Our small but nimble design team can’t help but come up with products and it was in-between paid consultancy projects that we created Project Lucy.
inventid is a strategic design consultancy working in product, packaging and customer experience. In 2014, inventid was asked by Plessey Semiconductors to explore the opportunities around light and data.
The challenge being to rapidly produce a concept prototype which Plessey could then use to demonstrate their innovations in sensors and LED technology.
After in-depth research and design, our team delivered Totem, a lightbulb that could swap in and out various modules to suit various needs. For instance, the Totem lightbulb could double as a smoke detector in the kitchen, an audio speaker in the living room or a voice controlled assistant in the hallway. All functions which naturally augment the traditional lighting infrastructure.
The rise of voice controlled devices
Fast forward to November 2016, Amazon had successfully sold and delivered 5 million of its Alexa voice assistants and was looking to invest $100 million in startups that could employ its voice technology.
Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the public’s new found interest in voice connected products and the opportunity to seek funding from Amazon, we began re-exploring Totem. By going through our old research and looking at it through the lens of 2016, we decided to simplify our offering.
We would combine the ubiquity of a lightbulb with the functionality of Amazon Alexa.
But before proceeding, we felt it necessary to tackle some of our assumptions.
- Do people want to use their voice to control their lights?
- Will people pay for this?
- Will Amazon stop us?
- Would Alexa fit in something that still resembles a lightbulb?
We dove headfirst into desk research to tackle our most deadly assumptions. Following this we interviewed people in our network who owned Alexa enable devices. At this stage we were very careful not to tell our interviewees what we were actually intending to design. This was exceptionally important as we wanted honest answers.
From our desk research and interviews, we knew we had an idea worth pursuing further so we began putting together a pitch deck and lined up a meeting with two investors. A week before our meeting, on December 7th, GE did what we expected someone to eventually do, they launched our idea…
But to be honest we were pretty underwhelmed. In spite of all of their design talent and their deep pockets, The C by GE looked like a prototype and one that didn’t really elevate the offering of Amazon Alexa. Whereas our innovation was to make Alexa wireless and move it off the desktop, it appeared that GE had merely enclosed an Alexa Dot in a 3D printed shell, attached it to a ring light and given it a name. Still, they got it out quickly!
At this point, our investors postponed our meeting by a week and we too became uncertain about competing with GE so we decided to pivot majorly. Instead of taking this product to market ourselves, we would build an MVP (minimum viable product) and use it to market our consultancy.
Knowing that CES, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics shows was happening in January, we would run a sprint on our idea and publish a series of Instagram posts demonstrating our process. Over the next eleven days we researched, interviewed, sketched, hacked, designed, coded, 3d-printed and ultimately built a working prototype.
To our amazement, no one at CES combined Alexa with a smart lightbulb and as far as we know, still no one has quite like how we propose it. Perhaps you are interested in pursuing this idea? Perhaps with us?
We are about to embark on a new paid consultancy job so Project Lucy will have to wait but if you are interested in partnering with us on it or want to discuss our process, we would love to chat.
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org