Design and innovation week – day 3

Day 3 

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We Work entrance

Ben Saurer,  Clearleft – Beyond boxes and arrows. Designing with voice

It was back to the WeWork co working space for a talk from Ben Sauer from Clearleft.. They are a leading design, strategy and education agency. They make ‘Silverback’ the mac based OSX user testing software.

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 Voice User Interfaces (VUI)

Ben made some key points regarding VUI’s

  • They have no affordance (how they work signaled by what they look like e.g. door handle = pull , push plate on door = push)
  • The burden of input falls on us as the signal generator not an interface. However he says that VUI is an efficient short cut and there is an opportunity for VUI beyond the use case.
  • Still in its infancy, VUI is good at goldfish moments e.g.Do this, set that, add to calendar.

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What would be really useful is when we can do ‘if this , then that ‘commands. E.g. if I am in the garden and the doorbell rings, notify me that someone is at the door.’

It’s an interface that demands attention. Ben talked about the movie ‘Her’ by Spike Jonez being a great example of what VUI could be like in the future, talking naturally and adding tone and nuance to what could be usually the mechanistic reading of e-mail by a screen reader.

Talking about Apples ear pods, Ben thought the point beyond wireless headphones was having the Siri assistant available all the time just like in ‘Her’.

“We will keep trading privacy for convenience”

There are two modes of VUI, command active (hey Siri), the hound(go find x) and always on (Ben likening this to the Stasi secret police).

Alexa (not in Australia officially yet, like high speed fiber to the door internet friends have here sigh,) is Amazons ‘play for ubiquitous computing.

Ben talked about WeChats apps bots, whilst having a conversational interaction, still had many menus placed consistently for support. Conversational VUI is still evolving and overhyped. You still chat and use the menus but its still another channel to talk to an organization. Choosing tone and voice of your conversation is important as how people gauge the bot is how they gauge your brand.

Ted Livingston; at an event Ben attended, talked about having to take care of the overall experience when you are in chat, AI is over hyped, and so far without domain knowledge. VIU apps failing and are mainly terrible. Ben then played back and example of a search app that read back your search in a terribly mechanistic voice.

Some examples of VIU that were not terrible included multi modal offerings such as Google Home, and a combination of Siri and Remote on newer Apple TVs.

What would make VIU revolutionary?Don’t put a tiller from a boat on a car.

Shift our design mindset Ben advises. The problem, Ben thinks, is that we bring our design mindset, preconceptions and baggage from other platforms, mobile, touch, desktop etc to new ones projecting biases that hamper, hobble or are not applicable to VUI.

Changing of mindset of design and engineering is needed.

Changing society to get used to ubiquitous VUI is staring with Google home advertising showing families in the room together with individuals talking to the VUI. Google realized ‘bringing people together’ was better than being creepy; if it was a loner person talking to google home like their cat.


Google Home Advertisement

Its like the introduction of mobile phones for the first time in the 80’s; people were initally creeped out by yuppie people on phones, everywhere, no longer tied to a ‘land line’.

Going beyond the use case

VUI will thrive when it can connect things together. “I’m driving to Richmond, and I need to buy a bottle of wine”

Connective tissues

Platforms need to be less ‘walled gardens’ and more interconnected. Siri doesn’t talk to Alexa and vice versa. Currently, we can’t connect ‘job doers’ so eco systems don’t play well together. We can’t tell Echo to ‘call mum, on skype, in the lounge’

We need API’s to interact and link these systems together. Connectivity is coming says Ben, for example Siri kit, signaling that it is starting to happen.

We’ll know its there; when Siri can call us an Uber.

Shazam; shouty app – brands and interaction are largely gone with VUI and a bad voice UI experience becomes how you perceive brands and services.

Ben went on to say that ‘brands will not matter in the future’ once they are integrated into VUI experiences, which, before he qualified that statement led to some interesting discussion in the group. Our group thinks that the voice interface is the brand unless things are so well connected we don’t think about or worry who played what part (all the connected services and brands via that connective tissue) of the experience to “call mum, in the lounge, on Skype”.

What we may want to know is who has our data and how secure it is. But it left us thinking when Ben said that; the brands and technological strata we now don’t care about from 20 years ago, will be the ones people 20 years from now (the ones we care about, interact and work with now) won’t care about.

What we lose


We are continually trading off privacy for convenience. Surveillance and co-veillance (active in our self declaration of our personal data. E.g. find friends)

(he referred us to Matt Novak, Kevin Kelly for more on this area)

VUI considerations – screens give us immediate way finding, its built into the mode. Voice is like being in a dark room. You need to ask is if VUI appropriate for the context you are designing in. E.g. an app to help find the right undergarment , or help you in the kitchen with your hands full.

Roles of VUI

  • Secretary  – dates, notes , emails
  • Bouncer – security for our banking for example . HSBC feeling confident they have got VUI security for banking almost nailed.
  • Gopher – go find me (assistants are still gophers)

VUI is still transactional, not conversational

Building VUIs

Define a VUI persona for your brand. It needs to have a tone of voice with you being the script writer.

Generate the dialogue, type it out and write it like a scene. Question it, rehearse it like improve.

Create a flow like your are designing an IVR. Do ‘Wizard of OZ testing’ read the script with a user and a a person being the VUI.

VUI limitations

It is not good at

  • Large amounts of input
  • Presenting choice (screens are better)
  • Natural breaks in language
  • Fuzzy tasks
  • Recording issued commands
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Noisy environments
  • Follow up qustions

VUI opportunities

  • Apps
  • Platform integration
  • iOS and Android
  • Accepting criteria
  • Delivering search results

ASOS clothing for example, there are so many interactions on screen, an easy verbal choice would help with that interaction. Pennies; the app , telling it what your expenses were rather than typing them in might be easier.

VUI may render some screen based content redundant. (ref Ursula Franklin)

Technology is not about things, but what it does for people and their habits, rituals , practices and outcomes.

Innovation game, something broken, some popular platform. Ben took us through an example of an innovation game he and his colleagues use for problem solving or idea generation.

  • Post its
  • Problem  on one column, popular thing (service, product, tech company, app etc)  on an other column. See and swap , looking and talking about how that thing can help. Its like improve and spark thinking on how that or something related could help with that problem .

They don’t have to make sense. If they make sense or half sense take a pair and pitch, critique it.


  • Steal
  • Turn
  • Iterate
  • Reorder

This game creates an ‘eco system of evolution’, each pitch and feedback loop iterates on the core ideas taking more time to solve the pain points.

Innovation Game Instructions – Credit: Future London Academy – Carmen S


Gaming hackathons used this with game mechanic and platform/game as columns . e.g. poker | Zelda

Innovation is slow

  • Slow user research is needed to discover deep unmet needs and insights
  • Validate problems as you go
  • Product pace is faster, different speed to find good answers.

(Hence UX Research in Digital services = running discovery studies outside the product road map)

‘How AI can help you be more creative’ – talk from Luba Elliott

Luba Elliot @elluba is a creative AI artist. She shared with us several projects she had  been involved with showcasing the participation of AI on several projects.

Beyond the fence – whilst not strictly 100% AI written, the script and music had been co written, an AI generating and people curating dialogue and music. The AI had been fed 200 musicals from 80’s-90’s and had been performed to mixed and lukewarm reviews.  Whilst not terrible, it did not really stand out from other average shows and broke no new ground, but was remarkable in the way it had been constructed.

Another short film ‘Sun spring’ on YouTube written entirely by an AI was intriguing in the sense the dialog almost made sense and had a strange internal logic of its own .it felt like it was going to make sense at any minute but never did. It was produced for the Sci Fi London 48 hour film challenge.


The third project she shared was ‘auto-encoding Bladerunner’, taking the original film and having it reconstructed frame by frame as the AI ‘understood’ it. It was so like the original it had to be taken off the internet for copyright reasons.

Lawrence Lek ‘ Geomancer’ was also another film that was recommended.

Turning Test performance art – people reading to each other . One or both reading AI generated scripts. People pretending to be ‘uncanny valley’ or ‘siri’

Interestingly where it was the Church commissioning art in the past, organisations like Mircosoft and Google in a sense, are.

AI in creative industry example; the Prisma’ app was mentioned.

‘The AI and art aims to achieve an outcome that neither party could have come up with individually’, so we’re in no immediate danger of being replaced for now.


Walking to the next venue we had lunch at the ‘Borough markets’ before proceeding to No 1. Tower Bridge on the banks of the Thames river. I possibly had the best fresh pasta dish I’d had in years. And walking 5 Km per on average this week I could burn it off lol.

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‘Future of AR’ – talk from Blippar

We walked and went to the No 1. Tower Bridge building and visited the agency ‘Blippar’,  with the augmented reality (AR) platform of the same name’ Blippar. (Sadly this was during the events at Westminster Bridge not too far away eerily reminiscent of the Melbourne Bourke Street Mall event of late.)

AR should be worth 90 Billion (GBP) by 2020 according to Blippar

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  • Machine learning
  • Hololens
  • Vive

Mentioned as technology Blippar are working with.  Blippar are helping clients with AR content around brands and has an education arm that manages AR content for education and training.

Blippar are looking at phones as the delivery mode until other platforms such as glasses technology catches up. (Hurdle to overcome will be the negative publicity google glasses had (no one wants to be a “Glasshole’)

aCommerce – Blippar see a an opportunity to place advertising opportunities over real places and locations. Walking around you’d see messages from your favorite brands if you pass by and have the camera viewer seeing them.

In a concept video, the phones camera sees for the person walking along offers and content informed by surrounds, brands and context.  Offers, info etc. AI helping platform how to interpret what we see , Blippar ‘Visual browsers’ go walk, see offers will have to be curated by peoples preferences or they could be overwhelmed and distracted by the additional information overlaying reality

At the office I hovered my Blippar app over the Guardians of the Galaxy demonstration page and got some great AR content. It ‘sticks’ to the phone when you move it to a comfortable viewing position so you don’t have to stay in the same fixed hand position. This may be for some people ‘not’ a pure AR experience, but a great one ergonomics and a longer engagement as it  ‘grabbed’ the AR content and allowed it to be used it comfortably.

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Facial recognition will also play a part, choose your preferences and organize or the danger of cognitive overload and navigating a real space could be a visually crowded proposition.

Blippar are keen to putit out there, seeing how people use it, this addition of a digital layer to our world. We will have to mediate it and curate it ..and there may be modalities;you as a tourist vs shopping vs commuting ..

AR for learning demonstrated adding context and content to posters and learning cards in class rooms . Visualize chemistry, geometry  etc. They see applications in Education and corporate training, a scaleable assistant.

The platform is heavily monetized; people pay per region and platform in a subscription model.

Use this a link to the app, hover the phone camera over some Blippar content behind a picture and interact. It pulls put their demo content online or you can try theirs here at their showcase page. It will be interesting to see if to ‘blip’ something in AR will be as ubiquitous as googling something.

Their next concept is face profiles in AR (see data about a person on your phone by pointing it at them.. Scarily this looks like a precursor the the concept in Black Mirror Season 3 episode one. (See a preview here) compare this the to the Blippar face recognition imagery in this article and you can see the similarities. In Black Mirror, the AR is built into your eyes so no need to hold your phone up to someone. Convenient eh?

Blippar – facial recognition…


…reminded me of – Black Mirror – near future fiction facial recognition

Take away

AR has potential to inform your daily life, I’d hazard you’d need it contextually aware and comfortable to use ergonomically and socially..

Back to Day 2     or    on to Day 4

Design and innovation week – day 2

Good evening  (Retrospectively posting)

Today was another great day in and around London. We started at our residence shared space and enjoyed our first guest speaker of the day.

‘Innovation for fun and profit’ – by David Bott (Innovate UK)

Our morning started in the communal space with a guest speaker David Bott examining design thinking and innovation through a ‘for profit, and for fun’ lens.

He examined ideas from a perspective of how to move people away from a self centred (solecistic) mindset to team for their collective benefit. Company goals in his mind are to get ahead of the customers ‘head’ anticipate needs before customers (users etc) need them and anticipate where customers are going.

Innovation for David, has a number of facets; products, methods, exploitation of new markets and new ways to organise business.  For example, a scanner designed to detect falls in the elderly were not cost effective, but its inventor tirelessly shopped the idea around at different industry presentations. A large supermarket chain ‘Tescos’ approached the inventor and ended up ordering 60,000 units to monitor supermarket queues for over crowding. Once detected additional staff would be assigned to check outs to alleviate congestion, allowing Tesco to promise enough staff in times of high demand. It also meant manual observation of queues could be shut down but rather than eliminating staff, they would be re trained and re assigned.

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Obstacles to innovation can include: cost to commercialisation too high, regulatory environment, technological (we can’t do it), context, trends and the complexity of the situation.

His message: Ideas are not the sole prerogative of a lone person/s, it’s the responsibility of the organisation. 

He shows us several models of thinking from the not so past that are valuable today.

The Stage-Gate® Product Innovation Process | Stage-Gate International  – useful for checking viability of ideas in a staged approach. Idea generation also has an element of fun for the collaboration in organisations it can foster and banding together in response to a challenge that ideas are put forward to address.
Use ‘Yes and..’ not ‘Yes but’ when discussing ideas and try not to project our biases on to them.

‘Elephants, empathy and ego; service design beyond blueprints’ – workshop from Lloyds Bank

After a short walk we went to a communal space and heard from Ross Breadmore service design lead from Lloyds Bank.

His story about implementing service design mapping in a large institution led to cut through of understanding needs and potential opportunities to fulfil gaps in points in aspects of Lloyds services and products.

Telling stories for peoples experiences in the form of short video movies and service maps made for a more compelling artefact to communicate their bank customers needs. It was hard he said, for staff to dismiss commentary from actual customers around a particular internally held belief or bias.

Again empathy for people was a strong theme of Ross’ talk, with the powerful quote he shared from a lead agency creative from a London Google talk he attended recently. ‘If you are not into people, you have no future’. 

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Like Nick Le Fevre from IBM in day one, taking insights from interviews, observations and other discovery activities, Ross’ would have people map insights and data on to a blue print framework that captured, peoples actions, interactions and touch points then back end activities thought a persons journey.

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We did a similar exercise at Ross’ direction in groups; mapping the experiences of one our our team members airline booking. She revealed that whilst the flight booking and payment went well on her app, the gap occurred when the booking number of the airline mis matched the booking number from the app third party. She had lost the confirmation and unsure of departure times causing her stress,  and had to call a customer service line to talk to a person who was able retrieve and resend the booking detail.

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The blue print map captured the actions and emotions of the experience and showed a gap that the back end process. The service did not account for the mis match and revealed an opportunity for the process to be fulfilled (score one for an addition to the fictional product roadmap.

“Be humble, bite your tongue and champion others” Ross Breadmore

As a sole service design lead in the bank, other people started taking an interest and trying it themselves. Rather than shutting this down Ross took the approach to upskill and help people with their work, often updating his colleagues first attempts and giving them credit for the work. Similar to here with people at REA interested in discovery and user research, this the same approach my UX researcher and I take; skilling, pairing with or mentoring people who are interested in running their own studies.

As user research grows at REA my UX researcher and I are here to guide the discipline as a practice stream.

Ross’ comments confirmed for me the framing of UX Research in my team and across the larger organisational landscape as a strategic partner to design and product.

Lunch – Skygarden

After another tube ride (my health app says I’ve walked at least 10-20 flights of stairs), We had lunch at Sky Garden. A building that before shading was fitter on the windows, was melting cars.  Lunch there was spectacular with inspring views of major London landmarks and seeing how big the city sprawled.

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Ravensbourne Design School

After lunch and a walk across the Thames river (hello London Bridget) we caught another tube train to Ravensbourne, a design college next to the space age O2 arena.

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Our host was Paul Sternberg , Head of Design Innovation. The space of the building fosters cross collaboration between disciplines with no physical departments but open collaborative spaces and rooms for study or lectures. Designers sit next to media students, getting ideas and skills from interacting with other areas of practice. Offering several masters in design innovation, it was amazing to meet undergraduate students with strong awareness of design thinking, social design, organisational psychology and applying them at an early stage of their pre career life.

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The role of pastoral care, it was not limited to just one department of Student Services, but also by all staff to look after students who were living out of home, managing finances and starting new social connections, taking on debt (courses cost 22,000 GBP) for the first time, a lot to take on in addition to an academic workload.

We finished with a presentation and discussion by Deans; Lawrence Zeegan (Dean of School of Design) and Gary Pritchard (Dean of Media studies). They were tasked with collaboratively revising curriculum and programs, taking a user centered design approach to having it work around the student. I’ll put them here for brevity. Take away for us; boundaries in practices are blurring, the challenge is finding common language when we’re talking to each other across practice. Their curriculum was also pragmatic “People, Purpose, Profit’ creating graduates with business acumen as well as skills. Like Ravensbourne, we are all involved in creative processes and continuing to work together collaboratively, exploring ideas keeps us ahead in our market.

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This ethos reminded me of the spirit embodied in the REA graduate program. Looking at the confident undergraduates, I can see similar qualities in our graduates, past and new.

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Back to Day 1     or    on to Day 3


Design and innovation week day 1

FullSizeRender+3March 2017

Hello from London.. retrospectively. This is my write up of an amazing immersive I attended.

Today was the first day of a week long immersion course, understanding how organisations and agencies here apply new technologies, design thinking and research. At the end of the day, our group of 20 are taken to a different cultural tour of London.

Today our hosts Ekaterina and Mo, introduced the week plan, and we got to meet the other participants, there is only one Londoner, one Irish person also now living in London. Other participants range from Russia, Poland, Brasil, China, Germany and Australia (Yours truly). Each day consists of a morning lecture, practical workshop, an afternoon session visiting an agency and then a short cultural tour to balance the brain.

First stop IBM

IMG_5783 (1) We visited via the subway (the tube) IBM London located on the Thames riverside, we heard a presentation from Nick le Fevre (@nklefevre) | Twitter  , an AI and Cognitive Computing Consultant at IBM Watson.

Nick works with clients on AI related projects, but before any solutions are aired, deep observation target users and processes is conducted to determine where and how an AI solution will fit. Talking about AI and some good at general things or specific tasks. Being a framework of an AI Understand, Reason, Learn ; Nick talked about the ideal situation being AI helping us with outcomes that neither side could achieve alone.  Examples of AI Watson was very close to home with Deakin University and this appealing children’s toy.

Another fascinating concept is ; it compiles a video of TED talk segments (just the segments not whole videos) that are based on your post and other behaviour on Twitter. We discussed if an AI also needs to suggest things outside what it learns from us so as not to make a closed loop and no option to see new things.

In all of this the design thinking ethos Nick and his team use an Observe , Reflect, Make (and test) divergent then convergent approach (A double diamond variant). Going into an organisation to understand the work, people and tasks, he’ll shadow people to observe interactions with tasks, other people and over time, pain points, workarounds and uncovering un-anticipated behaviours. “If you want to find the real problem, you have to observe”. Their researchers after this will map the flows, pain points, processes and tasks they have observed as a group as this helps ‘fill in the gaps’.


Another design consideration for AI is its tone and voice especially with a conversational AI. Nick’s A/B tested different ‘personalities’ of bots with people, to see how they relate and associate a brand with the AI’s ‘personality’. Some good considerations when we have a chat bot or voice activated service e.g. ‘Hey REA, find me a property in 2 KMs of work’ – how it replies and the results will affect how people feel about our brand.

After Lunch and another Tube ride , we visited Liveworkstudio

Ben Reason – Liveworkstudio  , presented a look at how they applied service design thinking to various clients including KONE elevators, Gucci and British Rail.

His main tenets in practice and teams consulting include

Empathy – seeing people in their natural environments, hearing their stories

Collaboration – teams discover and collaborate on solutions

Visual story telling – using story boards, service blueprint (processes, touchpoints and what people are thinking, feeling doing in and around the area of inquiry.

Prototyping – using lo fi to quickly iterate on solutions e.g. book of ideal flow on flexicar style car booking app in London and now across Europe

We did some exercises reflecting on how these factors are used in our business and getting us to think about touchpoints before and after engaging with us that we need to understand. A diary study we’re compiling may also give us insights about points in time consumers engage property without us and reveal gaps where we can help.

IMG_5803 (1) this was a rich workshop and quite dense so another post may be warranted when I’m back .

After that we had a walking tour of St Pancras station and the fascinating history of innovation in the 1800’s of adjacent competing railways offering things such as grand accommodation before a rail trip to attract customers. Rail journeys had ‘feature parity’ so it was the experience around the core experience that differentiated them from each other.

Northern line build this .. with an adjacent hotel

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Midlands line built this in reply – fancier and hotel over the station entrance.

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St Pancras interior


I’ll try to capture any highlights each day, but after full day then night.. see how I go..

Good night – on to day 2