Designing a new generation of a smart speaker

The Sonos PLAY:5 is a smart speaker that is easy to set up wireless with no technical skills needed. The speaker has the ideal balance of timeless design, uncompromised usability, acoustic performance and a sturdy build quality to last 10 years and more.

Every detail is carefully considered, new manufacturing processes developed, the build quality was significantly improved over previous Sonos products but most importantly as one of the first products the hard- and software experience was never better intertwined with on device touch controls and TruePlay calibration in your Sonos app.

Smart Touch UI

Play:5 is the first Sonos speaker that features a capacitive touch user interface with touch and swipe gestures for play / pause, volume controls and previous / next track. The interface adjusts its functions automatically to all 3 orientations the speaker is used in.

To land this new paradigm of an UI within the company, internal + external user testing and open houses within different teams at Sonos were used to stress test our assumptions and get to the final design. The result is a very responsive touch interface, paired with light feedback and ear-con sound design to support precise as well as casual all hand touch and swipe gestures – even when using the UI out of sight.

With discoverability and missing tactile feedback as concern we leveraged heat maps of touch areas on the device to dial in the ideal touch zone sizes and enable a blind usage on high shelves or in deep cabinets.

Goal was to meet or exceed the current Sonos UI experience with buttons and get better over time. Although the swipe gesture for previous/next track was not immediately discovered by most participants, the moment they did (through in app nudge or Sonos ad) they were blown away.

Focus on Quality

Some of the features on the back of the product took more time and consideration than a lot of competitors take for their entire product. We developed a recessed logo mark that was filled with real ink, a custom and removable power cord in the center of the product that enables the three usable orientations and switched from labels to laser etched compliance and serial number artwork.

Play:5 was the first project for the new design language and as the ID design lead I was in charge of holding up the raised bar for quality, CMF and a much tighter step & gap than before. This meant checking and troubleshooting plastic injection molding, painting lines, power cable and REL testing as well as the assembly lines on the ground in China.

CompanySonosRoleIndustrial Design LeadYear2012 – 2016Linkwww.sonos.com

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