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Professional Identity

I have found it exhilarating to convert a bare concept into an intelligent prototype that can be inspiringly interactive as a part of the design process. The knowledge in the relevant domains allows more explicit communication with engineers, and more importantly, offers me the initiative to explore unfamiliar domains of advanced technologies and find the pros and cons, as well as the new creative interaction paradigms generated from these.



What kind of designer?


By the end of my bachelor's study, I already got a level of competence in working with various technologies and programming. However, during the previous projects, even with a special interest in XR technologies, I did not really think about which parts of the technologies really attracted me and what I wanted to make with them.

Since my first semester here, I had tried different technologies that were mostly unfamiliar to me. In my M1.1 project, I did not try out any emerging technologies, but equipped myself with a deeper understanding of data from a user's perspective, which is closely related to technologies.

In my M1.2, M2.1 and FMP, as well as assignments from electives, I tried out different XR displays (2D, 3D, VR) and different interaction techniques (Leap Motion, Touchpad, Meta-gloves). I enjoyed working on each of them based on my previous skills, and making comparisons to see what they are good and bad at. I liked the process of extracting users' data, analyzing the data, and applying the results back to the interaction continuum. During this process, I found out that even though XR displays still attracted me, it was the interaction techniques that really brought the affinity. Such techniques are the merging point of technologies, users, and data.

I usually define myself as "a designer with a technological perspective". I believe emerging technologies are there to help humans transcend our limits of capabilities, just like every tool that our ancestors invented. I like to utilize advanced technologies in my project, defining what the novel and pleasurable interaction paradigms are.


What to design?

During my Bachelor's study, I had no clear clue of which topics I liked to work on. With the technological skills I had, I worked on projects related to serious games, well-being, mental health, etc. I simply enjoyed working with these technologies but did not know where to go next.

In my M1.2 research project, while working with SR technology and Leap Motion, I incorporated gamification as a separate dimension for quantitative analysis. I found comparing the conditions of non-gamified and gamified interesting. Therefore, I continued to work on gamification in the upcome project.

However, in my M2.1 project, which was about hand rehabilitation, I found that the given context not appealing to me at all. I felt my idea and creativity were deeply restricted by the established protocols, and the troublesome access to the users and stakeholders annoyed me. I found that compared to the problem-based topics, I preferred to explore brand-new ways of interaction that are embedded in game-related contexts. My lack of enthusiasm and some other issues made this project not a quite successful one.

Therefore, in my FMP, I chose a topic that I was familiar with as a user: rhythmic music games. I managed to fill the gap of the intersection of hand gestures and rhythmic games, and established a new interaction paradigm. This is what my preference is about: utilizing the most advanced interaction technologies, and define the proper and pleasing interaction paradigm in given contexts. I would presume that with more diverse and competent technologies coming to the market, and with more access to these technologies in a company's environment in my future career, such interest will be strengthened.


Through what means?

My bachelor's study showed me a variety of user research methods and design methods. My mind was overloaded with a bunch of terminologies and principles. I did not think deeply about which features of a design really are really appealing to me, and did not have a clear direction to develop myself.

In my M1.2 research project, apart from the original dimensions (display type, input technique), I added another dimension - gamification. It was an exploratory decision for me: I was a member of the Games & Play Squad, and I would like to really try emphasizing gaming in my project for the first time. It turned out that I enjoyed the process of turning boring and monotonous tasks into interesting and creative games. Looking back on the previous projects that I liked/disliked, I found that the gaming parts of a project were usually the parts that I enjoyed making and reflecting on.

Therefore, in my M2.1, I brought gamification to a real-world clinical context, and made a pure game in my FMP. I am personally not a very great fan of games, but I do think all products around us, especially those that embeds complicated information and long use-period, should explore their potential in carrying gamified features to bring pleasurable experiences. This could be complex gaming mechanics, or could be simple interaction gestures that mimic some interesting naturality.



Emerging Interaction Techniques


In the past year, ranging from my bachelor's study to my master's, as an early adopter of emerging technologies and a designer who works with them, I have witnessed a number of diverse interaction technologies entering the market and taking their shares. When a new technique appeared, discussions were always raised about how this one surpassed the previous ones. However, currently, we are seeing a wide variety of such technologies, serving different applications.

As a designer who has a strong affiliation with these techniques, my vision is that, just like the Industrial Revolution brought division of labor, the development of chips and sensors will also make the interaction techniques more specialized than ever. The Leap Motion Controller is good at tasks that require efficiency and ease; the Meta-gloves are good at tasks that require tracking precision and haptic feedback. However, when we play an FPS game, we cannot expect the free-hand gestural interaction to be more pleasurable than the PS5 controllers.

Therefore, I think there will be no universal solution for human-technology interaction. For designers working in this field, it is necessary to learn about the working mechanism of different technologies, their pros and cons, and which application domains would suit them the best from a user's perspective.


Data-driven Design


We always talk about data when mentioning industrial design together with technologies. I believe for the 'technological' designers, data is something that they cannot escape from. I think for designers, some basic logic of handling data and knowledge about algorithms is a necessity for understanding how data could support the structure of a product or system.

In some ways, data is the extreme of technological realization, but it is also a connection between users and their needs with the cold and rigid advanced technologies. I think a digital design that faces a large group of users should utilize data well to convey pertinent content to the users, both in the designing phase and the iteration of the product.


The Meta-verse: Reality vs Virtuality

The emergence of XR technologies is prospectively changing the way people live. During my bachelor's study, I was obsessed with the VR technology. As I said, I think the new technologies are here to help people gain higher competence. The virtual world is a place like that: all the physical laws and rules no longer apply, and new ones could be established as the designers and the users want.

My master's study helped me gain more insights into this. I approached the theory of ubiquitous computing in the electives Design for Social Innovation and A Designerly Perspective on IoT. I learned that even in a physical system, there are multiple ways to create interaction paradigms that are interesting and natural. The new designs of MR headsets, including Oculus Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro, are all stressing their capabilities of merging reality with the virtual world.

Therefore, I think the development of the XR industry will go in a direction, in which reality and virtuality will co-exist and try to find a balance, just like humankind and virus. The interaction techniques will play a crucial role in this. Different techniques will likely serve different application scenarios, and gradually, a relatively universal gesture vocabulary will be established, just like pinching for selecting, as we are using already.

Future Development

I have chosen the track Research, Design and Development. In a team, I was usually involved in the whole design process, and my contributions mainly lay in the setup of user studies, converting users' perspectives into technological rationales, and the implementation of the design concept.

In my future career as a designer, I am planning to work for startups or established companies, which employes emerging interaction techniques to create novel interaction paradigms in certain industries. I would envision myself to be a connection between the engineers and the users: by doing in-depth user research, I propose what kind of interaction paradigm should be established, which technologies are probably helpful, and which features (data) are there to be embedded in the implementation phase. It always brought me a sense of achievement to use the 'cold' technologies in a 'warm' humane way. I wish to let this continue in my future work.

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