How might Google shape technology for older people
Our Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) fourth year students recently embarked on their final year 'Industry Innovation Project'. Teams applied their transdisciplinary innovation methods and practices to a complex brief presented by a real industry partner. Transitioning from a research and concept development stage, students then worked towards experimentation and realisation of their proposed innovation; rounding off the project with a proof-of concept deliverable.
FTDi spoke with a team of four students who completed a complex brief for Google; tasked with challenging the inclusivity of the technology landscape for elderly users. Alice Rummery (BCII / Communications, Social Enquiry), Lucy Gilfedder (BCII / Design, Interior Architecture), Oscar Phillips (BCII / Visual Communication) and Awkar Ruel (BCII / Design, Architecture) - otherwise known as 'team Google' - each introduced their own unique critical understandings of the conditions required for Google's industry transformation.
"The tech industry is an area that doesn't normally target this group; they're often marginalised and left out of the discussion. Therefore, I knew this Google brief would allow me to give back to these people," said Lucy.
After conducting extensive research into their problem space and challenging or validating their assumptions, Team Google delivered the following rebrief; How might we empower, create connection and meaningfulness through un-obtrusive technology? Essentially for the purpose of the project, Team Google redefined what it meant to be elderly; by framing the term as not an age but a mental state. This was a key breakthrough moment for the team and their industry partner, as it allowed the students to more intimately understand the brief by developing a deeper sense of empathy. Oscar stated that from this point, "the brief developed into a very human, applicable problem space, where it was easy to see my team's ability to generate a tangible impact".
In order to ensure Team Google was capable of developing a sustainable initiative in the industry context, Awkar pressed the importance of not adopting a 'Hero's Mentality'.
"From the beginning of our project, we established the need to be flexible and open; there was no point in being over-ambitious if it meant straying from our user needs. Within the problem 'space', there was also a solution 'space'; an opportunity for learning and accepting the fact that we may need to pivot our ideas."
This maximised the sustainability of Team Google's solutions space, as their adaptive nature increased ongoing responsiveness to user needs. Oscar also mentioned a key strategy: "We would always find a constructive route to redirect the team after deciding to pivot, if we reintroduced the user to the front of our minds - these interactions really reinjected life into the project during these tough periods".
Team Google spoke of an instance where one single focus group enabled them to immediately cull four potential ideas from their solutions set. Lucy said "I'm never normally short on ideas, however when Google requested we deliver forty complete solutions in our final pitch, we were certainly dedicating a strong portion of our time to idea generation. I think we surprised ourselves when we found out we had developed almost seventy by the end of the project. There was a lot of culling to do".
By stretching their problem space to this extent and working with a 'Tech Giant' like Google, Awkar mentioned the team became stuck with such broad access to user data. "We had little direction initially, with such an overwhelming access to the Google resources. However, we wouldn't have understood the value of our final ideas without undertaking the investigative process to pull this research apart and extract the meaning".
With the Google Australia powerhouse behind this team of BCII students, they were really enthusiastic about delivering on their 'forty solutions set' proposal. Oscar said, "whenever we had a lightbulb idea, it was always put up on the wall for consideration. There was no such thing as a silly idea in this process; a key ingredient to our team's depth of collaboration". The IIP subject really enabled students to explore their vision of possibilities for implementing innovation, as Alice stated "it's allowed me to help empower elderly people through creativity; such an amazing, enriching experience".
As our 2018 fourth year BCII students edge closer to graduation, we're excited to watch them continue contributing and supporting innovation culture within the FTDi community for the remainder of the year and beyond. Stay tuned for further updates on Google and our other FTDi Industry Partner Projects.