As emerging technologies such as VR/AR dissolve prior divides between the digital and physical experience, how can we draw upon interdisciplinary methods to design for the future mixed reality that is just around the corner? Through readings, discussions, and hands‐on projects, this course will examine principles of human‐computer interaction alongside qualitative and quantitative methods in architectural research. We will survey current technology trends and examine their implications for design and for society. Students will develop skills in user research, rapid‐prototyping, usability testing, and data collection as methods for excellent interaction and spatial design.

Weekly assignments will build toward a final project in which students will research, design, prototype and evaluate a mobile application or augmented reality prototype of a hybrid physical-digital experience, in a self‐chosen site in the city.

Course Objectives

  • Add user-centered design methods to their repertoire of design skills, and understand the strengths and limitations of these methods and how they can be applied to the student’s own field of work.
  • Learn to use a variety of rapid prototyping tactics and tools (analog and digital) to prototype mixed reality experiences.
  • Understand technical concepts underlying mixed reality technologies, current state-of-the-art, and future challenges.
  • Gain familiarity with the unique interaction design needs of mixed reality experiences based on human physiology and psychology (e.g. ergonomics, sensory conflicts, gestural semantics.)
  • Develop a critical perspective on current and future trends in mixed reality design and their implications on society.


Lecture Assignment
Jan 16

Syllabus overview
What is mixed reality?
What is user-centered design?

Architecture needs to interact Domus, 2011
Why Human-Centered Design Matters WIRED, 2013
We don't sell saddles here, 2014
The future of AR will be boring, 2017

A1.1 Four days
A1.2 De-teched
Jan 23

MR: current application areas
UCD: Needfinding
Assignments: teams, users, place of transaction

Week 2 Readings

A2.2 Needfinding: Plan
Jan 30

UCD: provocations

Week 3 Readings

A2.2 Needfinding: Observe
Feb 6

MR: tech interventions in physical space
UCD: interview techniques

A2.3 Needfinding: Provocations & Synthesis
Feb 13

MR tech: components and capabilities
UCD: storyboarding and rapid prototyping

A3.1 Prototyping: Storyboard
Feb 20

Framing "tech x built environment"
Usability: general principles, MR, and A/B testing

Street Life After Retail, Sidewalk Labs
What would augment reality? by Luke W.
AR Human Interface Guidelines by Apple

A3.2 Prototyping: Implement
Feb 27

Test your prototype on classmates
UCD: usability testing and heuristics

A4 Evaluation: go out and test
Mar 6

Office Hours—no class


A6.0 Final: Email 3 Ideas

Mar 13

Spring Break—no class

Mar 20

SnapLens tutorial


A6.1 Final: Proposals

Mar 27

Office Hours—no class


A6.2 Final: Research

Apr 3

Research presentations
Exhibition and Installation Art
Where UCD fits in Design
UX "Failures"

Chp. 10 People and Prototypes pp. 643–699, from Designing Interactions by B. Moggridge

A6.3 Final: Prototype

Apr 10

Prototype pin-up / test on your classmates
Guest critic: Momo Araki and TBD


A6.4 Final: Evaluate

Apr 17

Guest lecture: Daniel Sauter (Parsons)


A6.5 Final: Conclusion & Documentation

Apr 24

Final Review
with: Elliot Montgomery, Nikki Sylianteng, Rachelle DiGregorio, Bika Rebek and Rui Pereira



  • 40% Weekly assignments
  • 35% Final project
  • 25% Participation and discussion


  • A1 De-teched: AR, scotch tape, and transparencies. I’ll explain.
  • A2 Needfinding: working in pairs, choose a place of transaction, identify a population of users, and develop a framework to express their needs.
  • A3 Prototyping: based on the user needs you identified, design a mixed reality experience and build a prototype.
  • A4 Evaluation: test your prototype with people on the street.
  • A6 Final Project: working in pairs, choose a site in the city and design a location-based mobile app or augmented reality experience.

Caveat Emptor

Reasons you might plausibly want to take or drop this class:
  • This class is about “learning by doing”: we will read a lot and we will discuss a lot, but it’s mostly about doing and about building things for people to use.
  • We will talk about code in this class; however, you won’t come out with an iOS app at the end of the semester (unless you really want to.) That said, you can probably eke by without writing more than 20 lines of code.
  • Your assignments will involve interviewing and showing your work to people on the street, this might be scary.
  • This class is experimental: mixed reality is an emerging field and I’ll be learning from you as much as you will be learning from each other and myself. By the way, I’m not an architect. I’m very excited for us, as a class, to discover new intersections between architecture and software design as it applies to our future society, and I hope you are excited as well.


  • Unless otherwise noted, each week we will begin class with 3min. presentations and discussion on the weekly assignment and reading.
  • Lecture slides, readings, assignments and tutorials will be posted to this course website unless otherwise announced.
  • Post questions, ideas, confusions, complaints and excitement to Piazza. Office hours by individual appointment.


  • Design
    • user research, quantitative and qualitative methods
    • user personas, user journeys and storyboarding
    • minimum viable product
    • usability principles
    • user studies and experiment design
    • information design
    • speculative design and design as critique
  • Technology
    • location-based apps, virtual reality, augmented reality
    • head-mounted displays, MEMS sensors
    • world tracking
    • image recognition
    • machine learning
    • voice and gestural user interfaces
  • Prototyping Tools