Project title: Designing a Human-centered Interactive Computational Technology


Throughout the course we will explore and apply different methods that are appropriate for designing and evaluating an interactive computational technology that closely meets human needs. Examples of potential technologies are interactive 2D interfaces, interactive 3D devices, wearables, robots, and so on. Your team will choose a topic from the list provided below which will seed your project. You will identify a clear problem to be addressed (or potential design opportunity) by investigating people’s behaviours, activities, and interactions, and will then create a working prototype that meets their needs, which you will evaluate. Following the design thinking process, there are approximately 6 project milestones, which may include a small final design/demo showcase. These will be scheduled approximately every other week and there will be deliverables for each. For approximately half of these milestones, your team will need to be prepared to “present” your work during class time in the form of a “design crit” for which you will be marked and receive constructive feedback. Meeting the project milestones is crucial in completing the project successfully.

Milestones Overview: 

Please see course schedule for tentative dates for each milestone.  These will be refined and provided to you as you approach each milestone.

  1. Empathize: You will employ different data collection techniques (interview, observation, and questionnaire) to gather data around your chosen topic and will synthesize the ethnographic data and preliminary findings. You will need to transcribe the data, highlight the key findings, and submit them as part of the deliverable.
  2. Define: You will craft a meaningful and actionable problem statement or design focus through analysing of the information gathered about user needs and context. In addition, you will develop a persona (or personas), which is a model of a user that focuses on the individual’s characteristics and goals when using an artefact. The personas should be based on thoughtful analysis of data you’ve collected through research you’ve completed with your participant groups.
  3. Ideate: You will develop a conceptual design of your potential interactive computational system, considering your participant group requirements. You need to submit a design requirement document with detailed description of a system to be developed. This stage provides source material for building prototypes and innovative solution to the problem. Ideation is about incorporating volume and variety in concept generation through visual representations. So you need to sketch some ideas that represent the interactive computational system visually.
  4. Prototype: Prototype creation requires an iterative process and can be created for the early exploration phase (low-fidelity artefact) or the final phase (high-fidelity artefact). At this stage, you will create a working prototype or prototypes (first iteration) of a computational technology according to your concept. The prototype(s) of your concept needs to detail how the concept will be experienced and used. The medium of the mock-up depends on the solution and may show an interface or a physical/tangible 3D mock-up.
  5. Test: There are two main parts to the Test milestone. Part I is done with your team, and Part II is done individually. Part I: You will test your prototype(s) with participants who are representative of the group of people you are designing for. There will be relatively informal usability testing, after which you may improve and refine further the prototype, followed by more formal experimental design, running the experiment, and doing the analysis. Part II: you will individually write up the experiment report, which includes the analysis, discussion and conclusions.


Potential design problems/opportunities/situations, which are deliberately vaguely specified:

  • Waiting time for paying/ordering food can be long at restaurants.
  • Texting while walking is dangerous, but people cannot stop.
  • Train/metro platforms can be jammed with people. It is frustrating and can be dangerous.
  • Hiking alone in unknown areas can be dangerous. Getting lost is a common problem for solo hikers.
  • Managing simple physical tasks at home such as turning on/of lights can be challenging for older adults.
    • Need access to older adults
  • Houses can be broken into when no one is at home. Police advise people to make their houses look occupied when they are away.
    • Need access to participants who have homes
  • Babies scream, as they can’t say actual words when they try to get their parents attention. It is challenging for parents to understand their baby’s needs.
    • Need access to participants with babies.
  • Educating children (ages 2-4) can be challenging as they can’t communicate, read and write.
    • Possible participants: UBC childcare workers
  • Studying effectively has never been more challenging for university students. The demands on their attention have continued to rise.
  • Planning some types of events can be clunky (e.g., potlucks where there is flexibility of date, location, and numbers)
  • Personal safety when walking alone on campus late at night can be a concern.
  • Services like Craigslist work well for resale, but services that support a loaning economy are scarce.
  • Planning a trip among friends and family who are not co-located can be a challenge.
  • Collaborating over files has never been better supported with services such as Google docs, Google Drive, and Dropbox. But these services can make managing files more complex.
  • People have become addicted to their phones. Well-being is being compromised.
  • Children do not play outside as much as they used to, and are therefore not getting the same amount of exercise as they used to.
    • Need access to parents of small children
  • Too much energy is being wasted with lights being left on in homes unnecessarily.
  • Easy access to digital photography and the low cost of storage has led people to lose track of what they capture.
  • Services like Yelp provide crowd-sourced reviews for local business, but reliable services to find and review local musicians and bands are practically non-existent.
  • With the amount of work graduate students do (courses, TAing, research), they generate a lot of files which can be hard to manage.
  • The number of photos people save on their phones is huge, they are generated by several apps (Camera, WhatsApp, Snapchat) and for several purposes (personal, reminders, scans). Phones have some capability to help users manage this  but they don’t really work.
  • Finding a place to rent can be challenging, especially for students who are often new to a city. There are different web portals and also ads spread throughout neighbourhoods. Renters also face stress, potential scams, and may not know if the place is being advertised at a fair price.
  • MOOC courses/e-learning has opened the door for all the students to have a good education. But it’s missing the most critical factor of the educational system: student-teacher real-time interaction.
  • Some people go to the gym regularly and keep it as a hobby while for others, it can be challenging to make a reasonably flexible workout plan and follow it.
  • Mobile phones are collecting and storing more private user data, sometimes with little awareness on the user’s part. This exposes privacy risk.
  • Some adults consume a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications; a tool that can assist them in tracking the daily consumption and long-term side effects would be beneficial.
  • New international students can struggle with important non-academic activities such as banking, transportation, and housing. They would benefit from  some guidance.
  • Some people spend a lot of time on international flights and can often get bored, fatigued, and stressed. Airport and in-flight experiences could be made more eventful and less stressful.


  • some of these would be difficult to observe in situ
  • some would involve participants who might be more difficult to access