The Fortune 500 Program uses a practice called “Participatory Development” (PD), which is based on the philosophy of involving all consumers in all phases of product design and development. This program targets Fortune 500 companies – the largest and most influential sector of corporate America. The message the T2RERC presents is that when these companies are designing new mainstream consumer products they can expand their markets by considering the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. This market broadening increases a product’s market size, which increases its likelihood of success. Once collaboration with a Fortune 500 company has been undertaken, the T2RERC provides free primary market research to that company.
Through the T2RERC's Fortune 500 project, mainstream manufacturers will broaden the consumer market for their new products by introducing more accessible and more usable
functional designs. As with A/T companies, these larger corporations are initially reluctant to consider outside input but eventually express a high degree of satisfaction
with products designed with input from a wider range of potential customers. Our experience with Black & Decker and with White-Rodgers has already resulted in their design
teams and managers embracing the concepts underlying our collaborative projects. We expect the longer-term outcomes to be the integration of Participatory Development
principles into the design protocols of multiple Fortune 500 companies.
"We, at White-Rodgers, Div. of Emerson Electric Co., wish to express our appreciation to the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) for your assistance in gathering significant data that provided useful insights into a universally designed home comfort control center . . . The initial focus groups organized by the T2RERC have provided unique market data that we plan to use in the development of future home comfort controls. Concurrently we are modifying the design of our present offering to incorporate concepts from the focus groups. Our target is to bring these future products to the prototype phase in 18 months, and then have follow-up evaluation done by the T2RERC. We are confident that our development team can meet the challenges, and future evaluation of prototypes by the T2RERC will validate our joint efforts."
As technology costs decrease, we anticipate the gradual incorporation of Transgenerational/Universal Design into all future mainstream consumer products. However, we believe our current work is effectively demonstrating to Fortune 500 companies that they can broaden their markets now by increasing the usability and accessibility of the next generation of their mainstream consumer products. This market broadening impact is quickening their transition to Transgenerational/Universal Design. The very positive response we have received from all of the manufacturers we have collaborated with on the Fortune 500 project lends credence to this belief. The impact of our work is further demonstrated by the fact that Black & Decker has continued collaborating with us on 5 new products. In addition, Pass & Seymour, Kodak and Whirlpool have taken notice of our work as showcased in write-ups in Business Week (January 2004) and USA Today (July 2003) and entered into collaborations with us.
While our goal for this five year cycle was to partner with three Fortune 500 companies, the success we have enjoyed with this program and the resultant publicity generated has provided us with opportunities to slightly increase the number of companies we are influencing. The Fortune 500 Development Project is ahead of schedule in meeting all objectives.
Lids Off Deluxe Jar Opener by Black & DeckerTM (May 2007)
The Kodak EasyShare G600 Printer Dock is a simple way to get high quality Kodak prints in your own home without the use of a computer or complicated editing software. You perform basic editing functions AND print your photos using the printer dock without having to download anything to your computer. Simply dock the camera or transfer photos from a compatible USB device. Basic editing of pictures is no longer complicated as users can automatically eliminate red eye and crop pictures at the touch of a button. A Kodak EasyShare camera is required to use the G600 Photo Printer. Improved features include:
90 Series BLUE Touchscreen Thermostat by White Rodgers (January 2006)
T2RERC received a production prototype from White Rodgers on a thermostat design we worked on in 2002. We held Beta focus groups in January 2006 and provided design feedback to the company for incorporation into the final production model. The White Rodgers 90 Series Blue thermostat incorporated a significant number of design and functional features identified in our 4 consumer concept definition focus groups we held in 2002.
Large and easy to see characters for heat and cool options, large intuitive red/blue temperature keys, a large 12 square inch touch screen display, audio prompting to ensure program change confirmation, menu driven program change, a keypad lockout, a limited temperature range, change furnace filter and humidifier pad alert, ability to copy programming, a 5 year warranty, a backlit display to improve display contrast in low lighting and multiple other features. The T2 RERC displayed the new White Rodgers 90 Series Blue thermostat at the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) conference held June 2006 in Atlanta, GA.
Negotiations initiated with the Eastman Kodak Company in year one culminated in fall 2004 in a collaboration between our two organizations. The initial result of that collaboration was our recruitment of consumers for three concept definition focus groups for the purpose of evaluating Kodak prototypes, evaluating Kodak concepts, and the identification of the ‘ideal’ design and functional features for the next generation of a Kodak product line.
Kodak personnel were in attendance at the focus groups in January & February 2005 and the resultant report generated by the T2 RERC on the product demonstrations, product evaluations, and the focus groups has been extremely well received within Kodak. In addition to electronic and hard copy bound versions of our report, Kodak received edited DVD copies of all the product demonstrations, evaluations and focus groups for their review.
We have been told by Kodak personnel that while a complete redesign of the product line incorporating the usability functions and features our consumers outlined is a year or two away, specific functions and features identified in our focus groups are being incorporated right now into the next generation of Kodak products. They recently sent us the newly released Kodak EasyShare Photo Printer 500 and relevant features of the new product include:
Lids Off Open-it-All Center by Black & DeckerTM (May 2005)
Black & Decker’s new Lids Off Open-It-All Jar, Can, & Bottle Opener made its tradeshow debut in the T2RERC’s booth at RESNA in June 2005.
Introduced in Spring 2005 in limited quantities for Mother’s Day, the Open-It-All functions as a jar opener, can opener, and bottle opener all combined into one compact
unit. In 2004, our consumers identified the need for a combination opening device that would perform the function of these three highly used kitchen appliances. Black &
Decker used our listing of consumer generated design and functional features to design the new product.
Gizmo Can Opener Redesign by Black & DeckerTM (May 2005)
In an effort to improve the usability and accessibility of Black & Decker’s Gizmo Can Opener, focus groups were conducted to determine the functions and features of the consumers’ ideal can opener. The result was a redesign of the Gizmo Can Opener to incorporate the following features:
1) Consumers had difficulty mounting the under the cabinet base and charging system for the Gizmo Can opener. They wanted the ability to just store Gizmo in a drawer and not have to worry about drilling holes into their cabinetry for a permanent installation of Gizmo. They now have that ability. The charging system is now portable – can be charged anywhere near a wall outlet and then stored in a drawer. No longer are you forced to just charge the system in its mounted base. They also have the option of still mounting a base home for the Gizmo under a cabinet.
2) Consumers had difficulty replacing the Gizmo into the space saver charger unit. The consumer no longer has to do this because they now have the option to use the space saver unit, or store the product in a drawer.
3) Consumers had difficulty lining up the charging contact points on the Gizmo with its cabinet mounted charging system. They could never tell if the unit was charging (no LED, etc). Now they don’t have to worry about properly lining up the charging points- it’s just a straight plug-in now.
4) Battery life was extremely limited with the prior versions of Gizmos. Consumers complained that the product would only last a year or two. The problem was that Gizmo was always being trickled charged in its base and the battery never depleted before charging (Memory battery). Now the unit will only be charged when the battery is significantly discharged and the consumer physically plugs in the charging unit. Result – increased battery life and consumer satisfaction.
5) Consumers had difficulty mounting the can opener back into its base without activating the can opener and possibly cutting themselves. This is no longer an issue because they no longer have to mount it back into a charging base.
Digital Toaster/Convection Oven by Black & DeckerTM (March 2004)
The Black & DeckerTM Digital Countertop Toaster Oven & Broiler (CTO8500) and the Digital Advantage Toaster/Convection Oven (CTO9500) were introduced at the end of year one of the grant cycle and offered for sale through the internet. These toaster ovens were designed with consumer input from the T2RERC. Our consumer groups identified the need for an easier to use, mistake proof toaster oven that could be used to cook small, complete meals for just 1 or 2 people.
Consumers stated they did not want knobs or dials to turn; they wanted better temperature control (1st slice of toast is as brown as the 4th slice of toast); temperature settings that were more precise; an automatic oven shut off; an auditory cue when the door was left open or when the toaster oven had finished cooking; cooking accessories that would fit their toaster oven so that they could bake a few cookies or muffins at a time; and multiple other usability and accessibility features (larger non slip handles, cool outer shell, easier to remove crumb tray, an easier to clean oven, etc).
Black & Decker incorporated the design and functional features requested by our consumers into the design of the CTO8500 and CTO9500 ovens. Features of these new ovens include pressure sensitive button controls; an electronic toast control (no more burnt toast); accurate digital settings from 200 to 450 degrees F for precise baking or cooking and 1-7 for toasting; a 90 minute auto off timer; a signal bell that chimes when the door is left open or the oven has completed a function; Black & Decker partnered with Mirro Bakeware to offer bakeware specially sized for the new CTO8500 and CTO9500 ovens; large non slip handles; a Thermal Guard (cool) outer shell; a large crumb tray with a large easy to grip handle for removal; and a non stick baking chamber for easier cleaning.
The new toaster ovens are designed to make the task of preparing meals simpler and less time consuming for all consumers.
Whirlpool (two products)
Black & Decker
Pass & Seymour/LeGrand
UB Office of the Vice President for Research Article: “Helping Hands”
[ Top of Page ]