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Designing human-shaped artificial intelligence

Addressing human needs must be top priorities to design, develop and implement successful AI technology.

By James Nunns

With a rising amount of media attention and a sevenfold increase of investment, artificial intelligence (AI) is on the agenda of businesses in all industries, who are identifying the massive potential with this kind of technology. From chatbots and

Tom Greenwood, Senior Designer, Designit.

biometrics, to speech recognition and self-driving cars, there’s still work to be done when it comes exploring how AI can be used to solve people’s existing problems in new ways.

Design sits at the forefront of the drive to develop innovative everyday AI solutions that people find intuitive and easy to use. To pave the way for successful AI implementation, companies must consider creating experiences with AI that are less artificial and more intelligent, and most importantly, those that make AI more human-shaped. This is where design comes in. Designers possess the skills to create a world where everything is designed around real human needs.

It is vital to understand the importance of constructing AI to address daily issues for consumers, and it must be approached in the same way as any technology or problem is dealt with, by starting with the ‘why?’. Through the mapping of the problem, to ideation, to eventual prototyping, the most successful products all link back to detailed research insights, which solve real human problems.


Collaboration is vital for designing successful AI

There are new skills for a typical designer to develop when it comes to designing AI enabled products and services, but also some existing ones which are already fit for purpose. For example, when designing for voice, this is not only about the speech technology, but also skills such as scriptwriting, roleplaying and personality design. By collaborating with others, and using techniques such as these, human-computer dialogue can be prepared and then voice technology can be prototyped and tested in a way that users would interact with the product.

In order to tackle complexity in the range of AI technologies and applications, and to address real human needs, a business must look to multidisciplinary collaboration when it comes to the design and implementation of this type of technology. A recent example of this in practice was carried out at Designit. The team hosted a 3-day design led event focusing on artificial intelligence within the workplace. For this event, the design team collaborated with technologists with the aim to deepen their knowledge and develop a fluid approach to AI design, so that ultimately Designit can help clients leverage this technology in the right way.

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The event saw services designers, researchers, digital designers, user experience designers, creative technologists and data scientists, all collaborate to deepen their knowledge and educate one-another on AI design. Each can bring individual domain expertise to the design challenge, to explore how a business can leverage AI technology for the end user in the right way. The result was the creation of a series of successful AI technology prototypes for the workplace, including Totem a connected physical and digital system that helps people monitor and track their work mode in real-time.


Designing personality

Designing for conversational interfaces involves a whole host of new challenges, including personality design. Artificial intelligence with human-like personality makes for more natural interaction, so the approach to personality design must continually be developed to explore how brands translate into AI personalities. With AI design still very much an emerging field, frameworks are being developed for designing and building AI, such as the example given with Designit. In addition to building tools, it is important to supplement this with informed conversations about the needs and opportunities which AI brings to practice.

The best products, services, systems and spaces are those that are designed to help real people live easier, smarter, enjoyable and more meaningful lives. It is entirely possible to create a human-shaped world where everything is designed to meet real human needs. Getting there requires all contributing innovators to answer complex problems with simple, focused solutions. When designing human-shaped AI, as with any design process, it is easy to over-complicate.

A business and those developing and designing the technology must constantly remember that the ultimate goal is to affect a consumer’s life in a positive manner, heightening and continually improving on customer experience. When it comes to generating real impact for people and business, collaboration in the design process which brings not only individual skills into the mix, but also expands knowledge in other fields, and addressing human needs must be top priorities to design, develop and implement successful AI technology.

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