Now more than ever, we need our collaboration solutions to deliver on the promise of bringing us all closer together – virtually. The announcement of (4) Red Dot Awards for design demonstrates our passion to get collaboration experiences and details right. Among all the 2020 Red Dot design awards, the win on the Headset 730 is especially meaningful as it represents Cisco’s first award for a wearable device in this growing product category that we entered just two years ago.
Why we Built This > Cisco Headset 730
Our customers work on the move – from open offices and noisy home environments, to airports, trains, and busy cafes. It can be a loud and chaotic soundscape out there, but our calls and meetings must go on. We built the 730 to give users more control over these noisy surroundings – tune it out when listening to music or let just enough in to prevent loud talking when on call for a more natural conversation. Built for business class communication, we created advanced beamforming microphones and algorithms that cancel background noise, so your client doesn’t hear the makeshift homeschool operation going on in your home office. Conventional professional-grade communication headsets require a microphone boom – removing this encumbrance was our guiding light for the 730 design – to create a more elegant consumer-like look and feel together with a business-class performance at the office and beyond.
Laying the Foundation
We’ve designed a diverse range of products here in the Cisco Collaboration Group; but building an industry-leading headset required us to exercise a different, more specialized, design muscle. Details you might miss when interacting with a room device at arm’s length become mission-critical for a wearable. There is a much more personal and intimate relationship with a wearable device that is physically attached to you. Perfecting these design details requires radical cross-functional collaboration – it is a delicate dance between Industrial Design, Human Factors, UX, Acoustics, Mechanical, Electrical, and Software disciplines. Building the connective tissue across the teams is a critical aspect of the design challenge. We don’t underestimate the positive bonding impact of spicy exotic cuisine shared together in undisclosed remote locations.
As Cisco Senior Industrial Designer, Naoki Shimada likes to say: “we must design from the inside out.” This meant long hours here in the California design studio, working in lockstep with the acoustic team to validate the “boomless” design concept. It was a flurry of whiteboard brainstorming, acoustic simulations, 3D CAD validation, component testing, and low fidelity physical prototyping. The essence of our industrial design theme was born during this stage; in response to the novel acoustic requirements. The design theme is highlighted by the signature asymmetrical aluminum grill surrounding the microphones, designed to maximize sound wave flow across. Every sculpted curve has a purpose – unnecessary elements have been stripped away to save weight and enhance comfort. The team fought hard to eliminate every excess gram and millimeter on the headset.
Form Follows Fit
Above all else, the wearable must fit – our body / our workstyle / our lifestyle.
Body fit is one of the most difficult design challenges with the on-ear form factor of the 730. The headband material composition, thickness, and curvature had to be tuned precisely, in concert, to achieve the most comfortable clamp force across a wide range of head shapes. Here, fit simulations on the computer are of limited value – we had to get out there with iterative headset prototypes and run multiple human factors tests with real people in order to validate the design.
We also consider fit in terms of tailoring the audio experience to match the user’s preferences. For this, our user experience designers developed a companion mobile app where one can easily control the many features on the headset, including the degree of ambient noise cancellation, equalizer settings, and audible tone notifications.
While the Red Dot Award we won for on the Headset 730 solidifies our arrival in the wearable device domain – we are fortunate to have Red Dots sprinkled across our Collaboration portfolio in 2020, showing our commitment to a unified design vision.