UX Design /

Beam Pro 2 Touchscreen Development

Sometimes touching something is useful.

Beams were designed WITHOUT touchscreens, despite being birthed well after the smartphone/tablet era.

Beams were supposed to be “human replacement” technology, so the reasoning went… “I wouldn’t want a stranger touching my physical face, so why would I want them touching my surrogate “video face”.

That was the reasoning. Back then.

Fast-forward to 2016, and we’d pushed hard enough so that our newest in-development device, the Beam Pro 2, would have a touchscreen. It's got a big, beautiful new screen, so why not exploit it?

So what do we with this new touchscreen?

Well…several years + thirty opinions = a cacophony of ideas

Competitive Analysis

Most of our competitors didn't have touchscreens at the time, so this normally helpful pursuit wasn't ... helpful. A couple competitors use iPads as their screen, but they don’t use any touch features when communicating. And most of our competitors have such small screens that making anything touchable would be pointless.

Now, in 2018, there are some broad competitors that utilize Alexa and similar, and do in fact have touch-features, but in 2016 there was nothing. We would lead the category!


Every one of my co-workers and engineers had multiple ideas about what to do with a touchscreen over the years.

And we’d had MANY requests for it over the years, so there was a lot to sort out.

First…I looked through old Requirement Document “wishlists” for things that might stand out. And I asked around at weekly meetings for ideas my COLLEAGUES have sat on over the years. Too many to name, luckily many ideas were similar or had staled.

- Reverse-calling someone (call them from the Beam)
- Finger drawing app
- Draw a site map so a Beam can auto-navigate
- Notes on presentations given by the pilot
(collaborative drawing)

Stakeholder review, part 1 - DONE

Second, I sorted through USER suggestions.

We include an opt-in survey in our client software which produces invaluable user data regarding pilot usage. Sorting through the “suggestion” column I found a dozen-or-so user ideas.

Most were pie-in-the-sky things, or game related, but a few stood out.

- Beam Alarm Clock
- Beam Assistant
- Beam “Follow-Me” game
- Recall the last person who’d called
- Funny Snapchat-drawing things

Stakeholder review, part 2 - DONE

Finally, I conducted a brainstorming session with colleagues and creative contractors to sort through and funnel these collected ideas. All ideas were welcomed of course, but for MVP Release, I limited the number of final ideas to six, plus ideas on stying (the new screen is taller, which presents new ideas about how it could present things).

- Invite yourself to use this Beam ("Access Request")
- Intro to Beam (for, say, demo or trade show) ("Learn about Beam")
- "Callback" feature
- Draw on presentations given by the pilot (collaborate draw)
- Convert the entire screen into a kiosk (for use in a retail environment)

Wireframing and flow

Time to see how these features would work!

I wanted to be high-level at the start so I wasn’t worrying about error states or messaging. If I was going to pass this on to another designer I would definitely sew-up every state, but I knew I’d be the one designing all this later so I could address all that in a separate pass. Also, my colleagues were already feeling overwhelmed with the number of features so I wanted to keep things simple for now.

Full Wireframe/Flow

Two versions of the Home screen

Access Request (Get invited to use this Beam)

Callback (Call someone back from this Beam)


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