Cloud City

UX | Exhibit

It will be cool, it will be pretty, it will be dope.

 

This is at least what I was thinking staring at an alarming amount of wood cut into hundreds of cloud shaped sections scattered on the floor. It will all be put together, the controller and LED strips set in place, and go live in the experiential center of a certain popular search engine company. But there was a long way to go. Imagine those wooden 3D puzzles where you can make boats or dinosaur skeletons out of wooden pieces that slot together. Now imagine that but each piece takes two people to lift.

 

Behind the pile of wooden cloud pieces was a giant Rube Goldberg machine. The laser cutter was still cutting out some pieces I needed for that rotatey arm (technical term) that's going to catch the ball and flip it onto the next track.

 

A massive planet was mounted in place but it wasn't painted yet. Soon it will all be up and running, powered by AI and the Cloud.

 

Have you ever tried to make an exhibit that tries to teleport you inside technology? If AI and Cloud technology was built for human brains and not silicon chips, what would it feel like?

 

It would feel a lot like Cloud City.

AI and Cloud technology is all really rather complicated. It's also popular and growing. The company that commissioned this space wanted a way for future customers to really connect and embody what this technology is capable of.

 

This user research was a little different because of that. It wasn't really about what makes the technology so great, it is really about how to push it directly into our world. Discussions around AI and Cloud tend to involve a lot of flow charts and acronyms that sort of sound familiar. The goal in the research was for someone with even a mild curiosity about Cloud technology to walk in and "get it."

 

Sure it's technologically complicated, but it's also delightful.

 

So the visitor center was designed with that in mind. At every single point a person is made to feel two things. The first thing is the immediate, giddy, delight that comes with new technology. As technology becomes more and more invisible, it's actually becomes more important to make it visceral so that we can connect to it on a human level.

 

The second thing the visitors feel is the actual power and use of the technology. Each exhibit is fueled by a slightly different feature of AI and the Cloud in a way that blurs the lines between what the technology is doing and what the human is perceiving.

 

The lockers want to have a conversation with you and will give you prizes for communicating with them. The planet swivels and orbits around as visitors explore how Cloud is used around the world. You can talk to the technology and it can talk back at you. Even if it's sometimes silly, you become a part of the AI.

 

My job was to turn nebulous technology into something that you can poke, understand, and have a conversation about. This was accomplished through constant interviews, meetings, brainstorm sessions, and transforming technological usability into human meaning.

 

My favorite aspect of design is how it can spark new relationships between people and the world around us.

Footnotes:

+ Done in collaboration with Deep Local

+ Role: Development, Testing, Building