Warm Devices, Cozy Hands, and the Kindle Fire

Today the Kindle Fire found its way into my Mother’s hands. After wanting a Kindle for some time, she was glad to explore its many features and start reading on it right away.

The introduction of a new device into one’s life is a unique experience of becoming acquainted with its many capabilities, features, and benefits. Devices like this go through many levels of design that result in a final user experience, and with the help of an interaction designer, hopefully a good one.

Let’s dig into the reading experience of a book or tablet briefly. Often the hands are placed at a higher level and further away from the body than other natural human positions. Hands must be exposed as wearing any sort of covering often hinders use. For a few of us, this presents a problem: our hands get cold.

I was soon to discover that the Kindle Fire warmed my Mom’s hands as she read. Why? When you charge it, it gets warm. Surely this is the most unintentional of unintentional features but it is important. That alone makes a great experience for my Mom.

When she reads at night and her hands get cold, she doesn’t have to put the book down and stop. The Kindle Fire engages her in its experience by being comfortable and cozy. This is valid on a psychological level just as cuddling up with a blanket makes one feel good.

As I thought about this, I realized most of the technologies that sit in our hands have this feature. I was able to recall countless cold nights where having my laptop on my actual lap helped warm me up. I remembered a conversation with a friend in which they explained that they prefer using the keyboard on their laptop, rather than an external, because the heat from the laptop keeps their hands warm as they type. I’m sure the extent of this is expansive.

We willingly sacrifice the warmth of our hands to use our technology. (How many times have you not wanted to move your hands from under a blanket to grab the remote and change the channel?) Just as computers become heaters to warm up a room, hand held electronic devices become little hand warmers for our cold hands.

If a designer is lucky, something unintended but great pokes through after the final design and production. One can design for everything but a single experience by single person in a lone household. Just as Arm & Hammer discovered the cleaning capabilities of baking soda, we now know that the warmth provided by a charging electronic device keeps cold hands happy. Which is surely something experienced by more than a single person in a lone household.

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