the majority of users. A minority of users did not like having this light.  The takeaway was that users wanted full control over their settings. The light on the camera cover is a default setting, however users can disable it in the on-screen display software.

The ability to mute without interrupting workflow

The mute button was a critical concern for users.  Some users mentioned needing to quickly mute but having to spend a few seconds searching for the mute button on the application. Confidence and transparency were clear needs that needed to be addressed. When the user clicks "mute", they wanted to be sure it mutes every microphone in the UX (monitor, laptop, O/S).  "Am I really muted" was mentioned by multiple users. 

What's the quickest and easiest way to turn microphone on / off?

There was strong interest in having a physical button for the microphone.  Adding a button to the monitor stand had multiple issues. From a mechanical standpoint, the stand needed to be larger to support the feature which made the minimal stand bulkier. This was also a more expensive option to produce.  Having a button on the back of the monitor for quick access did not test well. Users were concerned they would be fumbling around trying to find the button.  Option C was the easiest to use and was in turn the clear favorite.

Quick control panel with an extra dose of reassurance

The goal is to have the user in full control over their notifications. Users have the option of having on-screen pop-ups that appear for 3 seconds each time the camera and microphone state are changed. This can be disabled in settings. There is also a simplified control panel for users who don't want to use the touch capacitive button.

Quick and easy access to additional ports

The purpose of this monitor is minimizing accessories and in turn reducing cords. However, there is a still a strong need for having ports for additional devices and research showed that this is a common frustration. We opted to have ports on the back of the monitor to easily hide wires. Additional often-used ports are accessible underneath with a slight tilt of the monitor.

What problems are we trying to solve?

There were various use cases that we started mapping out. Our focus remained on productivity and ease of use. How can we simplify the hybrid work experience? 

Can we save users a few seconds and add some privacy?

Wake-On-Approach and Walk-Away-Lock both require Face ID, which we found was polarizing during testing. Approximately half of users did not want to have Face ID set up on another device.  The other half found this to be a great way to save time and increase privacy. There was frustration at having to wait a few seconds to turn on external monitors and this could help speed up the process. Multiple users mentioned having young kids and like the added layer of security in knowing their computer would be locked when they walked away. This was another area that was important for users to have full control in activating or deactivating Face ID as well as adjusting the timer for each setting individually.

On-Screen Display that gives users advanced controls

The On Screen Display allows users the ability....

What's next for this project?

We're looking to create a hybrid smart monitor that doubles as a tablet. When talking to users about simplifying their workspaces, there was often frustration around having too many devices and accessories.