New generations of devices or solutions are often iterative: small but significant innovations that increase productivity, unleash creativity or enhance sustainability. On the other hand, radical transformations are rare, especially those that change our interactions with and expectations of technology. Sometimes technical breakthroughs drive these moments, as is the case with new devices such as the world’s first foldable PCproof of concept rollable screensor a new era of generative artificial intelligence. These moments come from teams willing to push the boundaries of technology, challenge habits, and make bold recommendations based on deep research and insights.
One such group is the Lenovo Next UX (user Experience) team. Designers and researchers explore new ways to anticipate user needs and imagine new experiences, moving through design ideation, concept development, and user testing.
“We are taking a more holistic approach to the user experience, looking beyond a single device and considering how it fits into the broader landscape of technology, interactions, culture and intent,” said Lincoln Hancock, senior UX designer on the Lenovo team. “Our team researches and explores what is possible and what best supports Lenovo users, and we share recommendations across the enterprise.”
As with all future-oriented research, not every idea makes it into homes and offices. However, Next UX’s early research into dual-screen laptops helped propel it to market versatile Yoga Book 9i. Before smart collaboration hubs and virtual meetings became ubiquitous, a change accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Next UX designers were already envisioning more intuitive and user-friendly device ecosystems.
Currently, their attention is largely focused on innovative approaches to sustainable development. “Circularity and sustainability are becoming greater priorities for Lenovo, and they should be,” Hancock said.
Connecting the power of PCs
Embedded within the Lenovo Experience Group, which drives customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX), as well as user experience, Next UX greatly benefits from its mission to improve the end-to-end experience. It puts users, customers, partners and employees at the heart of every innovation, service and solution.
“Technology experiences connect us – that’s where the all-encompassing power of desktops and other devices is and why they have become such an important part of the way people live, work, learn and connect” – Dilip Bhatia, vice president and chief experience officer at company, Lenovo said. “Lenovo employs a diverse team of people who are looking for a future in technology, just over the horizon in areas such as advanced learning along with artificial intelligence and other frontiers yet to be imagined in the evolution of collaborative work. At the same time, our need is to be a leader in corporate citizenship and explore topics such as circularity.”
Development of a modular PC
Years ago, the Next UX team considered a max repair PC concept called Project Aurora. Every component of this modular device is replaceable, including the screen, hard drive, keyboard and battery, giving users greater control and flexibility while also allegedly extending the life of the computer.
“Ultimately, this approach of maximizing the user-friendliness of device repairs may not actually result in longer-lasting devices if there are too many trade-offs or users remain intimidated by the process,” said Alden Rose, UX designer at Lenovo. “We need to strategically balance trade-offs such as cost, weight and thickness with the value that easier component replacement actually provides. Where we can get the most bang for our buck and leverage design innovation to create a new user experience.”
Although the engineering challenge of putting high-performance technology into a sleek, reliable and user-friendly device proved prohibitive, the concept evolved into a more focused solution.
In follow-up research conducted in 2022 and 2023, Next UX found that more than 80% of end users and IT decision makers chose batteries as the most important component that can be easily repaired or replaced. Among these same ITDMs, 96% believed that a customer-replaceable battery was a good idea, mainly because it would extend the life of the device, which is good for the bottom line and sustainability efforts.
Further highlighting the potential, 40% of consumers and business end-users reported that poor battery health has a major or moderate impact on their daily work.
In response, UX designers developed five replaceable battery concepts, each with varying degrees of complexity and ease. “We built real models, not working computers, but all the hardware is real,” Rose said. “And while almost everyone preferred the easiest option, a two-step, tool-free battery replacement, they felt comfortable with all five. So how do you do this and create a design intervention that offers the right solution with minimal compromise? Taking into account the risks.”
Will any of these replaceable battery designs appear in future devices? Maybe. Or maybe the split battery design developed as part of a different concept, including an external battery that also serves as a power bank, meets the needs of users.
“To some extent, we need to determine how much circularity relies on end-user participation, whether it’s replacing components or finding an e-waste recycling center to give components a second life,” Rose said.
Accounting for cyclicality from every angle is part of ongoing work at Next UX and elsewhere at Lenovo, from asset recovery initiatives Down data center durability. And visionary, data-driven recommendations and the voices of our customers, users and partners continue to drive powerful innovation at Lenovo.
This post was created by Lenovo z Insider studios.