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Lenovo

Launching a New Business: ThinkSmart Hardware

2016 - Present  |  Design Lead

One of Lenovo's strategic investment areas is Smart Collaboration.​ Building a new business not only takes time, but a strategic approach to the market.

Over the last few years, I have led the usability design of our ThinkSmart products, specifically Hub 500, View, and the newly announced Hub, shipping later this year.

STARTING A NEW BUSINESS

The ThinkSmart business was officially created in 2017 with the mission to reinvent the collaboration space. 

As trends of huddle rooms and virtual meetings grew stronger, our team was focused on providing customers the right solutions to meet these new workplace demands. In order to do this successfully, we needed to launch a few products and adjust according to how the market reacted.

THINKSMART HUB 500

We came out with our first product, ThinkSmart Hub 500 for Microsoft Teams Rooms in 2018. This was a monumental achievement for a brand new Business Unit and we only learned from there.

LEAD BY DESIGN

What made our products different from the competition was that we listened carefully to our customers and truly understood their meeting pain points.

We understood that with a fixed display, only one user would have control over the meeting so we designed our display to rotate so that we could democratize the meeting controls. This was a game changer.

Other features we included were a cylinder speaker system to provide 360 degrees of rich audio during meetings and ensuring the device microphones were always pointing up for the most effective capturing position. 

We wanted heard that users didn't know if they were muted or not, so we added bright LEDs to show mute state that everyone around the room can see at any time.

Bringing a dedicated meeting device to the room, meant that no one had to sacrifice their PC to run the meeting anymore. Equipped with its own calendaring service, users could easily book rooms and know if the room was available afterwards by viewing its calendar front and center.

Hub 500 is changing the way people work, making them more productive and more engaged.

Last year, we were excited to announce our product extension by offering a ThinkSmart Hub 500 Zoom Rooms edition.

THINKSMART VIEW

Its unique form factor truly stands out from the competition. A fluid and sophisticated shape allows the device to be used in portrait or landscape mode offering incredible flexibility to our users.

Knowing the different uses, we also positioned the camera to be in the proper spot as well ensured the display angle was comfortable from various user heights.

Finally, we kept hearing themes around user privacy so we built-in a camera privacy shutter and a hardware mute mic button to address these concerns.

In the summer of 2020, we launched the ThinkSmart View, a personal meeting device that was Microsoft Teams ready.

Over the last couple of years, we've been working hard to bring this product into market, knowing that users demanded a dedicated meeting device to avoid overbearing their own PC.

In the summer of 2020, we launched the ThinkSmart View, a personal meeting device that was Microsoft Teams ready.

Over the last couple of years, we've been working hard to bring this product into market, knowing that users demanded a dedicated meeting device to avoid overbearing their own PC.

Partnering closely with Microsoft, our team focused on the user experience to ensure we were delivering what our customers wanted.

SPECIFICATIONS & TESTING

Like with the products we support, we prepared numerous design specifications around the ergonomics, usability, and accessibility of the device and spent several months beta testing these features until we got it right.

Before I provided any design specifications, I ensured that I had the right customer data to work with so I interviewed, surveyed, and met with several customers and end users to truly understand their needs.

Then, it came down to seeing what devices were already in market and how we could stack up to them. Leveraging competitor benchmarks is a key to understanding what works, what doesn't work, and what opportunities are there to do something completely different. Since no one else really offered a personal meeting device, I had to get creative by observing adjacent markets: smart displays.

GEN 2 FEATURES ARE ALWAYS A PLUS

For all of my specifications, I also include potential next generation features or things we should consider for the upgraded device. This helps the team think about the long-term strategy of the business instead of being solely product-based.

Today, our ThinkSmart View is changing how people work and especially now as remote work becomes the new normal. We're actively leveraging this momentum today and are already looking at follow-on devices.

SERIES ONE

We've had an incredible year of launching products in across this business including a big announcement between Google and Lenovo to launch the Series One Room Kit.

Our team worked closely with the Google Development team as UX consultants on this project including conducting a few research activities to inform design directions.

With this partnership, we launched our third Unified Communications offering wtih Google Meet.

THINKSMART HUB

The newly announced (September 2020) ThinkSmart Hub is the successor to our ThinkSmart Hub 500 with extraordinary hardware improvements.

We've spent the last couple of years listening to our customers and doing extensive research around our platform. We're excited to share our newest solution that truly elevates the in-room meeting experience.

With Cortana integration, bigger speakers, more mics, and brighter LEDs, this device will soon become our flagship product.

We started with basic improvements to hardware features like doubling the number of speakers from 2 to 4 and doubling the number of mics from 2 to 4. We also increased the column to provide more volumetric output.

Another area we focused a lot of attention on was on airflow and thermal output. We know these devices stay on throughout the day so we wanted to ensure we cooled them properly.

Finally, adding some delight features such as a secondary LED on top to show mute status and a premium cable management solution really pushes this device to the top of the collaboration list.

DESIGN SPECIFICATION

I provided the team an in-depth design specification outlining the usability, ergonomic, and design specifications for the device.

We're excited to announce this new offering and look forward to hearing what you all think!