In 2010 I moved to India to begin working in what was for me a new and exciting area of research, ICT4D (ICTs for global development). Critical to ICT4D research is understanding how the unique context and constraints of developing communities affect the design and goals for systems and technologies, and how these systems are taken up by end users and beneficiaries. Last year, I moved back to the US and began working with another group of users who live with a very different set of constraints: people with disabilities. I have found that research in both areas carries critical lessons for HCI researchers and technology designers. In this talk I will describe three projects that illustrate the importance of understanding the broader context and motivations of the people we’re working with. What are their needs and how do we understand if our designs meet them? We’ll look at a system for student interactivity in low-resource Indian classrooms; a way to enhance communication technology for people with ALS; and finally, an easy-to-use system for collecting health information to combat childhood malnutrition. In each, I’ll talk about some of the lessons learned. To paraphrase Field Marshal Moltke, “No design ever survives first contact with users in the field.”
Ed Cutrell is a senior researcher at Microsoft Research where he explores computing for disability, accessibility, and inclusive design with the MSR Ability group. Over the years, he has worked on a broad range of HCI topics, including input tech, visual perception and graphics, intelligent notifications and disruptions, and interfaces for search and personal information management. From 2010-2016, he managed the Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) group at MSR India, focusing on technologies and systems useful for people living in underserved rural and urban communities in developing countries. Ed has worked in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) since 2000; he is trained in cognitive neuropsychology, with a PhD from the University of Oregon.