Simple but Intricate Design: An Invisible Hand behind Xiaoya AI Speaker
“Artificial intelligence was still very‘hard’ when I was a student, but now it has reached a ‘soft’ level,” saidDavide Venturelli, a researcher at Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory,NASA Ames Research Center, when talking about the development phase of AI.Bills can be paid by scanning eye wrinkles. Ovens have the function of live broadcasting.Mattresses can remember your body figure. Speakers start to “talk”. It cannotbe denied that the age of AI has come. Xiaoya AI Speaker, co-created by LKKInnovative Design Group (LKK) and Himalaya, the biggest Chinese audio clipssharing platform, marks the raising of the curtain of speaker innovative andintelligent reform in China.
With the simple slogan of “listeningeverything through voice command instead of action”, Xiaoya speaker featuresvarious powerful functions. Himalaya has successfully “transferred” its contentcarrier from its online app to a product mainly supported by “technology” and“design”. “LKK’s design manuscripts of Xiaoya Speaker are higher if piled upthan the product itself,” said Li Haibo, CEO of Himalaya Group, on the launchevent of Xiaoya. It’s not simple behind its “simple” design. Its design is likea pair of invisible hands which make the intelligent speaker a vivid andsubstantial one with characteristics and ability of understanding you.
Curves After Hundreds of Adjustments
“Xiaoya, as its name suggests, is designedwith the concept of elegance and cleverness throughout the whole process,” saidits designers at LKK.
Xiaoya has the voice of a girl next door,and it should have gentle curves and lines. For designers, every tinyadjustment could be a big change of its whole expression. In order to find themost suitable voice in line with its character to enhance its affinity,designers have tried and adjusted every curve for almost hundreds of times soas to make it more elegant and smoother. The curve connected to the top hasbeen adjusted over and over again to provide the best visual perception.
Slightly Cambered Surface Solves ExperienceProblem
Design is not a method to make the producta good-looking one, but has always been the best solution to its pain points.This concept has been demonstrated by the design of Xiaoya Speaker.
In consideration of user experience, thetop of the speaker is designed to be slightly cambered, which not only meetsthe demand of leaving room to let sound out, but also strengthens users’tactile experience. It’s very difficult to find the slight camber with humaneyes, but when touching it to adjust the sound volume, one will acquire asubtle sense of touch which increases emotional interactions with Xiaoya.
Simplified Design, Sophisticated Visual Effect
Minimalism is great beauty of design, andso is Xiaoya’s.
There’s no operation signs on the speaker.From designers’ perspective, there is no need to guide the simple volumecontrol and confirming operation because it could be done by relying on commonoperative habit. Therefore, designers boldly abandoned the sign details withdeep understanding of users’ habits.
Design Warms It Up
Xiaoya is designed to go into life, and itcould be placed on the bedside table, dining room and kitchen, and could beeither an intimate sister or a girl next door. Therefore, considering usagescenario, designers broke the “cold” appearance of traditional speakers andchose the kind of cloth of soft furnishing as the extra packing outside themetal body to let it have its own “warm” expressions.
Considering texture, thread count,elasticity and sound permeability, designers chose the kind of cloth of softfurnishing from thousands of types of cloth after meticulous thinking of everydetails. They hope it be a whole without any gap from the outside, which hasbeen successfully achieved with a friendly appearance.
Cute and Smart Xiaoya
For designers from LKK, Xiaoya is not only a speaker, but also an 18-year-oldgirl living next door. They hope to give her special characteristics ofcuteness and smartness.
Tripod pedestal is the most challenging part in the designing process. There’snothing special at first sight, but it’s the most characteristic part in itssimple appearance. The “small and round” design for tripod at initial stageplaced constrains on its stability, and that’s why it was finally abandonedafter several tries. LKK designers said, “We immediately dropped the originalplan and started to think it over again. The contact area between the speakerand the table surface should be reduced as much as possible to avoid theacoustic interference caused by resonance, which closely combined thefunctional requirement and the design.” With unremitting efforts of dozens ofmanuscripts deliberations and trials, the final version of Xiaoya speakerappears.
From Project-design to R&D-design
Designers have adopted AI as a new tool of design instead of using a pen or aruler. Design is not only aimed at solving problems on the surface, but alsosupposed to go deep into the research and development process and to designafter own experiences from clients’ point of view.
Xiaoya is not only a smart speaker, but also a start of “transformation” forHimalaya and, for LKK, a solid step from project-design towardsresearch-and-development-design.