Team: Gray Crawford, Brendon Gouveia, Katie Herzog, Chen Ni
Role: Concept development, low + hi-fi UX/UI, digital prototyping
Duration: 16 weeks
Tools: Cinema4D, Unity, After Effects
Brief: Design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of AI in learning. Your creation should demonstrate the best qualities of a symbiotic human-computer experience that takes into consideration the environment, objects, and people.
As a first step in exploring potential applications of AI in learning, we chose to map out the educational landscape, including formal, non-formal, and informal modes. After identifying the channels and environments most commonly associated with each mode, we chose to focus on the opportunities presented by more informal learning methods.
of college-educated millennials have at least 1 long-term debt
of millennials are concerned about their ability to repay student loans
of millennials have a retirement account
We then began to brainstorm ideas for possible subject areas to focus on, guided by the following questions:
This line of inquiry led us to consider economic conditions as a whole, and after further discussion, we decided to focus on financial wellness because of its widespread effects on an individual's emotional and physical health. With further research we found that millennials - across all socioeconomic strata and education levels - grapple with a lack of financial literacy that puts them at high financial risk.
What are the most salient subjects for people to learn now and in the next 5 years?
What types of instruction might be the most effective in improving an individual's overall wellbeing?
What opportunities might AI afford in the learning process, and what are its limitations?
The summaries below represent a small selection of the research methods employed over the course of this project. For a full account of our process, check out our blog here.
We conducted 6 expert interviews with financial professionals, university professors, and community organizers to learn about the challenges faced by millennials in today's financial climate. We learned that as digital payment methods become increasingly dominant, mental abstraction grows and this creates a disconnect between people and their financial state. This morphing financial landscape serves only to compound the natural human inclination to prioritize short-term thinking rather than focusing on further horizons.
Confidence Card Sort
To better understand millennials' relative levels of confidence in particular subject areas as well as the perceived level of importance they ascribed to each of those topics, we developed a collective card sorting activity built on a 2x2 matrix. We provided each participant with a stack of color-coded cards - each containing a financial topic - and asked them to place the cards on the matrix according to their perceptions of each.
In order to better understand the mental models millennials have of particularly abstract financial concepts, we also developed a journey mapping activity.
During this activity, we provided each participant with a sheet of paper that contained space to visualize three scenarios and a set of printed and cut images. The image set included icons as well as emojis so that respondents felt free to include emotion into their journey maps. One subject - Taking Out a Student Loan - proved particularly emotional for our respondents, as most had personal experience with taking on considerable debt.
We chose to test out the desirability of the information we were hoping to provide. Would a user want this information? How much is too much? We decided to make a quick in-class prototype of our potential point of sale intervention. To get feedback we created a scenario with paper mockups and staged a buying experience.
In doing so, we learned that participants were very sensitive to both the quantity and quality of information given at the point of sale. By gauging our test users' reactions throughout the walkthrough and talking with them after it was complete, we found that providing budgetary information at the point of sale was not only overwhelming but effectively moot - the majority of participants said that once they reached the register, their purchase was mentally finalized.
Moving forward, we wanted to test our hypothesis that a "landscape" might serve as an intuitive metaphor for financial health, so we developed an activity in which we asked participants to map out an aspirational view of their financial situation using legos and a green foam core base.
Prompt: Imagine that you have a visualization of your overall financial situation in your home. This representation is intended to be aspirational. What would this financial “landscape” look like?
How might we support millennials in visualizing long-term horizons and achieving financial goals?
Drawing from our research findings and inspired by a study conducted by economist Dan Ariely in which families were given physical tokens to track their savings (read more here), we developed and iterated on a series of storyboards centered around the concept of an ambient, financial visualization in the home environment.
Terra is an Augmented Reality platform that empowers users to build and maintain their own financial landscape while providing guidance and support via artificial intelligence.
After a series of iterations and early prototypes, we developed a final concept for Terra. Terra supports two primary channels for interaction: one in the home and one out in the world. The in-home experience centers around an ever-evolving AR landscape, customized to represent a user's financial state and progress towards long-term goals. The in-world experience supports this progress, providing personalized suggestions and opportunities for improvement based on a user's behavior.
While investigating the field of education, we also explored the strengths and limitations inherent in the use of artificial intelligence in order to identify potential areas of overlap. The qualities below represent the key opportunities identified in this process and define the role of AI in the Terra platform.
Analyzes current financial situation and helps determine trajectories based on end goals
Custom Goal Setting
When a user wishes to create a new financial goal in the Terra system, a virtual landmass is populated and subdivided according to the total amount and number of monthly payments respectively.
Users are then prompted to choose a landscape type that best matches their mental model of the financial goal at hand. Based on our explorations into the mental imagery commonly associated with debt, for this scenario we've identified two possible biomes: deserts and mountains. In the storyline that we've developed to illustrate our concept, the user chooses the desert biome, which means that the landmass will become increasingly lush and green as progress is made towards his goal of paying his student loans.
Finds opportunities to intervene based on your previous behavior
Presents users with actionable insights that increase in difficulty over time
Terra links to a user's financial accounts so that payments can be tracked in real time, providing an accessible ambient interface and creating an ever-evolving landscape.
With the goal of communicating information in an unobtrusive but intuitive manner, we chose to develop a series of weather patterns to indicate system status. Weather is inherently ephemeral, allowing it to serve as a natural indicator of a temporary state - our hope is that this quality could provide important information (such as falling behind on reaching a goal) without feeling oppressive or irreparable.
In order to support the formation of new habits, Terra extends beyond the home environment, presenting users with opportunities to alter their financial behavior.
These opportunities appear in the form of faceted orbs in the user's day-to-day life, prompting them to make changes in-context and in the moment, therefore increasing the likelihood that a new behavior will be adopted. Each suggestion is tailored to the individual, taking into account a user's habits.
To motivate and support users, Terra also includes a system for tracking progress towards the smaller, in-world challenges accepted. For example, Terra might challenge a user who frequently drives to work to ride his or her bike 3 days that week. Each time he or she successfully commutes via bicycle, the faceted orb becomes more complete until the challenge is met.
Once met, the orb reveals a virtual animal that can be placed into the user's landscape as a reminder of progress made.
One of the challenges we recognized early on with a concept of this nature (unfolding over the span of several years) would be in sustaining user interest and engagement in the long term. To achieve this, we focused on developing a visualization that balanced a calm, ambient presence, with subtle and continuous evolution. Our hope is that a digital "ecosystem" with elements that appear autonomous - animals that move about on their own - might spark curiosity and foster a sense of responsibility over time.
If afforded more time to develop Terra, there are several challenges we'd like to take on:
1. Increase customization: we believe that by increasing a user's freedom to shape their virtual landscape, we might also increase personal investment and engagement over time.
2. Expanded application: while we chose to focus on debt repayment for our primary design scenario, the Terra system could be easily adapted to serve other goal-setting functions.