Designing for Autonomous Machines

Alex Liebergesell
Associate Professor 
Graduate Communications Design
Pratt Institute


“The Future of Employment”, published by the Oxford Martin School in 2013, predicts significant displacement of human labor forces over the coming two decades, as computerization and robotics continue to migrate from routine manual to non-routine cognitive tasks. While designers fare well in the study’s susceptibility-to-displacement rankings, we will need to establish new “complementarities” with the creative and social intelligence capabilities of cutting edge robotics if we are to thrive.  The recent acquisition of Google xLab/Boston Dynamics and their proprioceptively advanced robots by Softbank, the Japanese inventor and domestic distributor of the emotionally responsive home companion “Pepper,” is just one indication of how quickly technological, market and social developments are converging to propel smart, autonomous machines into our everyday lives. These machines’ near-future capacity for causal reasoning and insight — and uncanny humanoid presence — will call upon designers’ expertise in shaping language, user experiences and interactions, all unique and generalist meta-cognitive skills that still define specific human advantages. Having shifted from a preoccupation with form to the construction of meaning, design practice — whether in communications, products or space planning — can seek to take additional steps in creating conversations, codifying behaviors, and defining new artifacts and physical ecosystems that are sensible, graspable and navigable to both humans and machines in innumerable settings. Moreover, by modeling positive speech and behavior, shared environments and common social values, designers, when creating and coexisting alongside autonomous machines, will do no less than encourage humans to recognize and cherish reciprocity, civility and labor.

Multi-modal Interface Design: Communicating Design Through Presentation and Review

Peter Lusch
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
College of Arts and Architecture
Penn State

Danielle Oprean
Post-Doctoral Research Scholar
Stuckeman Center for Design Computing
Penn State

Multi-modal visualization has long been considered important for design communication through representation and presentation, yet it has not been explored through an interface. In this presentation we discuss the outline for our test of use of a new interface designed to provide a multi-modal experience of design representations through the presentation and review processes. This interface is being developed for use in an immersive environments lab, a unique presentation space that allows for large-screen display and virtual reality. Before implementing a new interface, testing needs to be done to identify issues and perceptions of how well it works. We aim to test the feasibility of using a multi-modal interface with advanced-level undergraduate students in the design disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture, and graphic design) as a way for them to communicate design through presentation and review. In this presentation we talk about how usability testing allows for the results of actual use of an interface to feed back into improving the overall design. Specifically, we will provide an overview of our application of usability testing in design disciplines to address our hypothesis that being able to view different modalities of design representation at one time is more meaningful to communicate design both during presentation and in the review process. Success of the meaningfulness of the interface will be explored through the TAM model (Davis 1992) of usefulness, ease of use, and behavioral intention. We will also present the primary end point goals for this study, including our human factors study, and our self-report measurement of actual use of the multi-modal interface through questionnaires measuring usefulness, ease of use, and behavioral intention.