A study by Pew’s Social & Demographic Trends Project reveals that when it comes to technology, Americans are changing their definition of necessity. The study asked 1,000 U.S. adults to name their necessities among such products as cars, clothes dryers, air conditioners, television sets, home computers, cell phones, microwaves and high-speed Internet, among others. The results: Clothes dryers, microwaves; air conditioners and televisions all dropped significantly in importance, while flat screen TVs, iPods, and high-speed Internet made very small gains. Microwaves dropped the most. Whereas 68% considered the microwave a necessity in 2006, only 47% labeled it necessary today. Similarly, clothes dryers dropped 17 percentage points and air conditioners fell by 16. Flat screen TVs meanwhile moved up by 3 percentage points and iPods moved up a single percentage point. So what’s the takeaway? It could be as simple as this: During a recession, less products are considered necessities. Pew says that this is the first year in a decade when Americans defined fewer products as necessary.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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