Category: Interaction Design
Back in June I attended Practical Introduction into Artificial Intelligence by ASI Data Science as part of London Technology Week. The event was very well structured, and more importantly, perfectly distilled complex theories and processes into a digestible format for a novice like myself. I left feeling like an expert, and was able to confidently re-articulate the evening to others, which I think is very much a sign of a well run event and of course, great instructors. Moreover, as I’m navigating the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning in relation to my role and interests as an Interaction Designer, I’m being intentionally thoughtful regarding the Pareto Principle – I don’t actually need to be an expert, but do want a solid 20% foundational knowledge base.
Anyhow, the evening began with a history of artificial intelligence and the corresponding theories of influential scientists on the topic before launching into a hands-on session in which participants built our own handwriting recognition engine. Key takeaways included a clearer understanding of the relationship between artificial intelligence verse machine learning, a new comprehension of artificial neural networks (see slide below), and insights into what is and is not currently possible relative to real world applications.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday, when I attended a MeetUp by Udacity at Google Campus London on Machine Learning and Bots by Lilian Kasem. Very different content and structure but equally insightful. Lilian’s talk was centered around Bots specifically – from the definition of a bot, to a live coding demo of the creation of a bot in Microsoft Bot Framework, and best bot practices – all while weaving in the integration of machine learning if it adds value (I also appreciate her stress on the if). Her resources in the image below:
In addition to the obvious relevance of these two events to current interaction design trends, they are helping me formulate next steps for two of my current projects, one personal and one professional.
The personal project – Burrito, a marriage bot that analyzes messages between my husband and me to determine who is a better spouse – is currently being refactored into a formal bot for Telegram. Lilian’s talk in particular was very helpful as my project focus as transitioned from theoretical to technical as I am now seeking to create a higher fidelity product and implement better, if not best, programming practices.
The professional project, for which I will intentionally be quite vague, investigates the impact of implicit data on enterprise organizational and technical systems, and in particular, the transition from frictionless to exception based workflows. As an Interaction Designer, I firmly believe it is important to not only empathize with humans, but also technology and its corresponding data because the concept of user – who, what, or where – is increasingly being blurred. Therefore, ASI’s introduction into AI was particular helpful in how I understand, design for, and implement data into my professional practice.
Long story short – two great events! In the coming weeks, I am to write a followup post regarding my technical developments in regards to Burrito bot, but also an online course I began this week to formalize my programming skills relative the Internet of Things.
This past week I finally finished refactoring my interaction design portfolio using Google Polymer in addition to adding new projects (Systems of Systems, Burrito, Phygital Party Mode, and Story of Me). Still much work to be continued, including incorporating page routing, improving performance and load time, and better code practices. I’m new to Polymer, thus much to learn.
The reason I’ve decided to use Polymer is the ease at which I can use Firebase. Essentially, though currently disabled as I continue refactoring, I have a portfolio mode called Phygital Party Mode, whereby by when a portfolio visitor clicks this mode, the colors seen in the above GIF are reflected in a Philips Hue light in my London flat. I also think it is a relevant, modern tool to learn independent of my portfolio.
The theme of IxDA London’s June event was Algorithms, Machine Learning, AI and us designers – an evening of great discussions that prompted me to dig up reading material on The Uncanny Valley and Subconscious Biases. Both these topics were strongly present, the former directly and the latter indirectly, in Ed and John’s presentation on designing for IBM Watson. They discussed the ‘Uncanny Valley of Emotion’ as a third line on the curve in addition to ‘still’ and ‘moving’ in the traditional model of the uncanny valley. While I understand their intent in creating a third category – accounting for the invisible systems, agents, and interactions not visible or physically accessible – in retrospect I disagree with the characterization. Emotion, or lack of, can by explicitly betrayed by movement. From my understanding, subtle asynchronous or unnatural movements directly related to emotional responses expected by humans are a key ingredient in the Uncanny Valley. Therefore, I would rename the ’emotion’ curve suggested by the Watson team to ‘implicit,’ thereby retaining emotion as a criteria for both explicit (still and moving) and implicit interactions.
The second subtopic, subconscious biases, greatly concerns me. A recent article in the New York Times – Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem – sums it up perfectly. As designers, how do we build into our processes accountability for subconscious (and conscious) biases relative to algorithms, machine learning, and conversational interfaces? I don’t have an answer but I would like to find one!
Relevant links and resources:
The Uncanny Valley
Uncanny valley: why we find human-like robots and dolls so creepy
Navigating a social world with robot partners: A quantitative cartography of the Uncanny Valley
The Uncanny Wall
Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem
Below is the loose script and slides from a 20 minute talk I gave in Bristol for World IA Day 2016 – “Information Everywhere, Architects Everywhere.” I presented personal design projects in which I prototype physical manifestations of invisible interactions from the mundane moments of my daily life, and the resulting insights that inform how I make sense of complex sociotechnical systems and dynamic information exchanges to design meaningful enterprise solutions. More information on the event and other speakers in Brisol can be viewed on the Lanyrd event page.
Though work has been keeping me busy, I’ve still been able to partake in a lot of exciting design events around London this past Spring. Some of my favorites being:
- Google partnered with Women Techmakers to host International Women’s Day Summit 2015. Raia Hadsell from Google DeepMind gave an inspiring talk both on Reinforcement Learning as well as presenting her inspiring non-linear career path.
- Gravity Sketch presented their process and prototypes at IxDA London April’s Augmenting space and place. Though I find their product potentially more exciting as a tool for non-creatives, I strongly appreciate rethinking the creative process and mediums of communication and collaboration.
- Chryssa Varna had me feeling all sort of nostalgic for architecture as she presented her beautiful thesis Industrial Improvisation – a poetic combination of robotics and graceful human interaction.
Since moving to London this summer, on the recommendation of friends, I’ve made a strong effort to be proactive in the London MeetUp scene as both an on-going learning experience and opportunity to get to know other designers and technologists. My experiences so far can pretty much be summed up by the regret at only not exploring MeetUp sooner! While I’m a member of quite a handful, my favorite so far have easily been Women Who Code London and IxDA London, both of whom are lead by obviously passionate and motivated individuals, which I believe is what makes their events so coveted.
The most recent IxDA MeetUp was on Wearable Interaction Design, and as one fellow friend and attendee summarized – a mini conference within a single evening. Guest speakers included Melissa Coleman, Kevin McCullagh, Becky Stewart and Duncan Fitzsimons – a diverse range of views regarding wearable technology.
While all the speakers had interesting and varied perspectives, I really appreciated Duncan’s broad and inclusive definition of wearable technology (as seen above). As the subject is too often discussed implying the modification of conventional jewelry with an LED, screen or accelerometer as the future, I believe zooming out and taking a diverse perspective is what will allow for true innovation relative to user-centered needs.
Points of discussion and other thoughts that sprang to mind or stuck included:
- Michio Kaku’s Cave Man Principle in relation to media excitement vs longterm commitment
- Great point by Melissa (if I remember correctly) about wearables not becoming permanently ingrained in our bodies akin to cyborgs, as with the constant release of new technology and versions become obsolete, we will fear our body becoming a technology wasteland
- Becky proposed a great list of suggested conversations to have between a designer and engineer when prototpying, including: tech specifications of data, who needs to see what and when, one way or two way communication, and power requirements among others
I was selected to exhibited and present my Interaction Design thesis project, The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity, with a group of other UID graduates for three days at Semcon in Göteborg, Sweden.
Lotta Power wants her home to be ranked highly on the energy produciton list in the weekly shag. Home brochure. When she doesn’t see the Power family listed as a top net energy producer in Newtown, she becomes irritated. The brochure highlights the energy harvesting potential of the piezoelectric shag Carpet Footprint already installed in the Power family’s central home energy system. In order to stimulate more energy production while also inhibiting consumption, she hides Max’s headphones so he cannot work on his ambient DJ album. Frustrated, as she anticipated, Max begins searching frantically, running around the house and thus generating electricity as his feet rub and pounded on the shag carpet. Though, in his fervent searching, he causes a ruckus and wakes sleeping Minnie frightfully from her nap. As Minnie begins to cry profusely, she no longer sucks on the energy harvesting Pacify Her that Robin personally uses to charge her smartphone. Right as Minnie drops the Pacify Her, Robin receives a text notification about a new submission to Suburban Dictionary, the website she founded and manages, but doesn’t have time to read it before her phone dies. As Minnie is still crying and refuses the Pacify Her, Robin begins to suck on it herself. Otto wishes to watch the morning news before heading to work, but sees the television is low on power and Lotta has disconnected it from the central home energy system. As he observes Robin awkwardly with the Pacify Her, he luckily has just enough power in his phone to seize the opportunity to take a photo and post it to Instagram. Just as Robin’s phone turns back on, charged by the pacifier, she sees the image Instagram and becomes furious. Since she doesn’t want to loose power in her phone and thus continues sucking on the pacifier and expresses her anger through violent gestures. Luckily, she is wearing the Temper Trap purchased by Otto, which harvests energy from vigorous movement and skaking. As she intensely expresses her emotions over the photo, Otto is able to wirelessly charge the TV with energy harvested from the Temper Trap. Overheated from emotion, Robin turns on the air conditioning, which is part of the central home energy production system, draining the house of all recently produced energy. The Power family is no powerless.
Following my gateway presentation last Friday, I received a lot of helpful feedback regarding my next steps and exhibition priorities and setup. During my presentation I skipped all previous background and process material and essentially launched into a narrative of the fictional world and characters I’ve created – you can read the first draft iteration of The Family Circuit: A New Narrative in American Domesticity.
Feedback from reviewers included:
- Finding a balance between conveying main message quickly vs requiring in depth analysis. Is the goal to get the message quickly? Essentially, my exhibition needs to be able to cater to those with a short attention span, while also allowing the various layers of the project and story to reveal over more time and with additional material. I personally am more inclined to cater to the latter, as I feel making the message overly explicit will sacrifice the experience of peeling back the layers.
- Emphasis on storytelling: be sure to connect and relate the characteristics of the characters into and through the cycles of daily events (something I have but need to work on making more explicit and central).
- 5 minute presentation at design talks could be a a narrative describing the world and omitting the why/how I got here. Of course, followed by an ‘if you want to see more, check out my exhibition…’
- Make the exhibition minimal, highlighting the artifacts. Hint at other aspects of family life, but don’t overload with unnecessary details.
- START STAGING NOW. Make a mini mockup of the exhibition plan, which could also inform if I want to make it full scale (most likely) or something along the lines of a cornell box.
- Various supplementary ideas: Pulp fiction book, digital photo frame, Whole Earth Catalog (love love!), mockumentary (Modern Family & The Office – REALLY which I had time for this, but unsure)
- Make my infomercial idea a higher priority
- Make objects in photos/GIFs/video pop in relation to Energy of Things catalog
- Match the exhibition setting to the scenes used in supplementary material
- Don’t forget to relate and check back to my original intention: energy consumption awareness
My own thoughts & reflections:
- Lots to do!
- Keep having fun!
Last Friday was IxD thesis gateway presentations – more so a private discussion with tutors and reviewers to assess our thesis progress, plans, and priorities for the upcoming five weeks. As my thesis is taking a strong design fiction direction, I did not give a presentation, yet read my draft narrative. To be completed this week, but please enjoy the preview below… it’s proudly quite ‘punny’ (wink wink).
The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity
It was a cloudy morning in early May, as were most days in Newtown. Otto Power approached the front door to check the weather, only to encounter resistance. Annoyed at the door’s conduct (tivity), he countered the friction with force, and it hesitantly opened – subtly challenging his potential motive while also directly insinuating the impending consequence. Going outside before breakfast was a break in Otto’s usual morning routine, especially for a weekday, and the mental energy used by the intelligent door to evaluate the uncommon situation would cost him the required electricity for a warm cup of coffee. Otto already speculated as much, for it was rare to have a morning electrical surplus. But he had woken with a vague yet irrepressible weight growing in his body, for Otto Power was tired. And so the forthcoming electricity sacrifice failed to impede the growing hope of a different day, and as he stepped outside he thoughtfully wondered aloud, “Will it be windy today?”
FINALLY got around to naming my thesis project due to some much needed pressure as all graduating students were asked to submit a selection of project information for the UID’14 Design Talks upcoming webpage. After a serious brainstorm yesterday morning, I came up with ‘Family Circuit,’ a subtle play and similarity to ‘Family Circus’ as recent developments in my project have brought forward the the family dynamics, individual characters, daily energy rituals, and cohesive storyline as a central focus of both my ideation and final deliverables. Which, on that note, also brings to light that though prioritized highly in my original goals, I’ve come to the realization that working energy harvesting prototypes are not essential to communicate my concept, and thus will take a back seat if explored at all. On the fun side, I’ve very much enjoyed this week researching and watching films featuring dysfunctional families – Wes Anderson perhaps being most influential. Great Wes Anderson Montage below by Alejandro Prullansky:
Though, its quite hard to top my favorite film family of all time – the Hoover family from Little Miss Sunshine.
I am very pleased with last week’s thesis mid review presentation and feedback. While I typically don’t look forward to ‘the making of’ – presentation process days – I’ve found these frequent thesis presentations useful both personally to more strongly formulate the best way of delivering my work, as well as extremely fruitful for the class to reconnect regarding each others projects. Not to mention, its exciting and rewarding to formally see your own progress. You can also view/read my full mid review presentation.
Feedback from reviewers included:
- One unified story in the end, perhaps focusing on a specific daily cycle within a single day of the year
- Videos as a potential result or strong support material
- Return to earlier ideas and re-brainstorm around them
- Potential organization of scenarios around maintenance (ex: father must take something to work to continue generating)
- Provoking question: What will be my everyday life?
- Either integrate or be able to answer why I’m not – the smart home and financial connections
- Look into Albert Borgmann’s Device Paradigm
- Potential inspiration in Fabrica’s Holidays in Iceland campaign
My own thoughts & reflections:
- While a lot of my current ideas are quite bold in their shocking nature and associated humor, I do not necessarily envision them as my end result and want to be carefully mindful choosing and crafting my final situations based on the strength of the content, not the statement. Though I love a big bang, I am fully open to a more subtle provocation if it entails a cohesive storyline and logical system.
- Furthermore, though a principle component of my earlier goals was the development of working prototypes, I’m beginning to see that this is really not necessary to accurately convey my concept and therefore not a worthwhile use of my time. Ah, killing a darling, I do love prototyping. Though, as one of my tutors expressed, I have plenty of working prototypes in my portfolio.
- Call me crazy, but I really love doing a thesis. As my undergrad did not involve one, I was naively unaware how much selfish satisfaction can result from intense investigations into your own passions. And its spring in Umeå.
This past Thursday and Friday were IxD2 thesis mid review presentations. Below are my presentation slides and annotations. Text written some odd place in between formal snippets taken from my report and my quite colloquial style of presenting. All background photos are my own unless stated otherwise.
Because every presentation should begin with a different quote!
This weekend I was browsing energy harvesting materials for some near future prototyping while also looking at concepts and products already on the market. Below are a few, one I was previously aware of (Powertraveller), and others new to myself.
Powertraveller makes portable chargers for using electronic devices while exploring the outdoors. Their products are designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions, promoting flexibility and exploration while off-grid. My thesis in contrast will focus on creating speculative projects while on-grid.
Juice Box by Artifact is an energy system to bring electricity to people in poverty living off the grid – another interesting contrast to my thesis in which I hope to inspire people to be more mindful while living ‘off of’ the grid (or on-grid).
The Pocket Socket 2 by K-TOR is a hand crank generator that can charge an impressive range of electronic devices. I really appreciate the instructional video below that demonstrates how to use the device (closer to the end of the video), as I feel this provides a physical ‘experience’ of energy.
Last Friday we had our thesis research presentations, which was both a great opportunity for us individually to analyze and consolidate our findings, as well as get back up to speed on the status of others in the class. Below is an example slide from my presentation, displaying my established design principles resulting from research.
I found my post presentation feedback helpful in regards to exposing gaps in my research, holes in my presentation (information that is clear in my working report document but otherwise not explained verbally), and helping me plan next steps. Below are some feedback highlights:
- Give critical design background in presentation
- Be explicit about focus on indirect or direct electricity use
- Define scope of project also on what I don’t want to do
- Decide on a specific context
- Recommended read: Objects of Desire
As I have tentatively decided on a domestic context to stage my energy production/consumption scenarios, my primary next step will be to host an ideation workshop next week. In addition, I will be spending a lot of time in the upcoming days updating my written in progress report and be researching prototyping materials as I need to place an order sooner rather than later.
Download my research presentation slides.
For further curiosity, you can also read my initial brief.