SocialSewing, Beeme and at Microsoft Research's Design Expo

MSR is trying to make sure that Design isn’t forgotten in the process of building products. To that end Lili Cheng (@lilich) hosts an annual Design Expo for university projects as a part of MSR’s Faculty Summit. This year seven teams were flown to Redmond by Microsoft to show off their projects. The theme was “Re-Imagining Work”. This year I was invited to critique the projects along with Joy Mountford (idbias) and Chris Pratley (GM of MS Office Labs).

Here are some of the projects:

SocialSewing (Dundee IMD)


Social Sewing networks a regular sewing machine to become an ambient awareness device. This project was built for a single person, a team member’s grandmother. The grandmother has retired from a job as a seamstress and missed sewing in the company of her co-workers. So the team created small, networked porcelain sewing machines that had a needle and a wheel that would represent her sewing friends. These “avatars” would move their needle and wheel when the real sewing machine was being used. Apparently the women can tell what the other one’s are making just by the avatar.

The simplicity and completeness of this project was quite striking. I could definitely see those physical avatars making me feel less alone. It was kind of like the Nabaztag for the sewing set.

Watch the concept video.

Beeme (NYU ITP)

beeme app

This mobile service would replace all of your loyalty cards. Instead of a punch card at a cafe you’d have a punch card on your phone. The merchant would be able to give you a punch on your card through their mobile device. This aspect is nice because you don’t have to worry about losing your cards. The viral aspect is that people can share punches. If Jesse liked a store/cafe he could Beeme me a punch so that I have a card for that cafe. If i then buy something Jesse gets a punch on his card.The service is paid for by the merchant and Beeme-provided analytics let the merchant know what’s paying off.

I thought that this was a brilliant idea. They will have a chicken and egg problem for how to get the app on people’s phones.

Watch the concept video.


Post.It.Nodes (UW IxD) is a to do system for a personal computer. It starts with a simple todo list that is always accessible from your screen’s corner. You can then connect documents, people, web searches, and appointments to the tasks.

Post.It.Nodes demonstrated a very nice interface and features for a local to do system. However, in my opinion no task system is complete if it is just on one platform. For the project to go further they’ll need to think through the mobile and web interfaces.

Watch the concept video.

There were seven projects in total. I will soon post about the rest shortly.