UX Design for Interactive A.I. Installation
Year: Summer 2020
Role: UX Design & Research
Client: A Canadian art gallery
Brief: Deliver an engaging, interactive installation that demonstrates a key element or concept relating to A.I. and visual culture.
In preparation for an upcoming exhibition, a high-profile Canadian art gallery asked our project team to design an engaging, interactive installation that demonstrates a key element or concept relating to A.I. and visual culture.
Our solution, Face to Interface, is an interactive facial analysis AI installation that responds to visitors' expressions with an emotion “reading” and a stream of FER images associated with the emotion. By revealing “behind the scenes” of an emotion recognition software, visitors learn about facial analysis software and can assess the validity of this technology themselves while engaging with the database.
Face to Interface is powered by Visage Technologies Facial Analysis and face tracking SDKs.
This project was awarded the Gerri Sinclair Award for Digital Innovation.
1. Touchless Interactivity
Due to COVID 19, we were uncertain about future restrictions, therefore, we needed to design for a socially distanced, touchless experience.
2. Balance engagement with education
The installation needed to faciliate a deeper understanding of artifical intellegence through playful interaction.
3. Appeal to expert and novice visitors
The exhibit needed to engage visitors with expert A.I. knowledge, and those with no prior A.I. knowledge.
Domain Research + Market Scan
We started this project by conducting wide domain research into the various facets of Artifical Intelligence to understand how we could narrow our focus within this domain. Since our project team worked remotely, we collected our research findings into a large Miro board and used a dot voting technique to highlight topics we wanted to further explore.
We also conducted a market scan of previous A.I. installations to review approaches, assess interactivity, and inspire ideation.
Screenshot of the teams Miro board, illustrating a Mindmap of topics and dot votes to highlight points of interest
Secondary Research - UX in Galleries
Since we were not able to conduct onsite visitor research due to COVID 19 closure, I reviewed previous UX research studies conducted in art galleries and museums and consolidated key findings to guide our project design.
Some key findings included:
Fear of getting it “wrong” deters interaction if the rules of engagement aren’t clear 
Couples and groups may feel more comfortable experimenting due to “teammate validation” 
Consider how each interaction and piece works together to form the overall message 
Design an experience that supports observation to include onlookers in the installation 
Site Visit + Visitor Journey Map
Keeping these findings in mind, we visited the gallery and I mapped out the visitor experience throughout the space. This helped us understand how our installation would integrate into the overall exhibit message and maintain an ongoing narrative from the first touch point to the last.
Visitor journey map, that I created to help identify how our installation fits into the overall gallery and exhibition experience.
the Visitors Experience
1. Supporting a socially distanced future
The installation was designed to allow multiple visitors to engage while maintaining a safe distance by placing screens on each side of the kiosk and leaving the surrounding space open for traffic flow. Groups testing the installation together also enjoyed coaching and comparing each other on how to shift the emotion detection, indicating the experience was successful for varying types of visitors.
2. Robust design with minimal upkeep
The installation only requires a monitor and webcam, reducing the risk of physical repairs required. The software was also stress-tested over a 24 hour period with continuous use to ensure that the installation could handle ongoing public interaction.
1. Help visitors understand how to interact
Early testing indicated that visitors did not expect to interact with an installation using their face. We needed to create a foolproof onboarding sequence that reassured visitors they were interacting with the installation correctly. This was done by:
Using simple, descriptive text
Forcing an expression to “unlock” the experience
Including a scanning animation over the face
These steps also supported the narrative of the experience, purposely enforcing a mechanical and unsettling tone.
2. Communicate lost facial detection
Our beta test indicated that users became confused when the camera detection was lost and the installation reset, assuming that this was part of the narrative. Adding a “Face Lost” message helped visitors understand the error so they could adjust accordingly.
Messaging used to indicate issues with the facial detection.
Emotion Detection Analysis
1. "Game-like" with an educational twist
The emotion detection was highly responsive to provide a playful, game-like experience, but on deeper inspection, the faces shooting from the graph reveal a database often full of inaccurate and biased images.
By juxtaposing a playful experience with a deep dive into a database that is often hidden to us, visitors can come to their own conclusions about the impacts of this technology
2. Keep the player present
To maintain continuity between the onboarding and without distracting from the experience, a muted video of the visitor is visible behind the spider graph.
Over 30, 000 FER images were included in the database, ensuring that visitors could continue discovering images during prolonged interaction.
FER images were pulled from a real database used to develop emotion recognition software.
Our project manager demonstrating the prototype using a similar build to the installation design.
Most A.I. experts involved in our beta test acknowledged the inconsistencies of the FER database, indicating that the experience facilitated reflection about the technology.
All beta test users expressed playfulness and delight
Solution supported touchless solo and group experiences
A.I. experts understood the technological implications while novice visitors learned about FER databases
Some details have been omitted to comply with NDA agreement.
Exhibition is currently under development, check back later for updates!
Vlad Ryzhov - Technical Lead
Valentina Forte-Hernandez - Project Manager
Courtney Clarkson - UX Design & Research
Julia Read - UI Lead, Creative Consultant
Larry Bafia - Project Supervisor
Special thanks to the Centre for Digital Media for their ongoing support and resources.