By Joseph Zhang |

Rich, engaging conversation is a hallmark of meaningful human-to-human interaction. However, factors such as relational closeness, social formalities, and insecurities often hinder unfamiliar individuals from going beyond the surface-level conversation. Thinkspace is a speculative concept that aims to reinvision the role of conversational agents in discussion-based contexts.

Advisors: Jonathan Chapman & Steve Stadelmeier, Environments Studio II (Spring '20)

Project Duration: 7 weeks

Tools: Interaction design, p5.js, Adobe CC

My Role Being a solo project, I identified the problem space, designed all interaction behaviors, and prototyped all voice and particle interactions with Javascript.

Problem Space

In our world today, much of 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” — ones that think and create on their own. In the proper context, what if human conversation can be enriched through the facilitation of a proactive assistant rather than a reactive one?

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 these agents could provide input in a way that we might not even know to ask for?

Final Video

Mind-as-Container Metaphor The visual development of Thinkspace is inspired by the manifestation of human thought as a physical entity. In any given day, people have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day (Huffington Post). Amidst the chaos, our minds form ideas through the constant rearrangement of independent thoughts. When we revisit “old ideas”, our thought process is in reality no longer the same due to the numerous contextual influences that since then have entered our lives. Following the same logic, the way our thoughts arrange themselves will always be different as time passes.

How can this conceptual model of the human mind influence us on a social level? More specifically, how can the grouping and regrouping of our thoughts act as an metaphor for the way we should engage with people that have different backgrounds, cultures, and ideas?