When we broke the news at Coolest Gadgets of the AudioVox Homebase at CES last year, I thought this was perhaps the coolest home kitchen idea to make family life easier. The idea was simple. A digital frame wrapped around an acrylic base which also serves as a whiteboard for notes and digital recorder for voice messages. The LCD screen looked to show pictures from SD cards and promised slide shows and other options that would make looking at digital stills quite enjoyable.
Then I got the real McCoy to test last week. By the end of the afternoon, I was ready to pack it up and send it back. Not because it’s easy to use, which it is, or that it’s design is a lost cause – which it isn’t. But because the parts AudioVox used in building the Home Base are just plain disappointing. The LCD screen resolution is around 1st generation digital frame quality and the microphone which is used to record the digital memos makes playback sound like the drive-through at Jack in the Box. And on top of that, AudioVox seems to think that using sponge tape to affix a three or four pound electronic device to an refrigerator door that opens and closes is going to be a secure system for protecting it from falling and breaking into thousands of pieces. Well sorry, but that’s a recipe for disaster. These kind of shortcomings only prove the old adage that designers don’t work on their own cars.
But in this case, designers don’t use the stuff they design. And they should, if they plan on charging $200 for them. If AudioVox is willing to put a little more into this design to make it both safe and high quality, even if it costs $10 –20 more, I’m sure people would pay the difference to get what Audiovox first promised. And therein lies the hope, because it’s just a great idea for digitizing people’s busy life.