When’s the last time you bought a printer? What type of printer was it (laser, inkjet, etc)? Chances are, whatever type of printer you bought, it was primarily for functionality, and it probably wasn’t something you ran off and bragged to your friends about.
The printing world has taken leaps and bounds since the first DOT Matrix machines showed up in offices and retail stores back in the 1970’s and printing documents has become a seamless process in the modern day, but no one printer development company has brought printing into the future much like we have seen with mobile phones, computers, and televisions. In short, the world of printers has always been stale in terms of modern design and innovation.
The design company Artefact, is making a bold statement and attempting to gain fame by reshaping the printer, a product that isn’t necessarily the main focus of consumer technology. Artefact is responsible for helping to create the intuitive CR200 controller that accompanies the SONOS wireless high-definition sound system, and also had a hand in crafting the way users experienced RIM’s Blackberry Playbook. So why is Artefact sliding from the hottest technologies today to take a crack at printing? Perhaps because no one else has bothered to. While printing may not be the hot topic of most consumer electronics news, the stage is wide open for innovation. Artefact has recognized this lack of attention, apparent when Artefact designer Jonus Buck stated, “That’s (lack of innovation) always a good reason to look at a category and re-imagine what it could be.”
And re-imagine is exactly what designers are doing. The prototype printer they are developing, called the SWYP (See What You Print), is promising some very big leaps in the printing process. The main design innovation being in the “touch-screen.” This addition is giving the printer more of a “tablet” like appearance, and while we do not know the specifications for the system yet, it is clear by the video that the touch-screen is about as large as a standard piece of paper (or high-gloss photo paper). The video also appears to show a great amount of user responsiveness in the screen, rivaling that of modern tablets and mobile devices.
The innovation isn’t just in the way the user interacts with the printer itself, but also what the user can do with documents and photos prior to printing them. All through the magic of touch, you’ll be able to crop photos, re-size them, and even create collages on a single piece of paper. Printing is made simple here too, as once the photo appears the way you want it on the touch-screen, you simply swipe your finger in a downward motion to print it. This, packed with the ability to seamlessly (and without much effort) connect the printer to your digital camera, mobile phone, tablet, or other device (to receive photos), is offering a great amount of user friendliness. Ease of use could be a great selling point here, as Artefact attempts to bring document printing into the future.
But with this intriguing product being developed, it begs the question. What is the pricing going to be? With such a large touch-screen, and compact design, is that going to drive the pricing of this printer up? How much would the average consumer pay for this product? We are looking at a potentially “game changing” addition to the world of printing (and photography for that matter), but will something as “stale” (not a hot topic) as a printer be successful in a down market?
Speaking of down market, consider that the IDC recently did a study which discovered that sales of copiers, printers, and other products in that category, fell approximately 0.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011. That isn’t much of a drop at all, but when you consider the fact that this piece of technology is going to fall on the “higher-end” of the printing market, Artefact may have a hard time pushing its creation to lower income families.
What do you think? Innovation aside, is this a product you see being a mass success? Do you think that pricing will be a factor? Do you think that printing is a frivolous and trivial category to re-imagine or is now the right time to bring printing into the future? Let us know in the comments section below!