Tools for Designing Smart, Collaborative Things

This presentation will discuss and demonstrate the potential features of a visual authoring tool that can help designers rapidly and incrementally develop smart things that participate in people’s lives as autonomous actors in a new ecology of things. A prototype of the tool will be shown.

Smart things are increasingly commonplace, and designers should provide leadership in shaping the purpose, character, and behavior of autonomous agents. And as their complexity and capabilities develop, and smart things become collaborators, designing the subtle aspects of smart things becomes especially important to the role they play with people, and other things. What are the micro-interactions, movement, personality, autonomy/dependence, social interaction, biases, ethics, data sources, etc.?

To address these concerns and work with machine intelligence as a design material, designers need ways to easily sketch with working prototypes that incorporate (or simulate) machine learning, behavior trees, utility theory and other “smart” techniques. These prototypes must also be physically (or virtually) embodied so they can be experienced, iterated and tested effectively.

Philip van Allen is a visiting research fellow at TU Delft this fall, and is a professor based at ArtCenter College of Design in California. Phil is an interaction designer whose work ranges from the practical to the speculative. In his research, he is exploring animistic design as a new approach for interaction in the ecosystems created by the Internet of Things. He also is the creator of NTK (, an open source visual authoring toolkit for IoT projects. In addition to teaching, van Allen writes about interaction design and is a consultant for industry. In the past, he’s been a recording engineer, software developer, entrepreneur, and researcher. He holds a BA in Experimental Psychology/Cognitive Science, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Phil maintains a blog of his activities in the idStudiolab at:

Studio Show
Wednesday Nov 1, 2017
16:00 – 17:00