01/30 Stage 1: Territory Definition

Presentation and Feedback

Our first presentation for this project focused on communicating clearly about our understanding of the brief, our intended project direction, and our plans for exploratory research. Below are the main points and some selected slides from the presentation.

Design Brief

Our prompt this year, Intentional Design for Positive Cultural Impact in Mixed Reality, is broad and future-facing. It asks us to consider the context and implications of the technology we’re designing for, while simultaneously demonstrating its clear value and differentiation. We went through the prompt together to begin narrowing the project scope for ourselves.

Read more about our initial discussions here, here, and here.

First, “intentional design” to us had a lot to do with increasing empathy between people, not increasing the space between us. We loved that the prompt mentioned the new economy that will inevitably emerge as well; as our current economy moves away from traditional jobs, what value exchanges will be important in the future?

We believe positive cultural impact can be found in storytelling and a deeper understanding of our global cultures. What if the technology of the future could give us more opportunities to hear stories from cultures around the world and make our own stories known? How could that impact our global society?

Mixed reality creates a space for new multisensory experiences that traverse across space and time. Its incorporation of both the physical and digital worlds in the new environments we’ll design is an exciting territory to be exploring. We’ve discussed how individuals might perceive reality differently, and how new environments in mixed reality might bring users to different mental contexts and realities in a way that is engaging and beneficial. We brainstormed many fields that we thought mixed reality could be intentionally and responsibly applied to, including education, healthcare, storytelling, and relationships.

New Ways of Learning: Choosing a Focus Area

Together we decided to pursue education and the future of learning, where we think mixed reality can be a game-changer. To understand the field, we mapped out the current state of education in general as well as current learning trends. We considered different categories of education, such as traditional classroom settings, skill-based training, self-directed learning, face-to-face one-on-one mentoring, and group learning.

We recapped our first round of secondary research on educational technology here.

Mixed reality provides opportunities that traditional learning methods, or even the current trends in education, cannot provide. Our research on educational technology (edtech) showed four clear advantages of mixed reality in education:

  • Body-based metaphor helps bring abstract concepts to life, which is particularly useful for subjects considered as difficult such as STEM educations.
  • Embodied learning uses multisensory and kinesthetic learning environments which helps users to learn skills better.
  • Responsive facilitation technology connects students and teachers, helps them overcome spatial and time constraints, and also provides real-time feedback.
  • Finally, simulating situations can provide a safe space for experimentation and building confidence.
We narrowed down to language learning as a way to facilitate cultural learning; read about it here

We narrowed down to three types of learning that could take advantage of those four mixed reality opportunities. They each have an open problem space and were personally interesting to all of us. Each topic has pros and cons, so we listed the advantages and limitations for each of them. The most important things for us were that, 1) we should be able to find access point to start the research easily and 2) the topic should be interesting and rich enough for all of us to work for the whole semester. Eventually we decided to tackle learning spoken languages as our opportunity space because of its clear connection to our interests in cross-cultural exchange and storytelling and the clear need.

Each of us are on the same page that we don’t want to create an instant translation solution nor traditional language education tools. Instead, what happens if we approach the language acquisition process as cultural learning? We pivoted the topic to language as a culture and we were all happy to delve more into the relationship between a learner and his/her surrounding environment.

The Territory Map

Our territory map has four main stages, and we built the stages out accordingly. The first stage shows the individual’s key language skills of writing, reading, speaking, and listening.

Many language learners begin learning these skills in traditional educational settings or familial settings, or both. However, there is limited immersion here.

For the fastest and most effective language learning, full immersion is essential. Many students travel abroad and embed themselves in another culture and social context, a process that is both intimidating and empowering. They come into contact with people who may not speak their native language, and they are surrounded by the visuals and sounds of a different environment.

Ideally, out of full immersion comes true cultural learning and understanding. We believe that language learning is not just about the four key skills we identified, but that it can lead to a deeper understanding of cultures that are different than our own. From this came the ‘clear need’ of learning a new language and understanding a new culture. Aspects of a culture beyond language itself that are key to learning how to interact across cultural barriers might include different value systems, traditions, etiquette, festivals, dress, etc. Learning about all these things can be an intimidating process and through our design we hope to address that.

Research Plans

Given our territory map, we have come up with a few questions to pose to potential research participants:

Through our research, we hope to speak to both learners and teachers to gain a better understanding of their experiences on either side of the language-learning — and culture-learning — process.

Finally, our key questions moving forward include:

*The PDF of our slide deck can be found on our class blog.


After our presentation, we spent some time answering questions and hearing suggestions from our peers and instructors. They seemed excited about our framing of language-learning as culture-learning and, like us, see a great opportunity to use mixed reality (MR) to teach embodied cultural norms that are typically difficult to put into words. (What is considered polite/impolite? How much personal space is appropriate? What differences are there in body language and how you present yourself?)

We received a lot of new suggestions for potential stakeholders, research participants, and application contexts, including:

Other points of feedback include:

  • Consider the future economic and technological contexts in which our solution may live
  • Get off campus to do research!
  • Technology: is this something you pick up and use, or is it more ubiquitous, does it have different settings based on context, etc.?
  • Think about “high context” and “low context” cultures
  • Since the prompt mentioned inclusivity, how can we frame our topic as enabling communication across cultures via spoken languages and cultural knowledge?
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