November 08, 2017, BY Matt Hughes

What Class: Human-Computer Interaction

Who Teaches It: Professor Evan Peck, computer science

"Computers shape the way we see, interpret and interact with the world. Whether it's swiping our credit card to pay for a meal or communicating with our loved ones through messaging apps, technology nudges our relationships with the people around us, guides our experiences and can even manipulate our feelings. In Human-Computer Interaction, we emphasize design processes and habits that don't just result in reliable and functional technology, but also usable, useful and maybe even inspirational interactions. 

"Class time is used almost exclusively to experiment, build and test ideas. Rather than listening to lectures, students consume content outside of class, and then design and prototype real applications during class. We interact with computers through the air using LEAP Motion sensors, build chatbots to test conversational interfaces, use emotion-recognition software to consider emotionally responsive computers, and explore other worlds with virtual reality. We don't build through intuition, but with research-grounded principles and processes. 

"Throughout the course, we use design lenses to tackle large, societal questions: How can technology help mediate deeply unsettling or controversial topics? How can computers help promote emotional health and wellbeing? What does it mean for computers to encourage fun and play? Computers are inseparably woven into the fabric of our society, and these design challenges reinforce the diversity and expressiveness of our interactions with computing. || See how students are wrestling with these questions in a sampling of student work from the course.

"Students are also exposed to diverse perspectives on interactive computing through weekly video Q&As with the people who are driving innovation in tech — we talk to user-experience researchers at Google, founders of startups, and professors who pioneer research in social computing, data visualization, crowdsourcing and accessibility. We've even explored the intersection of art and technology through a visit to the Samek Art Museum.

"By the end of the course, I hope that students are inspired and equipped to invent a new generation of technology that empowers people to navigate an increasingly complex world."

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