Design Head Sung-Gul Hwang Speaks on LG’s Future Beyond Homes

From revolutionizing our home interiors with innovations such as the transparent OLED TV and nostalgic speaker to venturing into the outdoor industry with a portable projector and a tech-packed trailer; LG’s commitment to diverse and high-quality designs has left an indelible mark in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Now that, the CES 2024 dust has completely settled, top tech companies have set on their voyage to develop new technologies (and designs to sheathe these know-how’s). Homecrux caught up with Sung-Gul Hwang, Head of Design at LG Electronics to have his insights on LG’s recent showcase at CES and what is planned for the future.

LG Booth at CES 2024
Image: LG

“I’m pretty sure that we had the most traffic among all booths, but the number of visits is one dimension of the whole show. What’s important is that your exhibition is very intuitively set up, so visitors don’t have to read through things, and I believe that is what we succeeded at,” Hwang states upon being asked about LG’s presence at CES 2024.

The South Korean tech giant had a handsome showing at the mega tech event of the year and went gaga on AI integration in its appliances. But more than that, it was the transparent OLED TV, an obnoxious speaker, and a hi-tech camping trailer that grabbed headlines, the former of which is slated a release later this year.

“I think transparent TV has been a big assignment to us in the past few years, mainly because transparency is something that we’re trying to leverage functionally and emotionally. We are making our headway into that new market that hasn’t been touched yet. So we put a lot of effort into getting that right,” he states.

It is to be noted that the 77-inch screen of the transparent OLED TV blends into the environment once turned off, and even produces some mind-boggling depth effects. On that, LG claims, the TV screen is practically invisible when turned off, and uses wireless video and audio transmission technology, courtesy of LG’s Zero Connect Box.

LG SIGNATURE OLED T, the world’s first 77-inch 4K wireless, transparent TV
Image: LG

“A lot of times when people think about TV, they think it doesn’t have many components, but a TV actually has quite a lot of components. It’s just hidden behind the display. So, if you look at our transparent display, there’s an information bar at the bottom that’s camouflaging the components hidden behind it. So when you look at the display, it comes across or is perceived as a piece of furniture rather than a device that has a lot of components behind this display,” Sung-Gul points.

The LG Head of Design also sheds light on LG’s focus on content and the evolution of TVs, indicating a significant shift toward enhancing the user experience through webOS. “In the long term, we’re pretty sure that the transparent TV will be one of the key players. Obviously, the cost curve has to come down, but there’s always a start for every product like,” he states.

The LG Design Head then cites an example of how the first printer was outrageously expensive but eventually came down. “As the market grows and volume grows, it’s going to become more popular. So we certainly think that transparent TV provides another dimension in visual sensory. So I’m sure content-wise and technology-wise, it’s going to mature more and become one of the mainstream in the future in five to ten years.

The conversation then veered into other designs showcased at CES 2024. Hwang discussed the potential long-term investment in Bon Voyage- a camper trailer filled with LG appliances. “We want to extend our technology beyond homes. So, Bon Voyage will be a good vehicle to understand how we can carry our technology outside homes more often. So I think that’s going to become a trend,” he states.

Bon Voyage by LG Labs exhibited at CES 2024
Image: LG

With an experience of over 30 years in the consumer tech industry, Sung-Gul Hwang’s professionalism was another aspect of the interview that had us in awe. To our surprise, he had a whole presentation ready to brief us on Bon Voyage, and its potential future. Hwang takes us through the interior of Bon Voyage which features a ThinQ-enabled touchscreen panel on the trailer door that serves as an interface, presenting essential information like weather updates and charge capacity, allowing seamless interaction with the trailer’s functionalities.

Hidden within the trailer is LG Labs’ intriguing Duobo capsule coffee machine, resembling a moon lander, accompanied by a microwave. Other features include a fridge, (which is accessible from the exterior), and a pull-out table with a built-in inductive burner. The trailer also hosts a water purifier, and detachable light bars can be set up outside for an enjoyable outdoor experience.

In addition to lifestyle gadgets, the Bon Voyage boasts a sizable webOS-based OLED screen positioned above a second pull-out surface. Toward the rear of the trailer, you’ll find a portable karaoke set complete with two wireless microphones and speakers, along with cocktail accessories on either side.

Upon being asked whether the Bon Voyage is meant for long-term investment in the US and the global market, Hwang states, “We’re discussing that right now. We have the technology to build Bon Voyage the right way, but we’re also more concerned about customer responses and we’re assuming that customers in the US or India, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have different sets of needs. Likewise, also Koreans have very different needs for camping trailers. So, we have designed the thing based on what we prefer, and what our core needs were. But also we wanted to get a reaction from the global customers, and understand what they think camping or glamping might be in their local region.”

He also sheds light on the Dukebox’s design, emphasizing the positive reception of its nostalgic yet contemporary appeal. Hwang discusses LG Labs and its role in exploring future options beyond traditional home appliances. He emphasizes LG’s ambition to transform into a ‘smart life solution company,’ extending technology to the outdoors and various aspects of life.

Hwang then talks about the design process behind innovative products like Bon Voyage and how they align with LG’s business goals. “Being a Design Head, my main responsibility is to think about the future from a customer perspective. So, I think the most fundamental thing is being able to hone ourselves to see things through the customer’s eyes. So it’s our core competence that we try to design or imagine things based on consumer data and our in-depth understanding of customer lifestyle.

Hwang describes these endeavors as attempts to expand business valuation and portfolio beyond the conventional, and discusses the designer’s crucial role in mediating between technology and consumer needs, maximizing benefits for the end-users. The LG Design Head remains tight-lipped about specific details but assures ongoing efforts to align with consumer expectations.

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