1. Reflective Essay - The Future of Interactions

Theme: I wish to work on the theme of Experience Design. Specifically, I want to build an experience for the Future of Social Interactions. I aim to design a social media platform based on an emerging tech platform, Mixed reality, through which I want to explore how different social interactions like posting content, browsing profiles, commenting work out in an MR setting. My motivations lie in exploring the futures of interaction design, and how would people interact with each other in the near and distant future.



Background:

I have been constantly fascinated with emerging technologies, and how they are making a mark in people’s lives. During my MS2, I explored different tech interfaces using Machine Learning like Voice User Interface and Gesture User Interface, with the intention to build a system with them. I realized that there are many nuances of building an entire system and it was not something I was very excited about. But I also understood that a speculative future was definitely an interesting topic for me and I wanted to explore that further. So with the desire to move ahead in that exploration, I think it would be a good idea to limit myself in terms of the type of system that I want to design and also restrict the possible technologies that I’m using in building this system. This way I can focus more on the subject matter which is designing an interaction system using emerging tech.


The motivation to choose my subject matter came from my summer experience. This summer, I worked with a social media startup, which was trying to develop a new kind of social media platform. While working with them, I realized that the social media industry is a huge giant in itself and also a very significant part of everyone’s lives. Teenagers spend more than 3 hours per day on media platforms and the numbers are only increasing. Social media is a sea of different interactions with a wide variety of people interacting with others in different ways. This domain would provide me with a perfect opportunity to explore the future of interactions. Moreover, media giants are responsible for major disruptions and innovations in the tech industry. Working in this field will allow me enough freedom and precedents to experiment with emerging technologies and do what I want to do.



Questions:

As I have spent some time thinking about this topic, I have come up with a lot of questions, to begin with. I want to understand how a screen-less system would look like. How would people interact and network with each other? Would people feel more comfortable using social media in an AR setting or through a haptic interface? Will the mixed reality social conversations be more empathetic and humane than today’s social media? How would different interactions like creating a post, browsing different people’s profiles, liking, and commenting work? Would the tech help augment the social experiences or would it be confusing? While working on this project I wish to find answers to these amongst other questions.


Some other questions that also bother me right now would be the working of the system. In this system do I imagine my users being wearing headgear or google glass type devices while browsing through or are they using their phones itself? What kind of interactions are they having? Do I focus on the interaction between 2 people or a bigger group of people? I imagine I can start with a single-use case, in which a user posts something about themselves and others are reacting to it. Though another thing that I wanted to research is what would make this platform unique? Since my aim is explorative, I won't necessarily be focusing on designing a platform that’s useful to a lot of regular users. But still, I wish to make something unique and not just copy existing social media into an MR setting. Due to this, I also want to spend considerable time in research to figure out what unique and exciting proposition I want to build on my platform.


When thinking of the user base or audience, I’m thinking that it can be very small, as small as maybe the people building MR projects in DT. It would be great to just connect a few such individuals and build a closely connected environment.



End Goal:

My final aim would be to design a product or a platform through which people are having social interactions using emerging tech platforms like AR or Haptic interface. I visualize the end state as a working platform.



Precedents:

Though I want to do detailed research on precedents, there are a couple that I found interesting to me. One precedent that I’m inspired with is a platform Octi.tv that does something similar. It uses AR to turn everyone into a walking social media profile. People can point their phone at someone, and it would show their social profile. They can add a post to their AR belt. It promotes in-person interactions while keeping a lot of parts of digital social networking alive. Another precedent would be Snapchat filters. Snapchat has found ways to introduce AR organically in people’s lives. People are using Snapchat filters to customize their zoom call appearances, their avatars and it is fun to engage with.


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