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You Talkin' to Me? A Social Approach to Designing Products

A wink, a glance, and a casual wave: how can we design products that bring subtleties of social interaction to life through everyday exchanges? Join our speaker for a rousing look at everyday products through the lens of dynamic behaviors, with lessons from robotics along the way.

In this talk I will explore an emerging perspective in Interaction Design that looks at elements of common social exchanges as the foundation for creating products that operate as social entities.

While we are familiar with the complex and very literal dialog-based interactions that take place through conversational agents such as Siri and Alexa, even very simple products have conversations with us in a variety of abstract ways. A well-timed glowing indicator, for example, can make people feel welcomed and acknowledged, and a responsive and well-tuned knob can make people feel sure and powerful. We are accustomed to considering the minimal and efficient interactions that need to take place in order to exchange information between product and person, but have a wide open palette to explore some of the more subtle social cues that can reinforce effective communication as well as build trust and emotional bonds.

This talk will focus on a spectrum of case studies beginning with my work in crafting robot forms for research labs and specialized clients such as Diligent Robotics, a startup that is creating autonomous agents as hospital assistants. It will continue to look at methodologies and experiments from my studio practice, design lab and student work to explore the vast range of social exchanges that can take place with and through our everyday objects.

By examining our everyday interactions through a social lens, I’ll discuss how the the sociology of products can help us create products that perform better than their less social counterparts.

Carla Diana

I am a designer, author and educator exploring the impact of future technologies through hands-on experiments in product design and tangible interaction. I have designed a range of products from robots to connected home appliances, and my designs have appeared on the covers of Popular Science, Technology Review and the New York Times Sunday Review.

I have recently been granted the honor of creating the 4D Design program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, serving as its first Designer in Residence; it will begin accepting students in Fall 2019. I am an ongoing collaborator with the Socially Intelligent Machines Lab at the University of Texas, Austin, where advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are manifest in expressive robots.

I writes and lectures frequently on the social impact of robotics and emerging technology and created the world’s first children’s book on 3D printing, LEO the Maker Prince. I am a coauthor of a forthcoming book on smart object design to be published by Harvard Business Review Press and currently cohost the Robopsych Podcast, a biweekly discussion around design and the psychological impact of human-robot interaction.

I have a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the Cooper Union and an MFA in 3D Design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

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