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The Development Story of RICOH THETA X — Planning, Marketing, Design, and Manual

About THETA

Posted date : 2022.06.28

We interviewed project members to get a behind the scenes look at the birth of THETA X, the new model in the RICOH THETA series!

Planning THETA X

What went into the planning of THETA X?

Shimizu (Planning): RICOH THETA was created in 2013 as the world’s first image input device capable of capturing a 360° image in a single shot, and has grown to seven models by 2021, with a current lineup of three models.

Yusuke Shimizu (Product Planning)

In the beginning, THETA became popular mainly among innovators who saw the value in a new visual experience. But it has gradually gained popularity with a variety of people, including camera enthusiasts, people who use it for social networking communication, and people who record their trips. As 360° images become more popular, people tend to want more from their functionality such as improved image quality, operability, durability, and ease of use.

We have therefore decided to satisfy all these requests, which we have not been able to realize in the past, in the next model in order to make THETA even more useful and to encourage even more people to use it.

So was THETA X initially intended for consumer use, rather than business?

Shimizu (Planning): We had a specific image of “people who are interested in technology” as our initial target users, regardless of whether they were using it for private or business purposes. We felt that there were many such users for THETA S and THETA V.

Enami (PM): There was a time when we had daily discussions among the team about the personas of these users. During these discussions, we came to the conclusion that users who are interested in technology have the mindset of “wanting to make something convenient.” Since then I have been imagining that if more and more people would foster that kind of mindset, THETA would be used more widely in the business scene.

Eiji Enami (Product Manager)

Enami (PM): There was a time when we had daily discussions among the team about the personas of these users. During these discussions, we came to the conclusion that users who are interested in technology have the mindset of “wanting to make something convenient.” Since then I have been imagining that if more and more people would foster that kind of mindset, THETA would be used more widely in the business scene.

Shimizu (Planning): At that time, the Corona pandemic had just begun, and although THETA had been gradually becoming more widely used in the business industry, the pandemic triggered the worldwide proliferation of 360° imagery with commercial virtual tours. Against this backdrop, we thought that by 2022, when this new model would go on sale, THETA would surely be used mainly in the business scene. This is why we set the concept of the new model as “a platform camera that is useful for work and daily life.”

Certainly, the pandemic has led to more opportunities than ever before to utilize 360° images, such as virtual tours of real estate properties.

Shimizu (Planning): With THETA X, we wanted to enhance the ease of development with APIs and plug-ins compared to previous models. The large touch screen makes it easier to use and develop plug-ins. We would like to have various outside vendors link THETA X to their systems and make use of it.

Photo by RICOH THETA X 11K, HDR rendering – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

THETA X / 11K / HDR

THETA X Design

THETA X features a large touch screen and a new half-moon shape for the shutter button.

Kawa (Design): We designed THETA X as an evolution of THETA Z1 and THETA SC2, combining advanced operability with ease of use. As the first model in the series to feature a large touch screen, the design configuration is a major change from previous models. For this reason, from the beginning of development, the team went back and forth on the overall design, including the buttons and lens.

Toshihiko Kawa (Product Design) *Left

Did you encounter any difficulties in the design?

Takahashi (Engineering): The design of the glass part of the touch screen and the shutter button was one of the most difficult aspects, but we were able to incorporate the design team’s request to use a single sheet of glass the covers the touchscreen and wraps around the lens bezel on the face of THETA X. After considering various designs, I think we were able to achieve a clean, uncluttered look.

Enami (PM): We also made many mock-ups of the unit and checked them many times with our team. We discussed the color, gloss, and other details of the body and shutter button with everyone paying close attention to the details.

Yes, I know you all discussed the stability of the shutter button among the members while handling the prototype many times.

Kawa (Design): The shutter button on THETA X is larger than previous models, but the design team worked to ensure that the shutter can be pressed with stability no matter where the button is pressed, using a straight line as the axis.

Takahashi (Engineering): THETA X had to support replaceable batteries and SD cards for the first time in the series, so we also had to think about how to accommodate these in the design. In the end, we settled on a shape that would allow the battery to be inserted into the side of the camera, taking other design considerations into account.

THETA X marketing measures

Were there any difficulties in terms of marketing THETA X?

Hirakawa (Marketing): THETA X has many functional features, but we needed to make it easy to understand what makes THETA X different from other models such as THETA SC2 and THETA Z1. And we thought the most important feature is the large touch screen, which makes THETA X “very easy for anyone to use, just like a smartphone.” We were conscious of the fact that the large touch screen makes it easy to use, and we wanted to convey this visually in the creative work on websites.

Photo by RICOH THETA X 11K / HDR rendering – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

THETA X / 11K / HDR

RICOH THETA has only three models, but even so, there are many people who don’t know which model to purchase. I think we need to continue to show which model is best for various needs.

Eri Hirakawa (Product Marketing)

Masago (Marketing): While the development of THETA X was underway, we also conducted a number of customer interviews. For example, many comments say connecting to a smartphone is troublesome, and I believe that THETA X has become an easy-to-use model for such customers.

Hideki Masago (Product Marketing)

What was fun about launching a new model?

Masago (Marketing): THETA X was the first model to feature a large touch screen and a new UI, so there were many first-time specifications. We tested the product from the user’s point of view and immediately provided feedback on how we felt, noting which part was hard to use, while the design and development teams immediately considered improvements.

Hirakawa (Marketing): Although only a few people are involved in THETA’s design and development we were carefully selected, and I think each and every one of us has a high awareness of the need to create good products. I felt that getting involved in manufacturing is one of the best parts of working for a manufacturing company.

THETA X User Manual

The HTML manuals that are available on the web were updated at the time of THETA X release.

Nakamura (Manuals): We had been talking about revamping the HTML manuals on our website to make them easier to use, and we completely redesigned them at the time of the THETA X release. For example, we added images of each product to the first page for selecting a model so that users can easily find their model at a glance. We also added a new search bar. This makes it possible to quickly find the relevant explanation by entering the keywords you want to look up. We have also made the same changes to all other models’ web-based manuals.

Kenichi Nakamura (User Manual Development)

THETA X first featured a large touch screen, and the UI for THETA has been completely redesigned. I imagine it was also difficult to produce the manual?

Nakamura (Manual): The touch screen feature was totally new, so for the most part, we created the manuals from scratch. We were very conscious of the need to explain each function in a concise and easy-to-understand manner.

New Designed User Manual 

I had been in charge of manuals for various products, including normal cameras, but I don’t think I had ever worked on a project that involved so much new content. I would like to thank the members of the project team who worked with me every week to discuss the manual.

Photo by RICOH THETA X 11K, HDR rendering – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

THETA X / 11K / HDR

The Future of THETA X

Enami (PM): This model was originally planned for consumers. The touch screen operability and other aspects of the UX were designed to be easy to use for the general public, so I think this model can suit anyone. We also hope that THETA X will be useful not only for enterprise, but also for a variety of small businesses that deal with spaces. I’m sure there will be various functionality requests, but we would like to respond where we can with plug-ins and firmware updates in the future.

Shimizu (Planning): We hope that THETA X will be used for both work and private use. We would be very happy if this new model can be used in any situation no matter how you choose to make the most out of it!

In the next article, we will bring you an episode on UI planning and design!

360 photos at Chambre-dhote-retraite in Yokosuka, Japan

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