Bringing human connection back to remote collaboration

The goal of this 5 week long project was to explore the audio-video interactive experience that enables people to bring the best of themselves in remote work.

Teammate: Alexander Widua, Linda Kraft, Romy Koppert
Skills highlight: User stories, Remote co-creation workshop, Experience video

Introducing “Human Magic”

In the year 2020, we have seen a rapid increase of remote work due to the global pandemic. Have you ever experienced attending 2 hour long Zoom meeting in front of computer screens sitting at home? If yes, then you definitely know how the experience is like.

So what is missing in a digital workspace…

that makes us so tired and even lose our motivation that we once had for working?

What is missing in a digital workspace, that makes us feel so unconnected with each other?

How can we bring back the engagement, passion and energy that we have been sharing through interactions with others to remote work environments?

The sensory experience used to freely flow in the physical space (Gif made by Alexander Widua)

What we call human magic is…

the sensory experience we used to have through human interactions in real space, like when we are sharing a story with our friends during dinner.

Having natural conversations with our friends during dinner time is the moment when “human magic” happens…

To convey the concept of human magic in the real world, we created a video to show the dinner scene where the magic flows freely in the space.

Conveying human magic using a “dinner scene” metaphor

Enabling “Human Magic” in remote collaboration

1. Unlocking visual signals of natural communication

Looking at the screen means directly making eye contact with your remote partners, as camera is embedded in the screen. Vertical frame allows more space to show your body language. No more guessing of the poker face, talking with people from the screen is just like your natural conversation in real life.

2. Bringing directionality / intimacy to digital space

The placement of displays makes the “people sitting around a table” possible for remote work. Turning face to one direction will allow other people seeing another side of your face, just like how people see each other when they are sitting together around a table.

3. Creating a shared experience of the space

Now grab your coffee and work with your team in distributed places! With this immersive audio-video solution, people will feel togetherness once again through the shared experience, human magic flows again in the space. ✨

Behind The Scenes

The project emphasizes on conducting multiple ethnographic research for understanding and representing user behaviour, as well as collaborative prototyping as a tool for exploring current and future work practices.

1. Extracting rich stories from users

(Realizing the absence of human magic)

Our design process started with interviews with participants from different professional backgrounds to understand their remote work situation. By sharing concrete user stories over and over again, comparing and discussing, we allowed new insights to arise: the need to emotionally connect with peers is not being met in remote work.

Collecting user stories (Picture source: Alexander Widua)

2. Online Fire-up session

(Overcoming the boundaries of Zoom)

With everyone working from home, people are longing for energy and connection. The online fire-up session held by Bold&Confident is aiming at bringing more energy and passion into online environment. During the course, we got an opportunity to organize a 30 minute fire up session in our class. We designed some games in which people completed group tasks by doing physical activities in distributed locations. By conducting this session, we demonstrated possibilities to overcome the boundaries of online environment. It also helped us to look into some key elements on how to build connection and safe environment for distributed groups.

Screenshot of our fire-up session

3. Co-creation workshop

(Investigating the ingredients of collaboration)

In order to proceed, we planned a co-creation workshop with clients and students. During the workshop, we presented a graphic that shows five categories of ingredients that play different roles in a meal. Creating this meal metaphor allows people to draw connections between collaboration and the experience of eating or cooking meals. It allowed people to think about what will be the ingredients for a good collaboration. Words like common ground, natural communication, understanding intentions and body language were collected at this stage which helped us to further explore and prototype the experience.

Snap of co-creation workshop (Picture source: Linda Kraft)

4. UX video prototype

(Prototyping the human magic)

(Gif source: Alexander Widua)

5. Testing out the final concept

(Picture source: Linda Kraft)

My Role in the team

In the team, amongst other tasks I was mainly responsible for collecting user stories from interviews, sketching the experience model, explaining the metaphor in co-creation workshop, designing the visual deliverables.

What I’ve learned

#This project is about remote collaboration which relies on our collaboration too.

In a team, it is essential to share equal time in expressing one’s opinion as well as listening actively. When receiving feedbacks, try to understand how others think about the problems from their perspective. One trick that I have learned now is to avoid excessive usage of NO or BUT. Instead, express how do you understand others opinion then give your viewpoint upon that.

#User experience video as a powerful tool in ideation and communication.

When narrowing down questions from the research phase, it is a good practice to start working on something as soon as possible. Using an initial prototype and making a 5 seconds clip out of it, surely allows you to think about the problem in depth through actual implementation. It is also an efficient method to get others on board before you present the idea to your clients.

Interaction designer