Portrait of John Tang

John Tang

Senior Principal Researcher


I work in the Ability (opens in new tab) group in Microsoft Research that focuses on inventing novel and inclusive technologies for people with disabilities. My current research focus is on making video calling accessible. While the group is located in Redmond, WA, I work out of the Microsoft Silicon Valley Center in Mountain View, CA. Thus, I not only research distributed collaboration, but also live distributed collaboration in my daily work. My research interests are focused on understanding the needs of users to shape the design of technology to support collaboration, and recently have been focusing on hybrid meetings where some people gather together in a meeting room while others join remotely. I apply a mix of qualitative (video-based observation, interviews, surveys to collect user perceptions) and quantitative (usage logs) methods to understand how people currently use technology and how to design new technology to improve their work. I have a special interest in designing for accessibility, interfaces for distributed groups to enable sharing awareness information, and remote communication both at work and at home. I have also explored novel uses of video and audio to connect people both at home and in the workplace, and uses of live streaming. Previously, I worked on the Embodied Social Proxy (ESP) (opens in new tab) project. I am also an Adjunct Lecturer (opens in new tab) at Stanford University. I was inducted as a member of the ACM CHI Academy in 2014.


I joined Microsoft Research in 2008. While I have worked in industrial research labs throughout my career, I have also had the opportunity to teach HCI classes at Stanford and Berkeley. I currently teach Designing for Accessibility (CS377Q) at Stanford in the Spring Quarter. Previously, I’ve served as a studio instructor in the CS247 HCI Design Studio (opens in new tab) at Stanford. I was a visiting lecturer for the undergraduate CS160 Human Computer Interaction class at the University of California at Berkeley in Fall 2017 and 2007.

I previously worked at IBM Research, in the USER group in IBM Research at the Almaden Research Center (opens in new tab). I was part of the bluemail team that studied email usage in the enterprise, as described in a Google TechTalk (opens in new tab) in May 2008.

Prior to IBM, I was at Sun Microsystems, Inc. for 13 years, mostly in Sun Labs (opens in new tab). I studied and helped design a desktop video conferencing prototype, which informed the design of the SunSolutions product ShowMe TM Whiteboard TM (opens in new tab). I studied and designed novel interfaces for desktop audio-video glances, integrated computer-mediated communication, distributed work group support, and instant messaging involving work rhythms based on temporal patterns of computer activity.

In 1998, I was also a guest researcher at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), working on the Manufacturing Collaboratory (opens in new tab)project.

Before joining Sun, I worked at Xerox PARC on a variety of tools to support shared drawing activity (VideoDraw, VideoWhiteboard, VideoCom, Liveboard). I collaborated with the Media Space group on many of these projects.

I received my B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in the Design Division (opens in new tab)of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University. My dissertation focused on studying the conceptual design work of teams, leading to the design of shared drawing prototypes developed at Xerox PARC. I’m active in the research community, have contributed papers and served on ACM conference committees for the CHI and CSCW conferences, and am a member of the ACM CHI Academy.