Prototyping AI-enabled experiences in China

While discovering the Silicon Valley of Hardware at Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab in China, I’m contributing my experience as a designer to create an educational workshop format that explores enriching and user-centered experiences with Artificial Intelligence.

This funny talking fish is equipped with Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa and went viral on Facebook.

Tech companies, movies and media are not getting tired of considering AI as a synonym for the future: neural networks and machine learning promise to solve social, environmental and economical issues in automated ways, we can hardly think of today. On the other hand, the rising intelligence of machines towards “singularity“, the state of computers reaching and ultimately exceeding the intellectual capabilities of their creators, is even heralded as the end of humanity.

Prototype for and with AI

To optimistically encounter the picture currently being drawn of this technology, the workshop experiments with AI as a capability that can be used by everyone to create delightful and enriching experiences. In the first workshop I provided a brief introduction to basic concepts and state-of-the-art AI platforms, followed by an open discussion about the participants observations with existing products. To get started, we jumped straight into new use cases for Voice Interfaces.

An interview session unveiled activities and problems of users daily life.

The participants interviewed each other about their daily life using a sheet that asked for activities, motivations and problems. In bigger groups the insights were discussed and compared to determine the common and most valid pain points. Based on this I asked to extract a clear problem statement and script a typical conversation with an voice assistant who solves the problem in a supporting way. To actively think about the user experience, the groups also outlined a virtual character for their project.

The participants discussed their user insights in groups.
The gathered user needs were transformed into an user-centered AI solution.

Later on, the concepts were rapidly prototyped using the voice tool “” and the Chinese AI tool ““. Also the design technique “Wizard of Oz“ was a powerful way to test “intelligent” interactions by using a hidden human operator who acts as the AI.

We user-tested the rapid prototypes at the end of the workshop.
A great event with people from five different countries

After this exiting afternoon session, we were inspired to rapidly design, prototype and user test more use cases for Artificial Intelligence  — without getting lost in the black box!