Let’s face it: we all crave connection. Whether emotional or physical, regular connection on a daily basis is a human need that allows us to maintain our self-care. So what happens if/when we are placed into situations in which we are on one side of the world, and our loved ones on the other? How do we keep that connection in-tact? Thanks to modern technology, a majority of us have smartphones that permit video calls to stay in touch with loved ones. This being said, even video calls have certain limitations that often distract us from being present in the conversation.
Enter Rimo: a phone holder that aims to deepen connections, and create a more immersive video call experience. With Rimo, no longer will we have to fear dropping our phones, or finding the perfect angle for our loved ones to see the environment around us. By simply waving your hand, you can control Rimo’s movements, allowing you to see what you want to see, and when you want to see it. This trusty device was designed and engineered for the sole purpose of making you feel at home, even when you are far from it.
The Nesting Stage
The team behind Rimo initially came to us for an engineering and design audit: they presented their prototype to the Hatch Duo team, and upon offering our feedback, it led to a consideration of rebranding from the team at Rimo. From a design standpoint, we aimed to completely redesign the device’s useability, form factor, manufacturability, and assembly design to better target and reach Rimo’s intended user groups. Because phone holders and accessories contain such a broad target audience, we identified and narrowed down the device’s primary users. When it came down to it, this device would be best used at home, simply to stay in touch with loved ones. Additionally, the redesign needed to fulfill these main aspects: a sensor housing, a base and upper housing which will contain all inner components, an ability to accommodate smartphones of varying thickness, and an on/off switch with an LED indicator.
In terms of sketching and rendering prototypes for Rimo, the Industrial Design team had a blast coming up with their own creative ideas. A majority of our inspiration derived from food: we were inspired by donuts and ice cream and the delightfulness they bring to connect families (and people) together. Eventually, we decided to continue building upon the ice cream scoop design to inspire later iterations, and ultimately, the final product.
The original Rimo design utilized plastic in its entirety; however, our ID team felt that having too much of a hard plastic tech-look would not best resonate with their intended audience. To give the device a more welcoming and “homey” look and feel, we concluded that fabric would be the way to go for the base plate. Not only does it convey comfort and blend well with the living room environment, but the material would allow later iterations of the design to enable speakers and sound output.
We like to keep in mind that the most minor details can eventually serve as a foundation for future branding language and principles, so when it came to designing for Rimo, we wanted to convey the idea of “connectivity” from its sole purpose, all the way down to the foot of the device. To reiterate this, we added a series of connected dot-and-line patterns, raised to act as feet and isolate vibration. To convey “reach,” we also gradated the tightness of the design from tight to more parsed as you go towards the middle of the device.
Moreover, we added speckled texture to the device to symbolize interconnecting people through “time and space.” This, along with the pin-light LED combination, would appear is if users are connected through the stars.
Incubating Ideas: Trial, Error & Solution
While Rimo got significantly far in the engineering process, we recognized and evaluated problems that would essentially prevent them from going into mass production. Our ME team’s main goal was to take the engineering troubleshoots and elevate user experience to the point of successful marketability.
Rimo’s main engineering components we needed to address included hardware accessibility, the sensor cable, and an inability to compensate for various phone brands. Now consisting of more than 40 components, Rimo can: rotate 360 degrees, understand hand gestures, plug-and-play without the need for Bluetooth, and adjust according to the smartphone being used. But how did we get all these components to work together so seamlessly, you ask?
In terms of hardware accessibility, we observed that the mainboard and battery were not secured to the chassis, which could compromise reliability and risk damaging internal electronics. To better secure these components, we fastened all of the electrical components to the device’s chassis to ensure all of the parts had a “home.” We then evaluated the assembly process and decided to use one-way snaps to reduce the device’s number of parts. Secondly, we utilized an electrical portion segregated by sheet metal to protect the PCBs and battery wires from tangling with the gears. The difficulty was creating a custom internal gear ring from scratch that would attach to rollers and allow the unit to move easily and securely.
Additionally, we found that the sensor cable for gesture control could easily be disconnected, causing troubleshoot with the device’s rotation, and further decreasing its reliability. In its original form, the retaining spring that helped Rimo rotate did not work as intended. Upon this observation, we created an order of operations to assemble a unit that housed all of the components needed to help Rimo rotate. Utilizing springs and fasteners, we decided on reformatting the assembly method to have the spring captured within the sphere, thus helping Rimo rotate more smoothly.
Because smartphones from various manufacturers have varying mass and form factors, our ME team worked on an adjustable holder solution to compensate for thicknesses in multiple smartphones. One idea we originally had was to have the rear portion of the sphere press in and push the phone towards the front sphere, providing a clamping pressure to secure the phone. With this idea, we realized two main issues: the first being that spheres contain complex volumes to work with, and second, the part count would increase, causing the sphere assembly to become very difficult, very quickly. Instead, the tradeoff that we made was designing the sphere so that the front portion was spring-loaded to provide the necessary tension to support any smartphone device.
Stay Connected With Rimo
According to Lori Belton of Vonage Business, “Nearly one in three Americans video chat with a business, brand or service provider–a three times leap in three years.” As we continue to see video chat gain more momentum in both the workplace and our personal lives, it is only a matter of time until people search for ways to make the video chat experience more immersive.
With a functioning idea already in mind, Rimo initially sought advice on their product’s design and engineering aspects. Soon enough, we were able to show them how Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering are intertwined to build successful products. Having both our ID and ME teams work together through this process really contributed to our time to market goals and helped us discover new ways of designing to better improve the device’s functionality. It was a collaboration that focused primarily on design strategy: engineering understands industrial design and a user-first mentality, so the ME team had to filter their development decisions according to ID thinking.
As of today, Rimo is the only wireless device that uses patent-pending technology to connect without the necessity for Bluetooth pairing. With this device in the home, we hope to re-connect long-lost family members and provide users with a new, fun, and intuitive telepresence experience.