Class: Microsoft Research Design Expo

Mentor: Michael Dory

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Design Expo is a semester-long class at leading design schools, sponsored by Microsoft Research. Students form interdisciplinary teams of 2-4 students to design a user experience prototype that solves a real-world problem. Design Expo began as partnership between Microsoft and Apple to integrate technology into the curriculum of design schools worldwide to build long term relationship with the design schools, and build community across schools. This year's theme is:

"Empathy at Scale"

This year, four teams within NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program were honored to be selected to participate in the eight-week program (out of 17 idea submissions). ITP Alumi and Google Representative, Mike Dory will be the mentor. From these 4 teams, one will represent NYU to present their work at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington USA.

Team: Ask Charlotte

Team members: Anna Gudnason ▪️Son Luu▪️Jenny Lin ▪️Arthava Patil ▪️and myself

Week 1: Research Phase and Initial Idea Proposal

The theme of 2019’s design expo is “Empathy at Scale.” Groups were given complete freedom with their interpretations of what this theme meant and in having this freedom required to spend a lot of time narrowing down the focus and finding one core subject that they felt was representative of the overall theme. Given that the whole competition was 7 weeks total the team knew that it was necessary to work fast.

Before the first team meeting, we prepared by reading about potential topics that felt appropriate for the theme "Empathy at Scale". As we met up, we each pitched the topic to the whole team. Utilizing sticky notes and key sectioning of topics helped us come to a conclusion. We did that with the method shown below:

(1) Who? --- which group of target users?

(2) What? --- what problem area?

(3) Technology Tool? --- which technology would be appropriate to incorporate?

The topic decided upon was: Sexual Health Education for teenagers.


We began to identify high-level challenges around sexual and relationship education that teenagers of all backgrounds seem to experience despite available resources. From this, we came up with a preliminary problem/opportunity question:

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From this question the team began to refine and develop the concept of what we wanted Ask Charlotte to be. Realizing that Artificial Intelligence would be the appropriate technology to use for the platform. We did, however, acknowledge the controversies surrounding the use of AI, such as personal information collection and surveillance. With these acknowledgements in place we created a set of guidelines for our use of AI.

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The next step in these beginning stages was to continue doing more market research. Understanding the product market was vital in revealing opportunities to bridge gaps and look for more innovative ideas to improve current user experience.

The research phase brought us to a few products similar to what our idea of Ask Charlotte might be. One was a recently released AI Chatbot from Planned Parenthood named Roo.

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Learning about Roo caused us to take a step back and think more about what we were trying to accomplish. We still believed that Ask Charlotte would be a relevant tool that would benefit teens from all over. Speaking with potential users and people who work in tangential industries is going to be necessary for further development of Ask Charlotte.

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Through presenting iterations of Ask Charlotte each week and continually developing the concept and overall product we will improve and work towards the end goal of the expo.