July 18, 2011

Design Expo 2011

Location: Redmond, Washington

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About Design Expo
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Each year, Microsoft Research sponsors a semester-long class at leading design schools. Students are asked to form interdisciplinary teams of two to four students to design a user experience prototype that solves a real-world problem. From these groups, a representative team from each school presents its work to Microsoft.

2011 Design Challenge

Get Connected, Stay Connected

Explore the promise of real-time data transmission and seamless connectivity. With the proliferation of mobile devices, cameras and other sensor-controlled combined with cloud computing and seamless connectivity, technology exists now to greatly simplify the ability to get connected and stay connected. How do we design experiences that leverage these technologies and create opportunities to engage others in a more meaningful way?

Participating Schools and Projects


  1. University of Washington, Interaction Design Program, Seattle, WA, US
    Project: Origin: A file management system that tags your data the way your brain does.In recognition of the shortcomings of current file management systems, Origin seeks to improve the way in which data is tagged, making its operation far more organic (or brain-like) than any typical system. By tagging data with contextual markers, it delivers users what they want, when they want it, without degrading opportunities to search for other data.
  2. IUAV University of Venice, Venice, Italy
    Project: Volgia: A device worn as jewelry that enables communicationThe Venice brief, “Thicker than Water,” asked students to invent, design, and prototype a system that allows real-time, interactive, but non-verbal communication between dispersed family members. The focus was on sharing emotions, intimacy, and background sensation. Voglia is a connected device, designed as a jewelry pendant, allowing close bodily communication between a couple who are physically apart.
  3. The Ontario College of Art and Design University, Toronto, Canada
    Project: In-NEED: Manage humanitarian needs after a natural disaster by using mobile technologyIn-NEED is a system for managing the community’s response to natural disasters through the use of mobile technologies. In-NEED addresses the humanitarian need of pre-emptive survivor systems and networks that engage and mobilize people within the community to act and share existing resources to mitigate the impact of natural disasters in the all-important hours directly following an event. By using existing technologies, localized platforms, and developing low-cost community nodes, In-NEED serves as a virtual survival kit.
  4. New York University, Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York City, NY, US
    Project: Walk.It: Search, create, and share personalized neighborhood mapsWalk.It is an online platform that enables anyone to create and share neighborhood maps that mimic the same personality and charm of a hand-drawn map from a friend. Believing that the form of the map breeds comfort and familiarity, along with the connected power of community and curation, Walk.It is designed to foster exploration and investigation.
  5. Universidad Iberoamericana de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
    Project: PortaVox: A crime-reporting tool for a communityIt is well known that in many urban centers crime of any kind—but particularly those of a violent nature—are seldom reported. PortaVox is a system that creates a community-reporting tool that helps track and reduce incidents of crime in urban areas. The belief is that by making the means of reporting present, simple, and connected, it can reduce the stigma and fear that is associated with reporting. The intended outcome is to reduce crime and the fear of crime, thus making cities eminently more livable.
  6. Tongji University, Shanghai, China
    Project: Apart-Together: A way for parents and children to bond when living in different citiesThe Tongji University project team of interdisciplinary students has focused on the growing trend of parents leaving behind their children in second- and third-tier cities for the large first-tier cities in hopes of finding better economic opportunities. This trend is growing quickly, currently effecting more than 130 million parents and more than 50 million children who are now being raised by their grandparents. This separation between parent and children has a huge emotional impact and introduces some unique challenges of Chinese society today. The Apart – Together team has focused on a solution to improve the emotional bond between children and parents that are currently living in this situation.