YD Talks: Discussing the Award-winning ‘Modu Ecosystem’ with Pedro Gomes Design

The MODU’s official description reads “the future of the television experience”. Designed by Pedro Gomes Design, a non-traditional strategic design consultancy, the MODU Ecosystem was created for Tech4home, a leading global telecom OEM. The MODU combines elements of entertainment and necessity into a single, unified solution. Designed with a shapeshifting remote and a gloriously minimal set-top-box/dock that charges the remote as well as mobile phones, the MODU becomes indispensable in homes… and like all indispensable home products, showcases an aesthetic that blends plastic with fabric, resulting in a product that’s truly fitting in its interior space, blending well with the other items of decor around it. The MODU was a recipient of a Red Dot Design Concept Award for its incredible combination/fusion of features/products as well as its iconic, minimal ‘soft electronics’ aesthetic. We’re here talking with Pedro Gomes and the design team behind the MODU.

Yanko Design: Hey Pedro! Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Pedro Gomes: As a full time dreamer I founded PGD – a Non-Traditional Global Strategic Design Consultancy – where I have the pleasure to lead an international team of 10-20 amazing talented strategists, designers, branding and marketeers.
Driven by great challenges our passion sits in the intersection of design, business, and education. In the last 5 years, Pedro Gomes Design has worked with different clients from all 6 continents and developed a unique holistic development approach that crosses the best of research, strategy, branding​, ​industrial design​, ​communication,​ and ​360 marketing​.
We believe that scalable impact starts with education so we are honored for the ongoing exciting opportunity to teach and learn from a multitude of different startups and universities in India, Colombia, USA, Estonia, France, Portugal, Germany, and Singapore.

YD: In your own words, what is MODU?
PGD: MODU​ is a ​customizable TV ecosystem​ that envisions the future for telecoms entertainment systems by merging the latest technology (voice control, air mouse, smart textiles, integrated resonance charging, RFID) and brings together TV, RCU, STB, and mobile phones into a single hub. Sitting at the edge of new experiences, MODU was designed for the environment where it belongs – your home, office or working space.

YD: How did the idea of MODU Ecosystem come along? What was the brief given?
PGD: MODU was born out of an open/envision brief from our client Tech4Home, a leading OEM for Global Telecom’s with 8 years experience in the market, looking for the next big leap in it’s industry. The result of this great partnership and team collaboration with Tech4Home, where together our focus was to understand and define how design and engineering could shape technology to challenge the industry standards by bringing added value to the final user.

YD: How does the MODU Ecosystem work differently, as compared to the set-top boxes and dongles that are its contemporaries?
PGD: MODU is a groundbreaking customizable television ecosystem and an holistic solution for the Telecom entertainment systems by bringing together TV, RCU (remote control unit), STB (set-top-box) and mobile phones into a single hub. Merging today’s and tomorrow’s technologies (voice, air mouse, smart textiles and integrated resonance charging) with a modular design construction, MODU challenges the industry’s current paradigm. The remote allows you to customize the interface by swapping the smart-textile interfaces, while the STB extends its purpose and becomes the central hub for resonance/induction charged devices. Finding the right balance between the design vision and technical feasibility was essential to achieve the level of work we have with MODU.

YD: Do tell us more about the design team’s role in deciding aspects of the product, and what was the client’s role/feedback through the course of the project?
PGD: MODU was developed in close collaboration between Pedro Gomes Design and Tech4Home – Management, Design and Engineering teams. Short feedback loops assured a close collaboration and quick iteration of ideas that resulted on a solid, collaborative and trust based relationship between the consultancy and the inhouse team. It’s only in this intersection we can all deliver great work and allows to deliver a great product.

YD: I might be going off topic here! But why design a remote when your phone could perform the duties of the remote?
PGD: As a strategic design consultancy, we use user research as the ground foundation to every product we develop. By gathering user insights, data analysis, and design trends we were able to understand: 1- the TV and Phone have very different roles in terms of Interfaces for video watching. It was interesting to find that several Telecom’s and TV manufacturers have tried launching apps that worked as TV remotes, but most that ended up with really low usage rates or poor reviews.
There is a clear human/tech condition that explains why: 1- Imagine you were about to change the TV channel on your smartphone app, but you just got a notification and then all of sudden you’re replying, liking, commenting, posting, googling, etc.. and when you notice, you just spent 15 minutes on the phone and you haven’t even finished the two seconds task that would get you watching your favorite TV show. Sure the smartphone has a role in the TV experience, as an easy to use interface for the internet and a powerful broadcaster, but there’s still space and need for a dedicated product offer that allows you to focus on your TV content and can be specifically targeted for Telecom providers and other clients that purchase from Tech4Home OEM product lines. 2- A TV’s remote should be inclusive – Tech4Home clients need to provide a universal solution that can work for teenagers to older generations – Using the phone as an interface is clearly the easy way to change the interface for each user but as tactile/sensorial human beings and research showed glass is not the material one would imagine to join you for a cozy day in the couch. Which gave us our third outtake 3- People still want to have meaningful tactile and sensorial experiences when it comes to everyday objects. The hardware interface of the remotes allows a user to interact without looking at the remote. Transferring this into a digital product we’ll be distracting the user. Not every interface has to be digital.. This is where MODU’s custom interfaces can provide a unique approach in product development by bringing swappable smart textile interfaces to an industry, where before changing an interface meant re-engineering the whole remote and carving new plastic molds to assure that tactile feel to users.

YD: Okay then! Let’s talk a little bit about the product’s design… especially its use of soft forms, and the combination of plastic and fabric. What were the design inspirations for the MODU’s visual character and CMF?
PGD: MODU’s CMF was inspired by your home and it’s interior design. MODU was designed for the environment where it belongs – your home, office or room. The soft shapes and smooth textures blend in with the surrounding environment providing a visual and sensorial experience that can be celebrated as a central timeless element of the environment where it stands. Last but not least, tastes and interiors are as different as people – this is where MODU system creates a better product development system for Tech4Home to provide its clients with customizable options for their final customers.

YD: In a future where the mobile experience is so connected with entertainment, do you see MODU being a bridge between one’s phone and the TV?
PGD: MODU is a new ecosystem that integrates mobile phones in its experience. Anyhow we deeply believe that TV’s and Phones are very different interfaces that still require different experiences – so MODU becomes an integrated ecosystem that blends your room / space with your entertainment devices.

YD: What’s the future of MODU? It’s currently conceptual. Do you see it being built and turned into a reality?
PGD: We are really excited that Tech4Home is investing in translating MODU from a concept to a groundbreaking product and we can’t wait to help Tech4Home develop MODU to the next level!

YD: Wonderful! What’s in store in the future for Pedro Gomes Design? Are you working on some exciting projects?
PGD: Yes, the present and future are really exciting. We really believe that today building just a great product is not enough – real success is dependent on optimizing complex systems and this is where our passion lies and where we’ve been focusing our energy. From business and brand incubation to strategic holistic programs – we merge the best of research, strategy, branding, industrial design, communication and 360 marketing – to partner with some truly amazing international & Portuguese clients.
Last but not least, next year we’ll be an exciting one as we’re rebranding our studio to truly show the holistic and business extent of our work! You can check our website and our work out at www.pedrogomesdesign.com