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Human Magic -^

Bringing the essence of human connections to remote collaboration.

Professional Product, Collaboration with Konftel, Tutoring with Trieuvy Luu – Interaction Designer at ābove, Workshop Training with Josh Lenn from Bold&Confident, 2020

Brief -^

How can audio-video interactions be designed to be interwoven into the flow of distributed work in ways that enable professionals to bring the best of themselves and their skillsets into play in work practices that are imaginative, expansive, and energising?

Approach -^

We quickly realised that creating a new device or even a new feature doesn't solve the main problem of remote work. What makes collaborative work so strong and feel so good that it's so hard to replicate remotely? It's the human factor. Through a rapid, intensive exploratory process with our clients, we were able to gather insights about users and invite them to create a new term, with a new purpose and a new way of thinking about remote collaborative work.

User-experience, ethnographic research, fast-paced mock-up exploration, storytelling

5 weeks together with Ruoyun Wang, Alexander Widua & Romy Koppert

My Role
A little bit of everything but mostly: research evaluation, workshop facilitation, video treatment, final concept communication

Result -^

Our final concept is a representation of what we coined "human magic", a term that describes what is missing in remote collaboration and what would usually connect us when we work together in a shared physical space. Human magic, for example, is the energy that people radiate when they talk about something they are passionate about and ignite that passion in others too. We felt this magic when collaborating within our team, but also our interviewees described this 'thing' that they felt when heads get aligned and this feeling of connection, passion and joy starts to emerge.

After we built this framework around human magic, we were able to project our vision on the current remote work setup and started reimagining audio-video interactions during collaborative meetings. We suggested reimagining how work should be done. We envision collaboration to become much more of an immersive experience. Shifting our focus from efficiency and productivity, to well-being, joy and using our senses. Away from the single stream of audio and back to real communication.

What we envision is still located in our 'home offices' on our own desks. We have chosen to focus on small teams that need this collaboration to bring back the team dynamic that is fading with remote work. In our vision they can physically share a digital table. Each team member present, just like they would be sitting at a table together, has a display of screens in front of them with an array of cameras and speakers.

Research Phase -^

To get a better understanding of the current needs in remote collaboration we conducted several interviews with many people and built stories around their remote work situation. After sorting these stories and findings we were able to find patterns throughout different user groups and narrowed them down to what we wanted to focus on.

“I suddenly understood that by looking someone else in the eye, I make myself vulnerable and trust them to read my emotions on my face.”
– Interviewee

“I realised that I when I feel engaged with my teammates, I move my body towards theirs, and the twinkle I can see in their eye instantly makes me feel the passion that burns within them.”
– Interviewee

We had the possibility to plan and run our own co-creation workshop with stakeholders and our fellow students. Within this session, we came up with a ‘meal’ metaphor to help us talk about human magic. This metaphor came from a specific user story where our interviewee talked about the ingredients for good collaboration. In our workshop we used this metaphor to help our clients compare collaboration to the experience of cooking and eating a meal. Our key insights were, that we could now pinpoint what this human magic is all about. Words like eye-contact, implicit turn-taking and body-language started to emerge which we could then define in explorations within our team.

Experience Prototyping -^

Little experiments helped us to bring this abstract knowledge to life and made it graspable for us, we realised what kind of changes we would need in a new remote collaboration setting.

We explored how our senses and bodily capabilities are limited by current online communication and experimented with small things like reorienting the frame and view to allow us to show each other our body language, desk and notes.

The placement of the camera plays a huge role in how we perceive people during remote work.

Different camera placements allowed us to actually look people in the eye again and come a bit closer to this concept of real human interactions.

Then we explored splitting up the direction of audio and video of multiple participants to allow us to have more face-to-face interactions. We were impressed by how well this little experiment had already worked.

Concept Creation -^

Building a working prototype allowed us to experience the changes in real life. Filming from a users' perspective we could easily convey the experience to our clients and tutors. These prototypes helped us to gain further insights about the limitations of remote work and we could draw connections to the previous findings from our workshops and interviews. Giving each participant a separate screen was the concept that enabled us to bring all the other ideas to life and worked as the strongest.

With this working prototype we had the ability to experience our concept for ourselves for the first time and were impressed by the glimpse of magic we felt by testing it out. A shared feeling of space started to emerge and this implicit turn taking felt more and more doable to us.

What is magic -^

To be able to have a shared understanding of our concept, we created this experience video. We built upon our meal metaphor from our co-creation workshop and displayed a dinner scene with friends where magic is able flow freely.

Experience Videos-^

To be able to have a shared understanding of our concept, we created this experience video. We built upon our meal metaphor from our co-creation workshop and displayed a dinner scene with friends where magic is able flow freely.

We imagine that actual eye contact should become the new norm in online communication. Eye contact can create intimacy and trust which is a base for a natural conversation.

When we express ourselves, our body language follows. The frame we are locked in should not cut off your body language.

We are removing the filter that prevented intimacy and making conversations and interactions more realistic. We should be able to come physically closer together in conversations.

We envision that we can bring back the value of the direction of input and output collaboration. Separating audio by using spatial audio sources will allow us to make sense of the conversation, the way it naturally happens.

We reimagine remote collaboration so that our communication can flow again, our human magic can flow again.

Colophon – Linda Kraft © 2021