Design of AI Products and Services

Course Number: 
05-317/617
Semester and Units: 
Intermittent: 12 units
Course Description: 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – often in the form of machine learning (ML) – is increasingly being used to improve people’s interactions with products and services. Computationally intelligent systems curate people’s news feeds, recommend criminal sentences, filter spam from email inboxes, fly planes and drones, predict the weather, and autocorrect words in realtime as people author text messages.

While AI has been having a big impact on the creation of new products and services, it has also proven to be incredibly difficult to work with. Design innovators typically envision new products and services by engaging in a conversation with materials. Communication designers “converse” with paper, industrial designers converse with wood, clay, or plastics, and user experience designers converse with narrative. Designers draw on their tacit knowledge of a material’s capabilities in order to imagine new ways for it to form a product or service that fits into people’s lives. This is not easy to do with AI. Designers struggle to engage AI in a conversation around what it might be.

We live in a world where the coolest things that can be made with AI are most often envisioned by someone with a PhD in machine learning. These may not be the most creative people, and they rarely have expertise on giving form to new things that people experience as valuable or meaningful. Designers have expertise in envisioning new things people might want or need. Generally, designers don’t consider using AI. They rarely recognize a situation that might benefit from these emerging capabilities. In the occasional cases, when designers do consider it, they most often think of it like magic, and they envision things that cannot be made.

This course focuses on making students more effective at having a conversation with AI; more effective at working with it as a design material in order to envision and give form to new AI enhanced products and services. Students will work from a number of different starting points and work with a variety of AI technologies. They will gain a broad overview of what AI can do and a felt understanding of design processes that support working with AI as a design material.