Term September 2017 – December 2017 

Project title: Designing a Human-centred Interactive Computational Technology


Throughout the course we will explore and apply different methods to gain a clearer understanding of how to design and evaluate 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 6 project milestones including a small final design showcase. These will be scheduled approximately every other week during class time. Your team will need to be prepared to “present” your work on these days 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.


Please see course schedule for tentative dates for each milestone. A draft outline of what might be required for each of the milestones is given below. 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 present the ethnographic data and preliminary findings in the class to receive feedback. You will need to transcribe the data, highlight the key findings, and submit them as part of the deliverable.
  2. Define In this stage, 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 persona 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 need to create a working prototype (first iteration) of a computational technology according to your concept. The prototype 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 3D mock-up.
  5. Test Test the prototype with the group of people who you are designing for and present the findings. You need to improve and refine further the prototype based on the feedback for the final design showcase. Unlike the initial empathy stage, the problem and possible solution are framed in this stage, and the prototype can be ideally tested within a real context of the user’s life to achieve a better result.
  6. Design showcase Present the final refined prototype of the Interactive Computational Technology and the findings from the experiment. This assignment should be finish quality (i.e. well crafted and executed with follow-through) to communicate your concepts well.

Grading (tentative)                                                            

Deliverables 1-5: 35%
Final design showcase: 10%
Total: 45%


Different format (more detail description will be provided later).


Potential design problems/opportunities/situations

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

Team formation

The first step in the research project is to form a team with 3 people. There is not a lot of time for this, so you will need to move fast. You are free to work with whomever you choose, but you should strive for as multi-disciplinary a team as possible. Your team will choose a project topic listed in the project description. Piazza groups will be set up for each team. Once your team is formed, you will need to complete a team contract (please find the .pdf and .doc on the Schedule page) and submit it to your Piazza group. The due dates for these steps are noted in deliverables on Schedule page.

First interim-milestone: unstructured observation in public place

To begin, each team member will individually conduct an unstructured observation related to the project topic. This should be done in a public place, as that simplifies the ethics requirements at this stage. Students will collect observation data in the field using data collection techniques such as note taking. The written notes must be transcribed and other collected data needs to be documented. Each student should then write up a brief findings report where they interpret and summarize their collected data in a paragraph or two, by answering questions such as: What was surprising? What was interesting? How did the people being observed carry out their activities? How did people interact with their environment, objects, other people? Make sure to first briefly describe how/where you collected the data and the type of data, how frequently, how much, and from who in an introductory paragraph.

Next, each student will share their individual transcripts + findings report with their team members through the Piazza group. Each team member needs to review the findings reports from their team mates and comment on them in Piazza. Finally, the team needs to submit a single ‘team report’ as a group that summarizes the most interesting and important findings. The finalized team report needs to be posted to the Piazza group by the due date on the Schedule page with a title/summary of “First interim-milestone”.

First project milestone: Empathize

Second project milestone: Define

Third project milestone: Ideate

Fourth project milestone: Prototype

Fifth project milestone: Test – Part 1

Sixth project milestone: Test – Part 2

Seventh project milestone: Test – Part 3