Portrait of Indrani Medhi Thies

Indrani Medhi Thies



Indrani Medhi Thies is a Researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore. Her research interests are in the areas of User Interfaces (UIs), User Experience Design, and Technology for Global Development. Over the years Indrani’s primary work has been in UIs for low-literate and novice technology users. Her recent work is in user experience of conversational agents, mainly chatbots. Indrani has a Ph.D. from the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, India; a Masters degree in Design from the IIT Institute of Design, Chicago, USA; and a Bachelors degree in Architecture from VNIT, Nagpur, India.

Indrani’s distinctions include the 2017 ACM SIGCHI Social Impact award, the MIT TR35 award, ACM SIGCHI and ACM CSCW best paper honorable mentions, a “Young Indian Leader” award from CNN IBN, and featuring in the list “50 Smartest People in Technology” by Fortune magazine. Indrani has published over 20 refereed research articles in leading conferences and journals. She was a keynote speaker at the 2017 MobileHCI conference.

Indrani was born and raised in Guwahati, Assam. She lives in Bangalore with her husband and baby girl.

Fun facts: When not working Indrani loves watching and reviewing Bollywood movies, and going on wildlife travels. She has featured in an advertising campaign with Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar. Video here. Being a TEDx speaker in the past, Indrani recently attended the studio recording of the tv show TED Talks India: Nayi Soch, which will go on air later this year, hosted by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.


Chatbots for young, urban India

Established: August 1, 2016

As text-messaging chatbots become increasingly “human”, it will be important to understand the personal interactions that users are seeking with a chatbot. What chatbot personalities are most compelling to young, urban users in India? To explore this question, we conducted Wizard-of-Oz (WoZ) studies with users that simulated interactions with a hypothetical chatbot. Participants were told that there might be a human involved in the chat, although the extent to which the human would be involved was…

KrishiPustak- Social Networking for Low-Literate Farmers

Established: January 1, 2014

With the wide penetration of mobile internet, social networking systems are becoming increasingly popular in the developing world. However, most social networking sites contain medium to heavy text, and are therefore unusable by low-literate populations. KrishiPustak (CSCW'15) is a research and design investigation that explores what a social networking application for low-literate users would look like and how it might be used. We designed, developed, deployed and evaluated KrishiPustak, a prototype audio-visual mobile application for low-literate farming…

VideoKheti- Video Search for Low-Literate Users

Established: April 25, 2012

VideoKheti (CHI’13, DEV’13) is a multimodal video search system for low-literate farmers that combines local language speech, graphics and touch interaction to help find and watch agriculture extension videos (of digitalGreen), in the farmer’s own language and dialect. We investigate if the complementarity of speech, graphics and touch lead to a better experience for low-literate and novice users? And if it is even worth the extra cost in engineering (to build automatic speech recognition) and bandwidth for sustained use? Among other things results…

Project Mélange

Established: January 1, 2012

Project Mélange: Understanding MixEd LANguaGE and Code-mixing The goal of Project Mélange is to understand the uses of and build tools around code-mixing. Multilingual communities exhibit code-mixing, that is, mixing of two or more socially stable languages in a single conversation, sometimes even in a single utterance. This phenomenon has been widely studied by linguists and interaction scientists in the spoken language of such communities. However, with the prevalence of social media and other informal…

Mobile Data Collection

Established: June 1, 2011

In rural settings within developing countries where digital devices are not pervasive, all written records are maintained on paper forms which take a long time to aggregate and process data, resulting in corresponding delays in remedial action. We study this problem in the context of malnutrition treatment of rural children in Madhya Pradesh through ethnographic interviews and contextual inquiries, and present a health data record management application on a low-cost digital slate prototype (UX’12) built through…

UIs for Low-Literate Users

Established: June 20, 2006

One of the greatest challenges in providing information and communication technology access is that about 775 million people in the world are completely non-literate and many are able to read only with great difficulty and effort. Even though mobile phone penetration is growing very fast, people with low levels of literacy have been found to avoid complex functions, and primarily use mobile phones for voice communication only. "Text-Free UIs" are design principles and recommendations for…













A Hindi Speech Recognizer for an Agricultural Video Search Application

January 2013

Voice user interfaces for ICTD applications have immense potential in their ability to reach to a large illiterate or semi-literate population in these regions where text-based interfaces are of little use. However, building speech systems for a new language is a highly resource intensive task. There have been attempts in the past to develop techniques…