That coolness can turn tepid if the product appears to be losing its edginess, they also found.
"Everyone says they know what 'cool' is, but we wanted to get at the core of what 'cool' actually is, because there's a different connotation to what cool actually means in the tech world," said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications, Penn State, and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory.
The researchers found that a cool technology trend may move like a wave. First, people in groups -- subcultures -- outside the mainstream begin to use a device. The people in the subculture are typically identified as those who stand out from most of the people in the mainstream and have an ability to stay a step ahead of the crowd, according to the researchers.
Once a device gains coolness in the subculture, the product becomes adopted by the mainstream.
However, any change to the product's subculture appeal, attractiveness or originality will affect the product's overall coolness, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. If a product becomes more widely adopted by the mainstream, for example, it becomes less cool.
"It appears to be a process," Sundar said. "Once the product loses its subculture appeal, for example, it becomes less cool, and therein lies the challenge."
The challenge is that most companies want their products to become cool and increase sales, Sundar said. However, after sells increase, the products become less cool and sales suffer. To succeed, companies must change with the times to stay cool.
"It underscores the need to develop an innovation culture in a company," Sundar said. "For a company to make products that remain cool, they must continually innovate."
However, products that have fallen out of favor can have coolness restored if the subculture adopts the technology again. For example, record players, which were replaced in coolness by digital files, are beginning to increase in popularity with the subculture, despite their limited usefulness. As a result, participants in a survey considered the record players as cool.
The researchers asked 315 college students to give their opinions on 14 different products based on the elements of coolness taken from current literature. Previously, researchers believed that coolness was largely related to a device's design and originality.
"Historically, there's a tendency to think that cool is some new technology that is thought of as attractive and novel," said Sundar. "The idea is you create something innovative and there is hype -- just as when Apple is releasing a new iPhone or iPad -- and the consumers that are standing in line to buy the product say they are buying it because it's cool."
A follow-up study with 835 participants from the U.S and South Korea narrowed the list to four elements of coolness -- subculture appeal, attractiveness, usefulness and originality -- that arose from the first study. In a third study of 317 participants, the researchers found that usefulness was integrated with the other factors and did not stand on its own as a distinguishing trait of coolness.
"The utility of a product, or its usefulness, was not as much of a part of coolness as we initially thought," said Sundar.
Such products as USB drives and GPS units, for example, were not considered cool even though they were rated high on utility. On the other hand, game consoles like Wii and X-box Kinect were rated high on coolness, but low on utility. However, many products ranking high on coolness -- Macbook, Air, Prezi Software, Instagram and Pandora -- were also seen as quite useful, but utility was not a determining factor.
"The bottom line is that a tech product will be considered cool if it is novel, attractive and capable of building a subculture around it," said Sundar.
Sundar worked with Daniel J. Tamul, assistant professor of communications, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and Mu Wu, graduate student, Penn State.
Matthew Swayne | EurekAlert!
Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School
Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences