Phil van Allen is an interaction designer whose work ranges from the practical to the speculative. In the past, he has been a recording engineer, software developer, digital studio founder, and researcher.
This summer, Embedded Interactions students Sche-I Wang, Lee Cody and Xing Lu traveled to the Microsoft mothership in Redmond, WA to take part in the Microsoft Design Expo. Each year, Microsoft Research supports the participation of leading design schools, asking student teams to design a user experience prototype that addresses an emerging issue related to new technologies. From these groups, a representative team from each school presents its work to Microsoft at an open event in front of several hundred people. Over the period of 3 days, they rehearse, visit designers at Microsoft, make their final presentation, and then enjoy a party and awards ceremony hosted by Microsoft. The team also had a chance to visit the Microsoft Design offices to learn about the company’s work with inclusive design and had an opportunity to try out working prototypes of its augmented reality vehicle, HoloLens.
MDP faculty member Phil Van Allen led the team who presented their solution to this year’s challenge: Design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of the conversational user interface (CUI)—these are systems like Microsoft’s Cortana or Apple’s Siri that people converse with. ArtCenter’s speculative project “Trans-Actor” UX for AI, proposes that a computer should have its own identity, rather than mock human behavior, so that people can better understand how an artificially intelligent (AI) talking device "thinks," resulting in more rich and open-ended conversations. Media Design Practices Chair Anne Burdick reported “our team won the award for “Most Thought-Provoking” entry, an outcome that Microsoft has come to expect from the Media Design Practices team each year.”
The experience proved very rewarding for both students and Microsoft. “Companies like Microsoft are quite capable of solving short term problems, but they need help seeing into the future, and imagining how their technologies can be applied and what new ideas and realms are interesting to pursue,” noted Van Allen
You can see the entire fascinating presentation and Q & A session here. As critic and famed technology design innovator Bill Buxton commented, “This is really important to be doing” the work to create CUIs that by design help people understand the device's characteristics and limits.