Rich, engaging conversation is a hallmark of ameaningful human-to-human experience. However, factors such as relational closeness, social formalities, and insecurities often hinder individuals from going beyond surface-level conversation.
Thinkspace is a speculative concept that aims to reinvision the role of conversational agents in discussion-based contexts.
7 Weeks (Spring)
Generative Conversation —
In our world today, almost all the tools we use are passive. They do exactly what we tell them and nothing more. Current conversational agents are no different — we provide a request, and the assistant performs that action. In his TED talk, designer and engineer Maurice Conti challenges society to rebuild the passive (tech) tools we use today into generative ones.
In this project, I wanted to challenge the 'assistant' metaphor of voice agents. Though the main intent of CUI's is still to help accomplish tasks, what if they could provide input in a way that we might not even know to ask for? In the proper context, what if human conversation can be enriched through the facilitation of a proactive voice assistant rather than a retroactive one?
Modular Intents —
Intent: a user-selected mode that dictates the conversational assistant’s behavior.
Every conversation has a different context and intention of initiation. Thinkspace embraces that, giving users the ability to choose the voice assistant's role prior to beginning the actual conversation. This system is modular, meaning that number of Intent options will expand as the entire Thinkspace system develops.
Input Methods —
The goal of Thinkspace is to enhance human-to-human conversation, not human-to-computer conversation. Because of that, Thinkspace is designed so that no verbal exchange occurs between person & computer.
System Wake & Sleep
Person invocates through voice. Thinkspace is about conversation, therefore the first point of interaction should reflect that.
Person chooses through mobile interface. It’s illogical for the system to project the various options given limited wall space.
How the system provides information
Only visual and audial cues, no spoken dialogue. The goal is to highlight the human-to-human conversation, therefore the assistant never replies auditorily in words.
Thought Metaphor —
Based on scientific research, a research article from the National Academy of Sciences claims that highly creative people differ from the average person because of the unique coactivation of their three primary brain regions. This consists of the default, salience, and executive systems which are neural circuits that usually work in opposition.
I couldn't help but wonder how the conceptual model of the human mind might be able to influence us on the social level — more specifically, our hesitance to expand beyond social cliques. How can the grouping and regrouping of our thoughts act as analogy for the way we should engage with people with different backgrounds, cultures, and ideas?
Live Prototype —
Progress Videos —
As time pass, so do people, their way of thinking, and the types of conversation they engage in. As people change, so does the role of Thinkspace.
Working on Thinkspace was delightful because it stemmed from a genuine interest in computation, multimodal forms of interaction, and the application of metaphor thinking in design. This project pushed me to challenge the potential applications of voice assistants, especially in proactive contexts such as this. Given more time, I'd love to build my program to a fidelity where it can be tested with real users. Whether it be through Wizard of Oz experiments or any other testing method, I want to see how this concept plays out in a real human conversation.