Unicorn Tracks Part 1: Smartware
The quest for the next big product
This is a series about unicorn tracks, also known as the quest for the next amazing idea. If you haven’t read our intro article to this series, check it out here.
Everyone knows the struggle of feeding yourself/others. You come home after a long day, you open the fridge, and you might see this:
What is actually in all those tupperware containers? Do you know? Do you even care?
Try these facts on for size:
Every year in the U.S., approximately 40% of food goes to waste.
Globally, food waste generates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
This amounts to US$1 trillion dollars of wasted or lost food.
These are staggering numbers, and we think much of the waste stems from one simple fact: You don’t know what’s in your fridge until it goes bad.
Even if you are an early-rising, hyper-organized, yoga-doing, shake-drinking efficiency guru, you are likely still throwing out a fair amount of food.
We see this as a solvable problem.
We began by thinking about how a tupperware container could be augmented to solve the waste problem.
Essentially, you have a “dumb” object that you want to imbue with some brains (as is the case with many IoT products these days). We started to map out the basics of the experience through various product architectures.
We immediately came up against some hard constraints; power, connectivity, temperature, and washability.
Any one of these limitations could put a damper in the idea, but as we weighed the pros and cons of each architecture, we saw a path forward using RFID and an external “WiFi puck” to help relay data.
We mapped out a basic service blueprint that describes the various stages of interaction and which external factors were involved in each touchpoint. The purpose of the document is largely functional and helps establish the “what” of this experience.
It shows us the most pressing user issues for each moment in the timeline of interaction and how communication might occur between the product, the mobile device, and the user.
Speaking with stakeholders, we were able to build a heuristic representation of the experience, taking into account some emotional states, potential sticking points, and product opportunities.
Here is where we begin to understand factors such as tactility, physical-digital interaction, and time-scale. Building a product narrative that exists over time will inform the design of the product down the line.
As we moved along the strategic process, we needed a way to communicate a richer visual narrative to really sell the idea. This is where storyboarding can be very powerful; with just a short series of visual mockups, we are able to quickly communicate how this might work and why it has a measurable benefit to the user.
The mobile user interface is very important to the success of the product, so we spent time iterating various designs that would serve as a jumping-off point for development.
Producing these mockups helps us begin to answer questions like:
- How will information be laid out?
- What color palettes might work for the product?
- What is the basic information architecture?
There is still much work to be done developing the brand identity, the physical product, and the UX of the app, but these quick visuals imply how the visuals impact the user.
For example, one thought we had was to develop a library of, for lack of a better word, “food porn images” to serve as placeholders for the actual food items. When a user creates a new entry, a beautiful image is automatically added as the avatar.
In this way, the app always looks appetizing and creates fewer sticking points for the user.
We definitely see potential in this concept. There are lots of reasons why this could potentially make it to market:
- It’s a real problem.
- If done correctly, it could be affordable to the average consumer.
- The solution could provide a measurable benefit.
Some of the sticking points:
- Success depends on the user inputting data
- Washability might be a lingering issue.
- A smartphone and WiFi are necessary peripherals.
Is it unicorn poop? You be the judge.
Sprout Studios is an award-winning, Boston-based concept to launch design studio deeply rooted in today’s pop culture and technology. Our multidisciplinary team fuses innovation, creativity, and instinct to design authentic lifestyle-driven products, brands, and experiences. We work at the convergence of hardware and software, bringing UI/UX and digital design together with physical products.
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