Synthetic Interview Studio

Interactive museum exhibit, Online experience

Designer (Photoshop, Flash), Webmaster (XHTML, CSS)

Synthetic Interview Studio was a fifteen-week, five-person Entertainment Technology project centered around the "Synthetic Interview," a software technology and design process that creates a humanlike interface with multimedia. Our team created four deliverables for four clients. In addition to my work on these, I also published the public-facing website for our team and kept it up-to-date throughout the project.

Interactive museum exhibit: George Westinghouse Synthetic Interview
Simple working prototype of George Westinghouse Synthetic Interview installation

For the Senator John Heinz History Center, we designed, produced all video content, and delivered a fully-functioning interface for a Synthetic Interview installation of famous Pittsburgh inventor George Westinghouse. The History Center fabricated the physical installation and launched our synthetic interview as part of their long-term exhibition, "Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation." The final product was an exhibit that allows visitors to have a virtual conversation with Westinghouse, asking any of more than 200 questions about his many achievements, from the invention of the air brake and alternating current to his rivalry with Thomas Edison. Museum-goers sit across from a near-life-size digital projection of Westinghouse, interacting over a physical desk with built-in touch screen, where they can page through digitally-scanned copies of his historic photos, letters, patents, and other documents.

Westinghouse Synthetic Interview desktop interfaceAs the team designer, I solidified and pitched our three overall concepts for the exhibit and spearheaded materials research and prototyping for multiple methods of integrating the digital content with the physical installation (Pepper's ghost effects, forced-perspective sets, etc). Once our overall design was finalized, I developed our touch-screen-based graphical user interface through multiple iterations. I used Photoshop to integrate scanned images provided by the Heinz History Center with specially-taken photographs of physical artifacts and my own original and free stock art assets. In Flash, I worked with our programmer to put together the UI layout, populated it with images and text, and created animated transitions for all desktop items. I also conducted playtests and wrote and compiled exhibit documentation.

Online synthetic interview experiences: NASCAR on FOX "Ask the Pros"

FOX Sports wanted to create a website that would allows NASCAR enthusiasts to ask questions of Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds (three of the sport’s most knowledgeable experts) and receive simple, concise explanations about topics that might come up during a NASCAR on FOX race. We successfully released three online Synthetic Interviews on time for the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 to great reception.NASCAR on FOX: Ask the Pros They were featured on national television and over 20,000 viewers came to the FOX Sports web site to see the Synthetic Interview technology and ask questions of the commentators.

I drafted user interface wireframes, formatted graphic assets provided by FOX,  vectorized images for use in Flash, and created additional assets. I also performed version testing and troubleshooting, helped to tailor the natural language processing indices, organized a blacklist of inappropriate inputs, and designed, mocked-up, and tested the feedback mechanism feature. After launch, I monitored visitor feedback and continued to tune the indices and add new questions based on visitor use.

Other work

One possible Synthetic Interviews presentation method is digital projection onto sculpture, as seen in Submerged, by Tony Oursler We also provided the Entertainment Technology Center with a tool and documentation set for ease in future development of Synthetic Interviews, and did preliminary research for a Synthetic Interview of Charles Darwin for Duquesne University. For these deliverables I researched existing synthetic interviews and synthetic-interview-like installations, explored display techniques and technologies for synthetic interviews, discussed the pros and cons of various design options, and outlined best-practice strategies for prototyping. I compiled, organized and formatted our final delivered documentation.

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