Project GoalsEmpathizingDefiningIdeatingPrototypingTestingReflection

InterConnect

SPRING-SUMMER 2022 (8 months)

My Role

Team

Context

Responsible for secondary research, matchmaking matrixes, contextual inquiry, storyboards, experience prototypes, fictional narratives, interviews, workshops, cognitive maps, and paper and clickable prototypes.

(1) Lead Product Designer (me)
(1) Design Technologist
(3) Product Designer & Researcher
(1) Project Manager

Professional Project. InterDigital via CMU Capstone Project.

InterConnect

SPRING-SUMMER 2022 (8 months)

My Role

Responsible for secondary research, matchmaking matrixes, contextual inquiry, storyboards, experience prototypes, fictional narratives, interviews, workshops, cognitive maps, and paper and clickable prototypes.

Team

(1) Lead Product Designer (me)
(1) Design Technologist
(3) Product Designer & Researcher
(1) Project Manager

Context

Professional Project. InterDigital via CMU Capstone Project.

Project Goals

1. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test experiences enabled by 6G wireless communication technologies.

2. Define metrics informed by users’ experience to gauge the performance of this future mobile network.

3. Integrate those metrics into InterDigital’s workflow for describing use cases and engineering specifications.

Building an interactive human-centered framework to define Quality of Experience (QoE) in an all-connected immersive future.

Empathizing

Powering Extended Reality (XR) Applications

In order to familiarize ourselves with the domain, we collected existing research material published in academic papers and similar documents. We found that 6G will be released in the following decade, bringing a thousand times faster internet than its predecessor (5G), offering unprecedented bandwidth and reach.

We also learned that 6G is going to power most extended reality (XR) applications, which experts predict to be the next generation of mobile-computing platforms.1 Therefore, ideating experiences enabled by 6G meant imagining immersive experiences delivered on-the-go.

This is why our investigation focused on prototyping and testing seamless transitions between the metaverse and reality. Everyday encounters in which users get individualized access to what they need, when, and where they need it because mobile networks are both data and context aware.

(1)https://www.qualcomm.com/research/extended-reality

Van Gogh Immersive Experience

To start developing an understanding of our users, we visited the Van Gogh Exhibition: The Immersive Experience in Pittsburgh.2 We observed the audience and talked with some of them after the show, asking questions related to their level of comfort and engagement.

We found out that even though some spectators got distracted by the presence of other people, they all thought the exhibition was “unique” and wished it had been even more immersive. Most, if not all of them, came accompanied by their family and friends suggesting strong social opportunities for these types of activities.

(2)https://www.vangoghpittsburgh.com/

“I wish I could have something like this in my own room to check out other artists.” – HR Manager

Image From Van Gogh Exhibition: The Immersive Experience, Pittsburgh

The Line Between Simulation and Real Life

We continued empathizing with our users and decided to explore the tensions between immersion and the perception of reality. We ran workshops where we placed people in familiar yet uncomfortable situations via storyboards, having them imagine scenarios where XR technologies blurred the line between simulation and real life.

At the end of the sessions, we asked participants to modify the scenarios according to what they considered to be acceptable or desirable, as a means to reveal some of the boundaries that these applications must never exceed.

“Is this character having a psychotic attack? [...] I think XR could interfere with our daily responsibilities and how we relate with each other." – Small Business Owner

Image From Simulation vs. Real Life Storyboards

Experiencing an All-Connected Immersive Environment

To complement our efforts, we fabricated an experience prototype and fostered in our users a vivid sense of what an all-connected immersive episode felt like. We simulated the sensation of literally having the internet on oneself by projecting body filters on people while they pretended to walk on a busy street.

Afterwards, we inquired participants about their impressions and realized how overwhelming these experiences could be.

"I might use the body filters if everyone else was… But in general, I felt overwhelmed by all the stimuli.” – Graduate Student

Image From The Internet on Oneself Experience Prototype

Factors That Can Make or Break Experiences

In order to increase our knowledge on the factors that can make or break experiences enabled by 6G for everyday users, we placed them again in a familiar yet –this time– radical situation using a fictional narrative. The story that we created portrays a hyper-personalized future, where audiences watch the Super Bowl 2030 directly streamed into their brains.

Thanks to this experiment we discovered that advanced technologies, in the right behavioral and sociocultural context, can elevate the entertainment experience. However, content is ultimately what drives immersion.

We also discovered that the sheer volume of data collection necessary to power hyper-personalized XR experiences increases users’ need for privacy control.

"I do not want my brain to be manipulated [...] I feel like companies could influence my behavior and get me addicted to their products." – Product Designer

Screenshot From Fictional Narrative <https://yz3440.github.io/om6g-conceptual-prototype/superbowl/>

What Privacy Control Entailed for Our Users

At this point in our research, we had identified the human factors that define Quality of Experience (QoE) in an all-connected immersive future, but we still had to dig deeper into what privacy control entailed for users.

Using images and prompts, we exposed participants to scenarios that required the release of personal information in exchange for different automated/personalized services. We then learned the heuristics of how people evaluate these types of requests, recognizing that the benefits of the transactions had to outweigh the risks, and that benefits are solely dependent on the subject’s background and individual preferences.

Privacy Control Diagram

Defining

We Figured Out the Metrics To Measure the Performance of 6G

Once we had figured out the metrics to gauge the performance of 6G, and how this smart network should leverage users’ data and context to deliver an optimal Quality of Experience (QoE). The next step was to integrate these findings into our client’s workflow.

How might we integrate human-centered Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics into technical Quality of Service (QoS) requirements?

InterDigital researches, develops, and patents multimedia and wireless systems innovations that are licensed to companies who use it in a wide variety of consumer electronics, digital cellular, and wireless enabled services. To better understand their process, we asked strategists and engineers to map out how they currently describe 5G use cases and engineering specifications.

6G Use Case Cognitive Map

Ideating

An Opportunity To Embed a Humanistic Approach

With our stakeholders' mental model in hand, we identified an opportunity to build a tool to embed a humanistic approach into their workflow. A structure that could support human-centered conversations and spark critical thinking about the real-world implications of 6G in society.

This is how we came up with the idea of generating a set of guidelines for InterDigital to acknowledge users and their context before drafting any network requirement. A framework to analyze the operational, behavioral, sociocultural, and technological contexts of use cases, and consider the dynamics between users, technologies, benefits, risks, ethics, etc.

Image From InterConnect: The 6G Quality of Experience Framework, Card Deck

Prototyping

Accommodate Both In-Person and Online Discussions

Along with a physical deck, we also wanted to design its digital counterpart to accommodate both in-person and online discussions. Our objective was to translate the fun aspect from card games into a responsive web application, as a way to gain the creative trust and input from stakeholders while they analyze 6G from a human-centered perspective.

Low-Fidelity Prototype

Testing

Gathering Feedback From Engineers and Strategists

After trying out different layouts, we moved on to a high-fidelity mockup and put it in front of engineers and strategists to gather their feedback. Based on a series of usability tests, we noticed that the way in which information was disclosed could be improved to make the framework easier to navigate and the questions easier to respond.

The final outcome was Interconnect: A Framework for InterDigital To Lead the 6G Transformation With Humans at the Center.

High-Fidelity Prototype

Reflection

A New Foundation of an Interconnected Set of Entities

Thanks to this project, I had the opportunity to imagine what a hyper-connected future would look like. And realized that because wireless communication technologies are transforming into experience delivery platforms, their development had to be informed by its effects on humans.

So in order to ensure that 6G elevates human capabilities rather than undermines them, we did not look at it as a mobile network that is simply a thousand times faster than 5G, instead we approached it as a new foundation of an interconnected set of entities with humans at the center.

This systemic mindset is exactly what helped us identify the factors behind experiences that will build trust, interactions that will feel magical, and are born from good intentions. The value that we handed to InterDigital, was an interactive framework to conceive use cases according to people, context, and technology – in that order.

InterConnect is a set of heuristics and guidelines that will trigger critical-thinking and spark rich conversations within the organization. A framework for InterDigital to lead the 6G transformation with the human context in mind.

Want To Learn More?

If you are curious to learn more about this project you can try InterConnect by clicking here or watching our vision for 2030 right in here.

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