A product, especially at its inception, should focus on specifics—it should be a simple and elegant solution for its users that evolves to meet their needs. This was our approach while creating Relay, and it led us to challenge what communication looks like, what staying connected means, and how a great product should work. This is how our philosophy shaped Relay’s features and design.
Simple beats complex every time.
Relay’s number one job is to keep families connected in a fun and simple way. So we distilled Relay down to the essential elements, designing communication-first from the outer hardware to the tech inside.
Communication should be fast, easy, and natural. We made Relay’s interface as close to real-time as possible by integrating voice streaming and advanced audio compression into Relay’s software. Voice streaming lets your message start transmitting as soon as you start talking, eliminating that delay. Audio compression is what makes your message travel to its destination as fast as possible. We also increased our speed by embracing the push-to-talk communication style rather than sacrificing time to voice commands and other interfaces. When staying connected, you shouldn’t have to wait.
“The sound is clear and messages are relayed quickly. It works just as I thought it would!” –Relay beta tester
Relay is compact—it has three buttons, no screen, and you don’t need a thick manual to use it. We designed the hardware to turn complicated technology into a small and polished package that’s useful without becoming a distraction. You don’t even have to look at your Relay to push the talk button. It’s designed to enable communication for kids while they’re playing, exploring, and learning about the world around them without dominating their attention. We made deliberate, active design decisions to cultivate communication that supports real-world activity without eclipsing it.
Safety, Fun, and Family.
Relay’s push to talk functionality embodies the kind of family communication that we champion. It enables and encourages kids to explore more, play more, to be creative and unplug from the screens in their lives. Even Relay’s voice-changing feature is so much more fun when it’s part of a game, a story, an active adventure. Relay’s number one job is communication, but it isn’t a phone. By providing a line of communication without a screen, it enables kids to go farther without sabotaging the desire to engage in unplugged play in the first place.
“All the neighborhood kids want [Relays]. They’ve said they like it more than the Verizon Gizmo!” –Relay beta tester
We built Relay to be family friendly from the ground up, and that means being fun for the kid and useful to the parent. A big part of giving parents peace of mind is the ability to know and track where their kids are. That’s why we built GPS functionality into every Relay and made it visible in the Relay app. But design isn’t just about the features—it’s also about the things Relay doesn’t do.
We believe in users’ rights to control their experience. That’s why all new features are optional and turned off by default. That’s why we don’t record or store your family’s voices. That’s why we have delayed implementing some third-party features into Relay that don’t meet our standards yet. We believe in your right to privacy and would never ask you to choose between your family’s privacy and staying connected. There will be more updates about our commitment to your family’s safety and privacy in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
You have the power.
Right now, Relay is a lean and specialized communication device, focusing in on providing the best, fastest communication possible. But that’s just its first function. We designed Relay with room to grow. Where it grows, that’s up to you. We believe the best products are shaped by the customers who use them most—that’s the way we built Republic Wireless, and that’s the way we’re building Relay. We have already received tons of feedback from early users that is helping us chart the course Relay should take. If you’re fired up about your Relay, we want to hear from you. You can add your voice to the conversation in our Relay Neighborhood forum.
“The best products are shaped by the customers who use them the most.”
So how will Relay evolve? We’ll add new channels. We use channels to separate Relay’s features. Each feature has its own channel, and as we create new features, you can add their channels to your Relay devices through the app. You can find new channels in the Relay app, decide which ones you want, and choose which devices should have access to each channel. Each Relay channel is a unique and thoroughly developed feature, and each channel you choose for your devices is entirely up to you. We are continually working on creating and perfecting new features, so as time goes on, Relay will get better and better.
Based on the feedback we’ve received so far, we’re already hard at work bringing new features to Relay. Here are some of the use cases we’ve heard and what we’re working on to deliver new ways of communicating, new ways to have fun as a family, as well as useful tools and functions.
- Build your own Walkie Talkie channel: This feature would allow you to set up channels to talk to custom groups and individual Relays, even on other accounts. As you know, your family’s security and privacy is our top concern, so we’re taking our time to make sure we can do this safely and securely.
- A family message board: This channel will allow you to leave a message for your Relay devices that can be listened to later instead of in real-time. It’s like a message board for important reminders and information.
- Google Assistant: This channel would allow you to interact with Google Assistant right from your Relay. While we have working prototypes of this one, it’s not ready for kids yet. Once it is, we’ll make it available to you.
- Music: This would allow you to listen to music on the go, right from your Relay. Before this is ready, we want to make sure parents have the content controls they want and that battery performance isn’t impacted.
- Fun and games: These channels are designed for having fun—imagine voice effect channels with word games, trivia, or even a joke of the day.
- Useful tools: This channel does a few simple (and important) things—like weather, an alarm clock, a calculator, and more.
Relay isn’t just a new way to keep families connected—it’s a fast, reliable communication device that grows with families and respects their needs and choices. Our team has families of their own, and we wouldn’t bring a product to you that we wouldn’t give to our own children. We’re proud to share our design philosophy with you and are so excited to see it in action.
Ready to see for yourself?
About the Author:
Sam works on the Product team for Relay and Republic Wireless. As a new dad, he’s excited about the opportunity to create products his daughter will get to use one day. “So much of the technology developed today is designed to absorb your attention into a virtual world. Relay fires me up because it’s designed to turn your attention outward and make playing and being a kid more fun.”