Smart home technology has been developing for years, however, the application was limited. Consumers seem to be not willing to pay for the smart home technology as the appliances with new tech features are costing way more than they expect.
Kitchen has always been the heart of a home. Are there any opportunities lying in that area? With smart home technologies, how can we enjoy a better life and cooking experience?
“The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the range is the heart of the kitchen.” GE Appliances has been working on smart cooking appliances for years, and the general concept was to create an all-in-one smart kitchen hub over the range, which is likely to be a control center of their home and an entertainment system.
Smart Home Control
GE Appliances has had this concept for a while, however, how the system on the Kitchen Hub would be was still a missing puzzle. Product designers at GE Appliances designed the physical model, and my responsibility was to design the system and prototype the UI for this kitchen hub.
There were 2 phases: concept phase and production phase. Concept phase (Oct 2017-Jan 2018) was aimed to present the new GE Kitchen Hub concept and showcase on CES 2018, and the production phase (Feb 2018-Present) is aimed to bring this concept into the real world. I took charge in UX and UI design in the concept phase and contributed to UI design and UI guidelines in the production phase.
Oct 2017 - Jan 2018
UX Designer at GE Appliances
Contributed to Ideation of system;
Fully responsible for wireframes, UI, and prototyping for CES 2018.
Top Tech of CES 2018 (Home Appliances)
Market Research: Major Players
Who are the major players? What are they doing?
Most of the large home appliance companies are trying to apply smart home technologies to the new kitchen appliances. Samsung and LG have their smart fridges and connected wall ovens launched; Whirlpool also has its connected wall ovens on the market.
The most compatible products would be the Samsung Family Hub Fridge. It is one of the most innovated smart major appliances on the current market.
User Research: Persona
Who are our target consumers? What are they looking for?
GEA categorize consumers into 5 types based on their preference on home appliances.
The target users of GE Kitchen Hub would be like:
Value design and aesthetics
Taking care of family with frequent use of her beautiful appliances
Willing to pay for modern technology and feature
User Research: Activities in and around the kitchen
What activities can happen in the kitchen and around the hub?
User Research: Customer Journey Maps
What users' pain points and their needs when they are at home and in the kitchen? Especially when they are cooking?
What features can the GE Kitchen Hub have?
We utilized affinity diagraming and Lego walkthrough to brainstorm the potential features.
The features were filtered and categorized in the mind map.
Testing: Card Sorting
I used card sorting to test:
Which features are more desired or needed by users?
Whether the information architecture reasonable or not?
Core feature of the kitchen hub should be about cooking and recipes;
Entertainment is desired when users are doing chores around the kitchen;
It will be better to have life assistive features, like taking notes and checking weather;
It could be a control center to control home appliances.
Concept: 4-in-1 Kitchen Hub
After several iterations of ideation and testing, we finally designed 4 primary parts for the system:
Cooking, Smart Home, Entertainment, and Social
Show step-by-step video recipes
Set up family profiles to remember everyone's appetite
Connected to cooking appliances for precision cooking
Record cooking process and share online
Create customized recipes
Control all connected home appliances
Control environment light and temperature
Enjoy movies and TV shows when doing boring chore
Sync favorite music to Kitchen Hub
Video call with friends to share special recipes
Quickly view social media
Ergonomics: Page Layout
GE Kitchen Hub is located at a unique place, where is over the range. It was a big challenge to design the digital user interfaces at such a high position. Users are likely to get fatigue if interacting with the screen for too long, and for some users, they are even hardly to reach the top of the screen. Therefore, we did an ergonomics analysis and decided the basic UI layout based on the result.
For US 10% female, they can reach half of the screen with no difficulty, however it will cause fatigue when they reach the higher place or last for more than 7 mins to interact with the screen. So for the basic UI layout, important information and interactive elements should be placed in the lower part of the screen, and the other half of the screen will be utilized to put some secondary or view-only information.
For the final interactive prototype showing on CES 2018, UI visual style also needed to be defined. After several iterations of UI exploration, I finally designed the dark version which matched the UI styles of other GE appliances.
I used Hype3 to build the interactive prototype for the exhibition. I chose this tool because it is good for building up prototypes showing a complicated system on large touch screens.
GE Kitchen Hub has a proximity sensor. When the user approaches the cooktop with a potential intention of using the Kitchen Hub, the screen will turn on automatically.
Better Cooking Experience
1 Precision Cooking
Thousands of recipes that are easy to find and follow. Users can set up their diet information.
The system would alert the users when they choose a recipe containing ingredients that may cause allergy.
GE Kitchen Hub connects to other cooking appliances, therefore, when the timer of this step ends, the cooktop may switch heat level automatically based on the recipe.
2 Record & Share
Two built-in cameras allow users to take photos when cooking. It can also record the cooking process and generate a video that is good to go on social media.
Users can share their unique recipes and cooking videos in the Recipe Community. Also, they can find inspirations from others.
1 Control Center
The Kitchen Hub can connect to all the smart home appliances. Users are able to control appliances, environment lighting, and temperature through our system. Users can also monitor the security camera here.
2 Entertainment & Social
Enjoy movie and music when doing the chore!
Share special recipes with friends and families by video call.
GE Kitchen Hub @CES 2018
Top Tech of CES 2018 in Home Appliances
The concept was exhibited on CES 2018 in Feb. After that, the project got into the next phase that we want to bring the concept to the real world, The expected price was revealed at about $600. My responsibility in the next phase was designing the UI style, the cooking feature, and UI guidelines.
Split view for multi-tasking
UI style matches home style