At the end of February 09, Microsot™s Business Division President Stephen Elop shared with the attendance of the Wharton Business Technology Conference Office™s labs vision of productivity. Elop™s signature motto was that it is essential for companies to invest in innovation especially during recession as it allows them to develop a competitive advantage that is essential to their survival, and evolution. My friend, Daniel Wigdor, referred me to immortal words of Lisa Simpson: look at the bright side dad, did you know that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity? Yes , [Homer answers] Crisitunity!

Sure, crisis is a catalyst that forces change, and can be good. Unfortunately, change is a Darwinian mechanism that only benefits those that can overcome the harsh situation and evolve from it. Many of the companies that face this reality these days simply do not have the agility needed to do that. For example, General Motors lost 82 Billon dollars in the last three years, its market worth is only 1.34 Billion dollar. GMâ„¢s ability to survive the current rescission it is limited at best. It is admirable that Microsoft is heavily invested in efforts to map the future, even during these hard times. It is even more remarkable how these efforts are focused on real, viable future. If you see the end of Elopâ„¢s presentation, you would see him unveil the foundations on which these beautiful visions were founded on. it was all just a glimpse away. Watch Stephen Elopâ„¢s speech to see the underlying technologies and trends that will make this vision a reality [Start: 20:38] (Feb. 27, 2009)
Watch Future Vision: Montage (Feb. 27, 2009) (By office Labs)

Who needs to design affective services?

Previous  posts on the Mobile Monday London group addressed the challenges that mobile operators face when they communicate  with their customers, and how the operators fail them. From the Posts it is  easy to notice how people addressed all the negative aspects to the mobile  provider, even when it wan not their responsibility.

Using  a mobile device often leads to attributing good values to the phone  manufacturer. But what happens if the use leads to bad experience? What if it  is difficult to hear well or something is wrong with the phone?

In  this case the blame would fall on the mobile operator. The reason for that is  that mobile operators usually connect their offering, the ability to talk from  almost anywhere, with the mobile device. Mobile  operators rarely enjoy the luxury of having their own tangible experience  connected to the main aspect of their offering. In rare cases, like in the  Vodafone simply, they can design a holistic user experience that can transcends  to the tangible experience and better relate to their users.

But  what if the company’s business is not in designing mobile devices?

What  if their business is all about intangible service? How  can they differentiate themselves then?

One  way they could take is to try and construct a successful relationship with  their customers.

By  designing a service that puts the focus on its emotional, as well as on its  functional aspects, companies would gain better brand recognition,  differentiation and loyalty.

Affective service, a service that addresses the customer’s emotional needs as well as the  functional needs, views both the customer and the company as elements of a  system which the product and the price are only parts of. Affective service  also addresses other touch points that customers interacts with, like the bill  statement or the sales rep, as points that impact the way that customers  perceive both the service itself and the company which provides that service.

Affective service encourages the creation of a relationship with the customer. As such it  aims, much like in real relationships, to sustain constant line of  communication between the different stakeholders of the system. This allows  early detection of friction points during the time the service is  provided, not only after customers decided to leave. This can be done by  creating touch points that periodically give companies feedback on the customer  satisfaction level, and give customers information about opportunities they  could benefit from.

Affective service looks at the way the needs of the stakeholders are met. Getting  paid for a service (company’s need) is a legitimate request. The way that it is  carried out can make or brake relationships.

Affective service offers the best service but also something more. Looking at the  functional side is important but it is not the only thing. Beyond functionality  comes the way that the service makes customers feel.

Affective service is proactive. It takes the initiative and offers customers real value  that extends beyond the product’s scope. Reward programs, like the one that  Mark Curtis wrote of, are one example for a proactive initiative that enforces  this relationship. As companies know more of their customers’ preferences they  could design these initiatives that meet different types of users.

Affective service looks at customers as beneficial members of the system. It involves  users in the service design and looks for ways that improves users’ interaction  and feelings about the service.

Designing  affective service is a challenge but also an opportunity to create a  meaningful relationship with their customers.   This relationship is something that companies can only benefit from and  customers are looking forward to.

For  professionals that work in this field, this can be an opportunity to think how affective service relate to their business and maybe even send their insights.

Did you find your Boda-Boda?

In Cultures of Repair, Innovation, Jan Chipchase takes the reader to Delhi, Ho Chi Minh and other emerging markets cities and brings insights from recent field studies of local repair cultures. boda_boda22.jpgRelaying on their ingenuity, Informal social networks and the abundances of phones, repairers can sell or fix phones at low prices. As Jan Chipchase points out, these informal repair services are driven by necessity, as customers simply cannot afford to go to official repair service but consider them as an essential tool for their business. The Boda-boda (border-to-border) driver that Jan Chipchase brings as an example for such a customer is another interesting case for innovation driven by necessity.  The Boda-boda is bicycle driven taxi in South Africa. In the 1960s, the Boda-boda originated from the need to transport people across the “no-manâ„¢s-land” between the border posts without the paperwork involved with using motor vehicles crossing the international border(link). It is estimated that more than 200,000 men in Uganda were working as Boda-boda drivers, in 2004. boda_boda1.jpgIn many senses, computer applications may presents obstacles just like any no-manâ„¢s land. When people will attempt to complete tasks in an enjoyably way, they may encounter obstacles, distractions, misleading signs and dead ends. Some times, they may even find that some of their needs are not met at all. To overcome such barriers, people relay on their resourcefulness, their experience and on others to guide them through. Affordance, coined by James J. Gibson in 1966, refers to the property of an object that indicates how to interface with that object. By focusing on the Perceived Affordance, Donald Norman pointed out the peopleâ„¢s perspective in the interaction equation, making it a subjective model. It is important to look at peopleâ„¢s needs, desires, capabilities and constraints, as well as the properties that the object introduces. learning how people “ object relationship works and what are the flews in it, elevates the design scope and produces designs that is considers the context it is intended for. Exploring such relationships brings people closer to the design process, not only as research target but also as an active part in the design process. Using their experience, individuals understand at first hand the barriers they are facing and devise novel ways to overcome them. Emoticons are an example for such innovation driven by individualâ„¢s necessity. Emoticons are characters used on non-verbal communication to expend individualsâ„¢ expression capabilities, to define their social affiliation and express their uniqueness. Due to the lack of pitch, volume, and intonation of speech in non-verbal communication, emoticons are used to bridge that gap and extend the way people express themselves. As non-verbal communication became more popular in bulletin boards, e-mail, instant messaging, online chat, and Internet forums, the need for a solution such as the emoticons became apparent. smilyThe first emoticon appeared in 1979, when Kevin Mackenzie suggested the joke-marker -) on a message board. In 1982, Scott Fahlman suggested that “:-)” and “:-(” should express emotions.  Later on, many more symbols were added later on to this Paralanguage. :-] would express polite smile, XD expressed childish laugh and so on. Their popularity became evident to software companies that designed internet messaging software and internet forums.  Msn, AOL, Yahoo and other Instant messaging applications translated text based emoticons to graphical languages for some of the common symbols ( :-), 🙁 …). Motivated by their will to please their users, these companies started offering additional expression means such as shared background control, expressing emotions through sound and additional features. Looking how individuals come up with innovative solutions is a common practice in participatory design (PD) methodologies. Originated in Scandinavia in 1960s, PD aimed to involve the end users in the design process. PD aim was to ensure that the product meets the userâ„¢s needs, desires and expectations. In PD workshops, individuals took part in an early stage of the design process, suggest ideas and identify problems. Tom Erickson of Apple Computer suggested in1994 four dimensions of participatory design:

  1. Directness of interaction with the designers
  2. Length of involvement in the design process
  3. Scope of participation in the overall system being designed
  4. Degree of control over the design decisions

These dimensions also indicate the PD limitations. Individuals that are external to the design process have limited influence on the design process and eventually the design result. Observing how individuals improve products at their own surroundings can generate insights based on users needs in their context. This is the work of design anthropologists such as Anne Kirah from Microsoft or Jan Chipchase from Nokia. Using their capabilities to observe how individuals use the products, improve them and encounter barriers should produce authentic feedback crucial to design. When the first Boda-boda driver designed his bicycles, he did not think about the design process. On his mind was the need for survival in the harsh environment. He overcame the barrier using a simple device and altering it enough so he could offer a new service. When people used textual symbols in a non-verbal communication they did it due to the absence of a solution in the application they where using. Learning from them allowed the enhancement of the existing communication applications.  Learning from users after the product launch there is as important design tool as learning about their needs in the initial stages of the design.

The Link

Regain control of your social life, even when you are sick.
Key words : Service design, Physical prototyping, screen prototyping, children, play, health
Skills used: Physical prototyping, flash prototyping, user research, interaction design
Team members: Thomas Stovicek, Erez kikin-Gil

The Link overview
The Link is a service designed to allow sick children to cope with the change in their social networks.

Our preliminary questions were:
• How can we help kids deal with long term illnesses?
• How can we improve the quality of life?
• What could be done to improve a child’s day-to-day health?
• can we connect them better to surrounding communities (kids, doctors, caregivers, friends and school)?
• Are there other things they can benefit from, are there other things that could be improved?

With long-term illness, a child life change in many ways. Often the child’s social circle is severely altered; parents become mediators to the rest of the world, caregivers move more closer, and peers may be pushed away. Being sick assigns the child a different identity and places them within an unfamiliar community.
The goal of this service is to reduce isolation, assist communication and provide activities for the children and their social circle.

This service does that by allowing sick children to easily connect, communicate, share activities and play with their social networks.



We created two demos for our solution, one to demonstrate the invitation feature and the other to demonstrate the enhanced network game play. The demos were created in the form of task walk through. They demonstrate how the UIs of the various components are used together during a task.For this walk-through, we created screens and architectures for portions of the cell phone interface and PC application interface.

The invitation demo shows how sick children can create an invitation to the game. Surrounding this task, we added features and value that make it easier for the children to send messages for each other, and to create some hype around the game event to help entice kids into the activity.





Igloo: Portable Intimate Space

Multi-Player Game Experience

Remote Control Game

Remote Control experience prototype

Enhanced Networked Games

Enhanced Networked Games

Design explorations

Based on the research insight, we created few experience prototypes, which gain us with better understandings.

Igloo: Portable Intimate Space
How can Long-term ill kids negotiate with moving to hospitals? How can we help them keep their sense of privacy, of independency, of home? What will happed when they will be able to "invite their friends” in a virtual way?
In order to investigate those questions we have build the "IGLOO", a privet movable intimate space, which contained a demo of conference abilities. Our users entered that space and talked about their experiences, feelings and recollections.

The secluded space and ability to connect to the remote friends seed attractive to most people. it seems that the challenges with this solution would be the logistics at the hospitals.

Multi-Player Game Experience in the same room
In this user test, we wanted to observe friends playing network games. We wanted to see how their experience is being change by the near presence of their peers. We compared this situation with another networked game which each player is playing in separate room.

We saw that there was a lot of communication outside of the game, both visual and auditory. Head gestures, body language and vocal communication enhanced the group interaction.
In the separated games, we noticed a much more isolated experience, which concentrated in achievements on the game rather then collaboration with the group.
We observed that group bonding was enhance through communication and bonding with piers.

Remote Control Game
Aiming to explore how will a remote child participate in a remote physical game. We had a child in another room remotely controlling an actor and playing a game against another child.
The game was still fun for the parties involved but because there was no direct communication, there was not much interaction between the players.

The remote users experience can is a challenge both in the way the remote location is presented for him as well as his identity will be manifested at the remote arena. The remote user experience can be changed by the type of the game and will be enhanced in a group activity rather then in a one to one game.

Enhanced Networked Games
Our goal was to enhance the networked game as an activity which would promote group interaction. We gathered four kids, a network game, computers with web cams and microphones. We set each kid in a separate room, enabling them to talk, to see and to hear their peers during play.

We wanted to see how well kids communicate, interact and play at the online public arena, how strong is their will to belong to a group or will they play by themselves?

Kids react to communication devices in a natural way.
Group play is a potent force to kids.
Acknowledgment by the group can be strong motive.


Tony, Family doctor, Ivrea – illnesses are a part of life. It is important for the child to learn they can get sick, but the body can fix its self.

Research insights

Our preliminary research, which was composed of mediated research, as well as interviews with doctors, parents and experts, provided us with several insights.

Children are people too
Many processes and practitioners in the health care industry do not treat children as people with specific needs. Often, practitioners will talk down to them, simplifying issues. Children need to be given appropriate information, so they can assume responsibility for their life. Children need to have solution designed to their needs and desires, while understanding that they have a great capacity for understanding information.

Sick is a part of life
Being sick is a natural part of life. Everyone gets sick, and our body was designed to combat day-to-day illness. Fever, cough and vomiting are all mechanisms the body has for us to recover from benign illnesses. Treating illnesses as a part of life, not making a child an outcast and being calm about this issue makes the recovery and treatment better for everyone.

Change of a social network
Around the child is always a social network. Obviously it depends on the child’s age, lifestyle etc. but it exists. People in this social network can include parents, family, friends, siblings and more. The people in these networks also have personal issues to deal with both related to the Ego and not related to the Ego, or indirectly attributed to the Ego. Unfortunately, sometimes alters fall out of the ego’s social network.  

A new community is formed
Being sick places the person into a new community. From the healthcare workers, to other children around, a new social network is formed. This can often times be a positive thing (especially in the case of long term illnesses, diseases and disabilities) as support among peers can be more valuable then other resources because they can relate more directly to the child.

The Hospital is designed for Illnesses
Hospitals approach treatments from the point of view of the illness. They place machine and patient in a clinical environment trying to combat illnesses and diseases. While hospitals make provisions for a few amenities like visitations, in general they do not nicely accommodate the patients (they are starting to).
Hospitals, especially hospital staff, are very reluctant to incorporate new unfamiliar system that they are not comfortable with. As a result, it is left up to foundation and non-profit organization to try to address some of the more psychosocial needs of the patients.
Much of the equipment was designed for the medical community "with a 50’s aesthetic". Children often find these things boring, or cannot relate to them.

A New Identity
For more serious illnesses or medical issues, the child may follow changes that lead them to a new identity. Children must learn to cope with this new identity in a positive manner so that they do not feel like a victim. Children must learn to deal with a possible lifestyle change as well. Learning about how to talk about it with peers is an important step.

Back to School
Children that have gone through a long-term Post-Illness situation have to read just to life back at school, but often it is not the same as it was. Regain one identity and not acting like a victim are very important in a return to one’s social circle. Peers will also have difficulty in adjusting to one’s return; they may be shy or want to ask questions.

A New Mediator Is Created
When a child becomes sick, his family becomes a mediator between him and his social networks. Family members would organize visitation and manage connections to school.

It’s Family Problem
Parents have day-to-day tasks that they must perform in order to provide for their family. When children are sick, this can interrupt the normal schedule. For longer-term illnesses, a permanent change will probably occur in their lifestyle. Changes could include modified work hours, attention to siblings and organization between family members. These changes can cause many anxieties within a family.



This blog is focused on service, experience, interaction and innovation design. It is maintained by Erez Kikin-Gil (erez [AT], an experience designer.