Designing for Inclusion

Part 5: Midterm presentation

We all have limits to our abilities — physical, social, emotional and cognitive. How can we design to embrace these universal things that make us human, but also create solutions that are highly adaptive to an individual person?
We as designers can help to remove obstacles, enabling people to participate in society no matter their individual challenges. Let’s imagine a future that puts human empathy at their design core!

This is a work-in-progress documentation of a design project on the topic of inclusion and technology. We as a group of design students are working on design for the blind as part of a collaboration between Microsoft Research and University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. More background information at the bottom.

A liaison from Microsoft for the midterm presentation

Now that we had established on the concept and build a working prototype, the midterm presentation is a good chance to present the current state of the project to the jury, consisting of Boris Müller, professor for interaction design, and Richard Banks of Microsoft Research.

From left to right: Fabian Morón Zirfas, Boris Müller and Richard Banks. Photo by Cécile Zahorka.

Richard Banks is a principal design manager in Microsoft Research’s Cambridge lab. Working as part of the Human Experience & Design group, he is engaged on a broad range of projects that span device development, community engagements, gestural interaction and more.

Being one of the liaison men from Microsoft and the MSR Design Expo Project, Richard joined the design course’s midterm presentation, providing helpful feedback and guidance for the design teams.

We name our project Polo

Until now, we didn’t have a name for our project yet. After some brainstorming and debating back and forth, we came up with Polo — after Marco Polo and after the cheat clearing the fog of war in Age of Empires II.

Presenting Polo to the jury

We had a concept, a working prototype, a project name and a keynote. In other words: we were ready for the midterm presentation.

First, we gave a brief overview on the research we did and the insights we gathered along the way. Which led us to our opening questions:

How can we improve the grocery shopping experience of visually impaired people? How can we break out of known behaviors? How can people with little eye-sight find any item?

After introducing the class to the concept behind Polo, it was about time to present our working prototype to the class! Dominic got blindfolded and equipment with the Polo prototype wristband while Philipp steered him to the direction of produce, using the companion app.

Dominic is steered by Philipp to the direction of produce, using the Polo prototype wristband and app.
At the end of a long day: the course is tired from the presentations and the foregoing work.

We got a lot of helpful feedback from the jury and the class, backing up our general course but also raising questions on the tension between finding vs. exploration, a possible conflict of interest between consumers and shop owners and other suggestions regarding the user experience and the backend technology.

Learnings from the presentation

While we were basically confident with the outcome, we also identified room for improvement.

– we have to break down the underlying concept and technology in a way the audience can digest more easily

– that also includes to focus and sharpen the concept

– now that we figured out most of the technical backend, we need to focus more on the frontend user experience

– regarding the user experience, there a lot of open questions on what Polo should be capable to do (and probably even more important: what not) and how it works and feels like for the actual impaired or not impaired user


What is this about?

Inclusion is a relevant and up-to-date topic widely debated recently. The WHO revised their definition of disability, shifting it from a fixed attribution to a context sensitive consideration. We as designers can help to remove obstacles, enabling people to participate in society no matter their individual challenges. A human centered design approach with deep research and observation, rapid prototyping and cheaper yet more powerful technology can make quite an impact.

Each year, Microsoft Research sponsors a semester-long class at leading design schools. This year’s design challenge is about Inclusive Design & Technologies. Let’s imagine a future of adaptive systems that puts human empathy at their design core.
We as students from the design department of University of Applied Sciences are taking part in this global design event. The leading teams will be presenting their ideas at Microsoft Design Expo 2015 in Redmond, USA.

The designer behind the project

This is a project by Philipp Steinacher, Dominic Rödel, Laurids Düllmann and Henrik Hagedorn. We study interface design at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam.

Read more

The website of Microsoft Research Design Expo 2015 provides in-depth information on the overall project.