Human-Centered AI – the impact on design

Pontus Wärnestål

Pontus Wärnestål guides you through the neural networks, the interaction models, the challenges and possibilities with AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has demonstrated enormous potential for creating value and a better future for humanity. AI techniques are being used in a wide range of systems and services, such as in healthcare, where it can assist in surgery, drug creation, X-ray analysis, and patient tracking. In automotive, AI is the foundation for self-driving cars, but also in optimizing logistics, transport, and mobility. In the personal space, Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are examples of ubiquitous AI-powered technology. And the list goes on: AI is found in media, finance, insurance, security, retail, and customer service just to name a few sectors.

But as with all technology, it has also shown a darker side – that of unintentional negative impact on individuals, organizations, and society itself. Algorithms that make decisions based on biased data can put entire populations at a disadvantage, and there are many other ethical aspects of using AI in our societies that need thorough investigation.

Our goal is to design and ship AI solutions that are fair, reliable, inclusive, transparent, and accountable. And this means that it has to start with the human front and center. AI technology should be used to enhance and augment human potential. This is what Human-Centered AI is about.

In one sense, this is not new at all. Human-centered design has always been about positive human experience and meaningful and valuable impact. And the methodologies and approaches we use to design have gracefully transitioned from text-based interfaces to graphical user interfaces, from stationary computers to mobile phones, from stand-alone machines to internet-based clients, etc. But it has so far always been about assistive technology and tools. The potential of AI technologies make possible new kinds of services – systems that act on our behalf, and take their own initiative. In short, we are transitioning from designing tools to designing partners. And suddenly, a whole new set of challenges surface – challenges that our traditional design approaches are not optimized for in a number of ways:

New Interaction Models

The fundamental input-process-output cycle of interactive tools has been modified, and AI-enabled agents take more or less their own initiative and operate more like thoughtful butlers or partners, so that us humans can focus on other things. Designing agents with its own agency and initiative is different than designing moment-to-moment tools. This sort of behavior requires a whole new level of trust-building transparency and accountability, for example.

Augmenting Human Intelligence

In addition, AI-enabled services may become almost entirely ubiquitous and invisible – merely augmenting human activity behind the scenes. No visible interface, no screens, no direct manipulation. Instead, our profoundly human everyday activities and cognitive abilities are seamlessly and automatically boosted.

Adaptation and Inclusiveness

Furthermore, personalization and adaptation will play an even greater role in the design and implementation of human-centered AI. A learning agent can, if well-designed, adapt to the different needs, skills, and abilities of individual users. This implies a longer relationship between humans and AI agents. Maybe even life-long relationships will form? It also puts the finger on the potential of an even higher degree of inclusive design for all.

And finally, in the wake of more advanced and accessible sensors, AI-enabled services will spread to – and affect – the core infrastructure of our world. IoT services, energy grids, mobility, and physical spaces will all be affected by ubiquitous AI-powered systems that act on their own to a larger degree.

The Road Ahead

The success of AI-enabled services and products depends on our ability to design for positive human impact. At inUse, we have always committed to designing human-centered products and services – using the best tools and materials for the job. And now, with the advent of robust machine learning platforms, large data sets, viable sensor technology, and data distribution platforms and cloud infrastructures, ”AI” is rapidly becoming a powerful addition to the available options for designers.

And this requires us to think differently and carefully about the design process, methods, interaction patterns, and the various impact these new types of AI-enabled services can provide. We know from history that we have a tendency to overestimate the effects of new technology in the short run, and underestimate them in the long run. AI is currently surrounded with a lot of hype, and when the dust has settled we will probably face some disappointment in the coming months and even years. But in the long run, AI will profoundly affect infrastructure, jobs, and the fabric of society itself. Exactly how, no-one can tell. But we are committed to carefully study, explore, and design human-centered AI-enabled services together with industry, government, and academia in order to provide thoughtful positive societal impact. We hope you want to join us!

Contact Pontus Wärnestål!

Electrolux Design shapes the smart home experience

Sara Doltz

”We are on a massive transformational journey right now. All of us who are in this business of creating home appliances are in a race for the hearts of our customers everywhere. This means rethinking our products, the value we provide, and how we use the combination of technology and design to reinvent the home experience. It’s a compelling mission and a journey I want to be a part of,” says Allen Smith, Director of Digital Experience at Electrolux

Being driven by exploring business areas traditionally untouched by the Internet, Allen decided about one year ago to join Electrolux and their ventures. He has had clear ambition in most of his career, and it starts with the question: Where is the Internet absent today?

”As we look around, the Internet has conquered and changed many businesses at its core. First was the disruption of content and media, then personal communication, now automotive is undergoing this disruption. In my career, which spans all of the above, I’ve always searched for ‘dead zones’ or areas that aren’t connected. Right now, that place is our homes. We have connected some small gadgets but nothing has really changed in our lives. To me, it’s inevitable that this transformation will happen.”

An exciting journey

According to Allen, that is where Electrolux is today. The multinational company is right now exploring and evolving their design capacity. They are building cross-disciplinary teams with UX, Service Designers, Front-End developers, and User Researchers. 

“We’re working at the edge of a massive disruption happening in the home where all the appliances we use every day will come to life and become smarter. With ubiquitous connectivity and cloud computing, we can light these products up in completely new and meaningful ways for people. New service opportunities never before feasible can now be realized. How we utilize these technologies as design materials to shape the home experience is our challenge.”

Electrolux is one of the sponsors at From Business to Buttons. The team of designers at Electrolux consist of 180 people worldwide. A lot of them will be attending From Business to Buttons this May. In the Stockholm studio there are 80 designers, involved in everything from strategy to usability testing. But one of the biggest challenges, Allen says, is how the team can create seamless experiences within and in-between every potential touch point:

 “Whether it’s the appliance itself, the cloud, a smartphone or maybe an autonomous solution, we have to have a strategy. Looking at this you need people with different skill-sets tackling these challenges.”

Design skills to tackle strategy

Another great challenge that Electrolux faces is to merge the physical and digital, for which a lot of strategic decisions will be required. Allen elaborates on this:

“95% of Electrolux employees will keep continuing what they’ve always done. But looking at the disruption that is coming it’s up to us, principally in design but also design thinkers in other areas , to tackle these challenges with a different skill-set. Good designers, and even more important, problem solvers, are crucial for our success.”

Learn more about life at Electrolux!

InUse 2018: 85 million people – a great start

Johan Berndtsson

Most acquisitions fail. Bringing organisations together is hard. Still, in 2017 we decided that the possibilities to make an even greater impact through combining inUse and ÅF were worth both the risk and the hard work it would take. Now, looking back at 2018 we’re off to a great start: we grew by 15 percent, got a taste of the new possibilities, and the work we did will make everyday life easier and more fun for 85 million people around the world.

At inUse, we are all about making an impact; for people, business, and society. Going into 2018, combining the skills of the old inUse and the old ÅF Industrial Design was definitely what excited me the most. The physical and digital worlds are melding into what can – when designed well – become truly seamless experiences that both empower and delight.

During 2018 we’ve started to do some really cool stuff in this “digi-physical” space. Just to mention a few things, we used VR technology to design coast guard boats, we worked with service innovation to help transform the transportation industry, we explored how to change people's behavior during rush hour, and we collaborated with the immensely talented team at ÅF Sound to create Sound Design Guidelines for one of the world's larger appliance manufacturers.

These are all really super cool projects. However, we're just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible in this space.

Oh. And just to mention a few more things, we’ve also improved the e-banking experiences for millions of people, re-designed the check-out for an e-commerce site with 2.5 billion annual visits (rolling out during 2019), and together with the waste management and recycling company Renova we created an award-winning customer portal that improves customer service and internal efficiency, helps to gain new business, and improves environmental sustainability.

One area that we wanted to start exploring during 2018 was the design possibilities of AI and Machine Learning. We ended up doing more than just exploring, including a few smaller projects (that I hope to be able to tell you about in the future), and starting a university program in collaboration with Halmstad University. And, at the moment we're super excited to start working with Fredrik Hofflander and his team of AI Engineers at ÅF.

AI and Machine Learning is becoming a core skill, regardless whether you work with Business-, Service-, or UX-design. Everyone in the field of creating great experiences need to learn, and start exploring the possibilities. For that particular reason I’m really happy to have both Chris Noessel (IBM Watson) and Paul Fu (Alibaba) joining us as speakers at From Business 2019, and I strongly recommend reading ”Prediction Machines” to get a business perspective, and ”Designing Agentive Technology" to get a design perspective. Yes, AI is hyped. But in the form of prediction technology it’s already here. And it will make a big difference for everyone working with digital design.

From Business to Buttons 2018 attracted more than 800 attendees to the beautiful Circus in Stockholm. The weather was perfect, and on stage we got to hear Maria Giudice, Kellee Santiago, and Tony Ulwick among others. It's always fun to read the tweets and comments after the conference, and this was my favorite from 2018:

From Business to Buttons borde vara en röd dag för alla som arbetar med design på ett eller annat sätt. Och när filmerna släpps på Youtube borde det vara halvdag.#fbtb18
— Bjarne Johannessen (@UxBjarne) May 15, 2018

Perhaps most capturing was Jared Spools talk about Disney and how design matures and develops in large organisations. If you haven’t yet seen it – don’t miss it. Definitely worth 40 minutes of your time!

When I write this From Business to Buttons 2019 is selling out quickly. There are now fewer than 100 90 tickets left, and the conference is still more than six weeks away. The lineup, which includes Kim Goodwin, Jake Knapp, Laura Kalbag, and Marc Stickdorn, is absolutely stellar. In truth, I’m already experiencing performance anxiety for 2020. It’ll be a tall order to put together something that will beat this, so get your ticket now, if it’s not too late.

The fifth edition of the InUse Award offered not only great inspiration, but also entertainment by Ebbot (Soundtrack of Our Lives) and Nicolai Dunger. It was pure joy to celebrate the fantastic work of e.g. Opti, TipTapp and EasyPark, and of course to congratulate the winners Trine for creating a great example of design that makes an impact, for people, business and society.

We – everyone in the design business – need these role models. We need the inspiration. We need to aspire, both to solve the kind of challenges that e.g. Trine, Tolkvox and Dit-i-tid takes on, but also just to learn from their ways of working. Thank you for being excellent. Also, thanks to Anna Eriksson (DIGG), Martin Espmark (PostNord), Lennart Waldenström (ÅF), Ylva Lipkin (SEB) and our own Jonas Söderström, David Dinka and Sara Lerén for their excellent jury work.

The inUse blog becomes more popular every year. In 2018 we had 191 000 visits, compared to 145 000 in 2017 – an increase of 31 percent. Some of the most popular posts (most of them in Swedish) were:

And, on the theme of writing, Jonas Söderström released another celebrated book, "Inte så jävla krångligt!", this time adressing how to write for impact!

Yes. It’s a lot. 2018 was intense. And still, this is just a small sample of what we have done in this new constellation. A small sample from the 188 assignments for the 95 clients we worked with. From our 107 blog posts to our 10 lovely speakers at From Business to Buttons. And from some of the most innovative products and services that we celebrated at the inUse Award. In the midst of this we find 130+ brilliant designers, 50 percent men and 50 percent women, with at least 1000 years of combined working experience. The work we did last year will make everyday life easier and more fun for 85 million people around the world. 85 million people... that's what I call a great start!

How Ultra Running Made Me a Better Designer

Jakob Åberg

inUse UX Designer Jakob Åberg is a runner. An ultra runner. And this helps him in is life as a designer. He has listed 4 design skills that have improved thanks to his running.

I am an ultra runner. An ultra runner participates in races that are any distance longer than the usual marathon of 42.195 km. Most often performed on trails and remote places in nature. In my life, ultra running gets significantly more meaning for each race I am taking part of. It gives me a sense of complete freedom as I move through nature. A sanctuary where all noise drifts away and I am alone with breath and stride.

By running for long distances I can discover new paths and parts of myself through these meditative experiences, something I believe accelerate my own creativity. Ultra running helps me let go of everyday demands, stress and pressure that comes with work and everyday life. Mental stimulation that gives me a sense of control and I can focus on what is really important when I need to.

I have thought about how ultra running affects my everyday life and mostly in my profession as a UX designer. Here is 4 design skills that I believe have improved thanks to my running.

To be a better observer

By spending time on the trails I believe I have become a better observer. While ultra running is a lot about freedom and letting your mind wander, it is also requires you to be observant of your surroundings. By moving through different landscapes and terrain as quick as possible you have to be ready to adapt to the changes that nature has to offer.

When training to be observant and able to adapt to these changes as a runner, I think I have enhanced this skill as a designer as well. UX design is about empathy and understanding your users’ needs. To understand these needs and design for them, you have to be both observant and adaptable. As much as I love observing my surroundings when I run through nature; I love noticing the details, postures and behaviours of my users as I design, test and iterate interactions. If I notice a flaw or a problem with my design, I have to adapt to this change and find better ways to do it.

By building knowledge through observation, and by evaluating the previous steps taken, I am able to find new opportunities in the challenges ahead of me. This helps me design more intelligently over time.

To be goal oriented

To be a good ultra runner you also need to be goal oriented, something that has been reflected on me as a UX designer as well. Running for long distances requires you to be mentally prepared for the emotional and physical rollercoaster-ride it can be. During a race my mood sways a lot; I can feel great and strong, but just a couple of kilometers later, I am not feeling as energetic anymore and I start questioning myself. To tackle this I try to push my mind and body to keep on going, I try to persuade myself that it will feel better. When your body tells you to stop, you have to believe in yourself and keep on going.

I often go through the same process in design projects. I start energetic, with the creativity and ideas flowing. As the project moves forward this flow is usually reduced at some point, and I start questioning my creative ability. This is where ultra running has trained me to have a positive mindset, keep creating, and push my abilities no matter what.

I think you have to keep that goal in mind, whether it is an ultra running race or a UX project. Nothing else should matter than reaching that finish line.

To have confidence & trust in myself

Another trait that I have been practicing through my ultra running is to have confidence and to always trust myself. When I am doubting myself the most in a race or a during a project, I always try to be confident in my abilities. Some days I do not feel that creative flow, but others I do. I always try to remember that it is a part of the process. When I am feeling down during an ultra race I try to focus on other things than running. I think I have learned to do this as a designer as well. When I feel uninspired I try to not focus too much on my own work. I try to change mindset by looking at other people’s work and get a new perspective on the challenges that I am facing.

By taking my hands off the computer, I can let go of my thoughts about the problem at hand. I experience solitude in a way, solitude that makes me examine my own work from another state of mind and lets me be more present in the steps that I take later in my designs. To do this, creative confidence and trust in my own abilities is key. Traits that have improved thanks to my ultra running.

To be aware of boundaries and different scenarios

As an ultra runner I always got to plan my races in advance. I have to be prepared for many different scenarios as I am running for many hours. What should I eat? What clothes should I wear? What should I do if I get hurt? and so on. Planning a race in the smallest detail requires skill and experience, and this is one of the most fun aspects of the sport.

This habit of thinking ahead and trying to picture all possible scenarios in a race is a great asset when designing a product with the users in mind. You have to be aware of different scenarios and look at possible boundaries, take them into consideration and plan your process from that. Who is our target group, how should we plan the research and the user testing, what is the users goals and objectives, and so on? Training to have an eye for detail and being able to plan for possible scenarios as an ultra runner, helps me a lot in UX design.

By opening up for impressions while engaged in an activity, I end up in a mental and physical state that helps me to be agile in everyday life. Rather than providing an escape, running provides me with the confidence to experience my surroundings and the events happening. Not only has this given me a better understanding of who I am and my role in society, is has also given me some gained confidence in my daily decisions and thought processes. Something I believe makes me function as a human being and enhances my skill as a UX designer.

It is not easy to remember the sensation of feeling complete tranquility in a world where most of us spend our time always available. However, to function both as persons and professionals, it is important to remember to take a break from being connected once in a while. Whether it is running, reading a good book or spending time with friends.

See you on the trails.

This post is also published on Jakob Åbergs Medium.