From Vision to Reality: Get to Prototype Faster with TG0
- By TG0
- 2021 .05 .28
TG0’s patented technology, can-do culture and incredible depth of expertise make it an ideal partner for your innovation projects.
Successful innovation is rarely the result of divine inspiration alone. Instead it’s usually a combination of talent, technical expertise, experimental and experiential mindsets, curious natures, and sheer bloody-minded determination.
TG0 offers all of the above.
Our multi-skilled, multinational team comprises free-thinkers, detail obsessives, software gurus and a couple of oddballs who live and breathe product design*. Together we work relentlessly to turn ideas into on-brand, high-spec, high-performance products.
But what are the key considerations for innovation? What do you need to do, and how do you do it? And what role does a physical prototype play?
Our Principal Industrial Designer Ali McPhail explains more…
Ali, why do companies need to innovate?
Every business wants to innovate. They understand if they offer something new and exciting they’ll win customers, raise revenues and earn brand loyalty. They look at Apple and think: “look at the money we could make if we could just come up with something like the iPhone”. So they dream for a bit, and perhaps they devote two to three per cent of their revenue to R&D, or they might finance a department devoted to product design. But sometimes even that’s not enough to take great ideas through to market. Innovation projects might cease because they’ve been poorly defined, or the market evolves, or someone leaves, or the solution can’t fit the cost / price dynamics.
But a few make it all the way. And it’s always the organisations with a laser focus on the problem they are solving, belief in themselves, wide technical capability and perseverance that succeed.
Is innovation just about products?
No, it’s about looking at the whole user experience. For example, Apple did not invent the MP3 player — there were plenty of established brands making MP3 hardware. Yes, iPod hardware quality and design surpassed all competition, but this was only part of the offer. Apple instead transformed the market by holistically improving the experience of listening to music on the go, from finding and organising music, to elevating expectations of how much music could be carried and offering new solutions to navigate that huge library effortlessly. It was this integrated breadth of solutions to improving an experience that led to Apple’s success.
What kind of innovation projects have you worked on?
etee Controllers, our button-free VR controllers, are a great example. Using TG0’s patented finger tracking system, we designed and created lightweight controllers that can sense finger touch, pressure, gesture and proximity – an entirely new concept in VR. They were initially created as a proof of concept for TG0’s sensing technology, but people like them so much we’ve had to set up an online shop to deal with demand.
We’ve also worked on innovation projects for the Novares car of the future, and a proof of concept (PoC) for an airline seat that senses sleep, movement and pressure for Airbus. The Airbus project was taken from brief to first prototype in just four weeks.
Outside of TG0, I worked in industrial design teams at Samsung, Nokia and Microsoft, specialising in forecasting, developing and integrating new technologies and solutions including display and touch, antenna, haptics and new form factors, and extending battery life.
Where does an innovation project start?
The most important but most-overlooked part of innovation is to ‘frame’ the problem you are trying to solve. It’s taking the problem first, listening, observing and defining the issue to within an inch of its life, and only then beginning to think about a technical solution.
It means asking a lot of questions. Who will use the product? How will they use it? How will they hold it / carry it / store it / interact with it? How does it need to reflect the brand? How do we know consumers want or need this product? What does the research tell us? Where are usability trends going? What price point do we need to hit? These are all examples of questions that turn a ‘fluffy’ aspiration into a well-defined, well-scoped and fully actionable brief.
Too many innovators think technology-first, then try to apply that technology to scenarios. At TG0, despite having patented touch-sensing technology, we never make a problem fit our technology. We define the problem and the business case, and only once that’s done do we start looking at technical solutions — which may or may not be using our sensing tech.
What constraints are designers working within?
Aside from aggressive timelines, there are normally many competing parameters. We’ve all heard the Fast-Cheap-Good triangle of which you can – supposedly – only ever have two – i.e. I can make something fast and cheap but it won’t be good.
But a good product designer will be able to balance many priorities. For example: ease of use, ease of manufacture, cost, visual appeal, brand consistency, particular materials, time-to-market etc.
The best designs always have a few things in common: visually and technically simple enough to be memorable, able to seamlessly perform their task, and novel enough to stand out and catch your attention in the first place.
Why are prototypes so important?
There are many ways for good ideas to die within big organisations. Costs, technical limitations, changes in personnel, strategy shifts and funding rounds can all stop innovation in its tracks. Some people and businesses are risk adverse, believing that if an approach works it should not be changed, and there is often emphasis on why something can’t be done, rather than how it could be achieved..
I generally look for the quickest way to communicate to the intended audience. A decision-maker needs to understand what is being proposed and quickly see why an idea should be pursued. Beermat sketches, PowerPoint presentations, Parametric CAD and CGIs all have their place, but often a physical prototype is invaluable. It allows naysayers to see, touch and experiment with a real-life example. It raises excitement about what’s possible… and all of a sudden the idea doesn’t seem so difficult to realise.
Who do you help?
We work cross-industry, with a diverse range of businesses and job titles. For example:
- We help industrial designers with prototyping electronics and user interfaces. We work within their brand and visual requirements but bring our own UI expertise to the party. Typically this would result in a tangible prototype that can be shown to internal stakeholders to gain buy-in and further investment for a project.
- We develop software for engineering teams so they can evaluate ideas, and potentially offload work packages onto us so they can free up their time.
- And we also help product managers take ideas from sketch to shelf. Our full breadth of capabilities means we can help them define a problem and all the key considerations around it, then work on a real-life solution that meets all criteria such as cost, sustainability, weight, visuals etc, before testing it and then productising it.
In essence, we’re a one-stop-shop for innovation.
Can you tell us about the team?
Considering we’re a small team, we’re really proud of our depth of skills and expertise. Within a headcount of less than 25, we have experts in multiple disciplines essential to product development, including:
- Software development — including on Hardware, AKA Firmware
- Machine learning
- Physical and digital interface design
- Industrial design
- Mechanical engineering
- Electronics and systems engineering.
We also have all the equipment and relationships required to take a hand drawn sketch or a CAD drawing and make it into a real, tangible device. That includes 3D printing and prototyping in house, injection moulding relationships and the ability to source diverse parts from an international supply chain.
It’s this people-plus-technology that gives us the edge to take a brief, run with it, and create a physical prototype within days or weeks, and without having to search for an available expert to fill gaps.
Couple that with our unique sensing technology and our wide ergonomic experience and you have a powerful, reliable innovation team that can get you to a prototype of something that’s easier to use, much faster.
++ If you have an innovation idea or need, contact Ali by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
* We don’t have a mad scientist yet, but we are accepting CVs.