Logitech Harmony Remote and the Life's Principles

The Life's Principles Game team has been looking at how the Life's Principles can improve design.  Our goal is to use the LPs to develop better design solutions that are hard to achieve through existing means.  Metaphorically, the designer is at a crossroads in the process where a 'business as usual' approach leads down one path but applying the appropriate LPs would lead us to choose another that is not only novel but delivers value. 

I received a mid-range Logitech Harmony universal remote as a gift.  I had looked at them in the past but had never understood how Logitech justified the premium price compared to a regular 'learning' universal remote.  Although the marketing material covers the essential features, it did not explain exactly how the remote solves user problems. 

Modern devices are becoming increasingly complex - something as simple as switching TV inputs to connect the right device can involve numerous steps.  Traditional universal remotes have not kept pace.  Most come pre-programmed with a limited number of device profiles identified by three-digit codes that are listed in a manual by manufacturer and device type (TV, DVD player, etc.).  Users often need to test numerous codes with no guarantee that the profile supports all of the device functions. 

Harmony remotes are configured through a Logitech website.  Although the remote needs to be connected to a computer via a USB cable, it enables a more sophisticated configuration process backed up by an extensive database of device profiles.

The following analysis is 'after the fact' - there is no evidence that Logitech used any of the LPs in the design of the Harmony remote.  It is intended to show how the LPs can open up design opportunities that Logitech's competition did not see or did not believe were worth charging a premium price.

Constraint Business As Usage Life's Principle Logitech Feature
Limited size Assignment of functions to generic or inappropriate buttons Be Resource Efficient: Use Multi-functional Design Incorporate screen with soft (programmable) buttons
Cost: limited memory and processor power Programmed using a set of three-digit codes that user has to enter and test Evolve to Survive: incorporate and embody information Programmed by accessing profiles specific to the model numbers of devices being controlled
  Simple actions associated with individual devices Integrate Development with Growth: Build from the Bottom Up Linking of simple actions into complex activities, such as powering on the correct devices and selecting the necessary outputs/inputs
  Learning functions requires access to working remote for controlled device Evolve to Survive: incorporate and embody information Extensive database of functions even for older 'legacy' devices
  Remote provides no feedback as to success/failure of action Be Locally Attuned and Responsive: Use Feedback Loops Interactive help function to correct simple configuration issues
  Not expandable Integrate Development with Growth Configuration assistance via the website applications allows new functions such as defining soft buttons for favorite satellite receiver channels

 The Logitech website 'knows' what devices I have, how I have configured them and what additional functions I needed to program.  For example, Logitech only supports a limited set of functions on my digital video recorder but allowed me to easily teach the remote and then add the functions to the appropriate activities.  Adapt to Changing Conditions: Appropriately respond to dynamic context suggests Logitech could modify the existing device profile based on what I and other users have done to improve it, pushing out the new profile to other users of the device.   Integrate Development with Growth: Combine Modular and Nested Components suggests adding a user definable macro capability, such as mapping a button to the series of menu actions required to enable or disable closed captioning.  Be Locally Attuned and Responsive: Cultivate Cooperative Relationships suggests adding advanced tracing features allowing users to debug both stock device profiles and learned activities, improving the reliability of everyone's Harmony remote. 

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