HSINCHU, Taiwan – MitraStar Technology today announced that its Phantom set-top box won the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2015 following the iF Design Award this year...
Considering how long MitraStar has been established, it is a young company. It did not come out as a ZyXEL Communications Division until October 10, 2010, and it was still subordinate to ZyXEL Communications Corp. However, considering its experience of engaging in manufacturing, MitraStar is definitely an old timer, and having carried on ZyXeL’s original CNC equipment design and manufacturing business and related assets, it is a specialist in CNC OEM products.
MitraStar’s prize-winning product this time is their newest digital set-top box－Floating. This product has an exterior design with gradient transparency, and when placed on a panel it produces a floating visual experience. In addition, this product is equipped with an extremely large operational capacity. It can support FHD image resolution, is equipped with Ethernet networks, WIFI and MoC interfaces, and it can be integrated together with other home audiovisual digital equipment. At the same time, it has an internal hard drive to provide storage for users, and it can pause video streaming.
“Set-top boxes are a link with home living spaces, and they usually have to be visible and useable. Therefore, the thinking about design and user experience is completely different,” said MitraStar Creative Design Department Senior manager, Stanley Chen.
Stanley pointed out that CNC products in the past, such as routers or wireless routers, were usually placed in concealed places in control rooms or in study rooms. In addition, extremely small amounts of time were spent on software operation, so not much importance was placed on the external and interface designs. However, set-top boxes are a part of the living room, and they are regularly operated. Hence, the thinking about user interface and exterior design are completely different than in the past.
From the very beginning, in order to increase their design capacity for user interface and product experience, MitraStar has continually increased investment on their product design side capabilities and on design talent. Because of this, they have set up a testing room for user experience with the specific purpose of observing and researching the influence of products on users, and this is the foundation of their product research and development.
“The user interface testing room is a bit like an interrogation room. We hire employees internally and externally who are suitable experiment subjects for testing. The testing subjects operate products in the observation rooms, and the experimenters are separated by two-way mirrors to observe the testing subjects’ reactions,” said Interface Designer, Appy Zhang.
Konica Lee, manager of the Creative Design Department, stated that by using experiment rooms, we can genuinely understand users’ real reactions when they use products and improve our products’ user interfaces.
“Now is an era where meaning is replacing function,” said Lee.
He further explained that early set-top boxes were mainly for watching television; however the current thinking is mainly about the Internet. Not only do we have to be able to connect to the Internet but even to link to the Internet of Things (IoT). As a result, product design concepts for entire products must re-consider user interface requirements.
This unique approach was originated by a young industrial designer, named Morgan Lai. When he was pondering how the shape of a set-top box could express contemporary styles in the living room, he thought of a floating idea, and then he made the idea more concrete.
“At the time I was thinking about how to integrate user experience, and then I thought of floating,” said Morgan Lai.
Furthermore, this digital set-top box, which uses floating as its design concept, also employs a very specialized gradient translucent design for its casing. On the manufacturing end it was not an easy matter. It required a special procedure using an injection molding system to make, and consequently, the production cost was much higher than for normal manufacturing. However, MitraStar was not swayed, and they insisted on making high-quality products that clients would want, and they took great pride in the “floating” design.
“If I had done it, I absolutely would have never through of this kind of floating design,” said Lee. He is extremely convinced that young designers bring about positive results and believes that teams should be made up of all age groups in order to integrate creation with design well.
Regarding the prize, MitraStar’s design service team appeared extremely cheerful, happy, and honored. However, for an OEM industry company, this prize has an even deeper meaning.
“Winning a prize as an OEM company has even more value because it proves that we are capable of providing fine service,” said Li. He noted that winning the prize signifies that MitraStar’s OEM designers’ abilities have gained approval and affirmation. In addition, it also represents the possibility that MitraStar’s design service abilities can also further progress a step in assisting clients.
From the perspective of the team, Stanley Chen believes that winning the prize is a great encouragement for the design team and it will lead to more positive incentives.
“The team’s feeling of achievement and joy and then the clients’ joy has been a great process,” he said with a smile.