Glimpse: Connecting families through meaningful moments

Project Overview

A project for Microsoft Design Expo 2017

Team : Ming Xing, Monique Smith, Vikas Yadav
Course : IxD Studio II and Research Methods in Design, Spring 2017
Instructors : Bruce Hanington and Peter Scupelli
Duration : January to May 2017 (Fifteen weeks)
My Role : Design Research, Workshop Planning and Photography, Evaluative Research, Concept Development, Low and High Fidelity Wireframes, Interaction Video Production

Design Theme : "Intentional Design for Positive Cultural Impact in Mixed Reality"
It drew our attention to the cultural impact created by our efforts in exploring and cultivating new territories in MR & VR. The goal of the challenge was to design a near term practical or blue-sky product, service or solution to create inclusive, empowering and empathetic experiences in MR, and to demonstrate the value and differentiation of MR experience by taking into consideration the objects, environment and people.


Problem Space

Initially, we began exploring the activities that families did most frequently and all of the different ways families keep in touch with one another while living apart. We found that family members most often tended to engage on various mediums, but, even though they engaged in certain activities more frequently, those weren’t necessarily the ones they found to be most valuable. We decided to focus on a high-value activity that people perform infrequently - the act of sending or receiving physical objects between family members which is meaningful and enjoyable to the relationship.


Glimpse : The Solution

Glimpse is a new way for families to experience their most meaningful moments, whether they’re standing next to one another or 3,000 miles apart. It gives families an entirely new way to capture and curate memories, and even acts as a catalyst to start conversations around a physical object.


Value Proposition

Glimpse provides three key benefits for its users:  a richer gift giving experience, a catalyst for more communication that enables remote family to partake in passive activities, and added value and meaning to objects that are a keepsake or an item of sentimental value by archiving the family stories around the object.




System Details

System Overview

The Glimpse system is comprised of three components: the Glimpse application, an environmental camera, projection and sound system that allows the user to see the content projected in their home and enables families to share experiences in real-time and finally, and the glasses which enable the user to use the system outside of their home.


User Journey

The Glimpse user journey can be broken down into three main phases. The first is capture, where the user captures the glimpse he or she wishes to share through the Glimpse app. The second stage is tag where that Glimpse is embedded into the object and automatically shared with other “owners” of the object. Once the Glimpse has been received, it can be revealed by the recipient.


User Interactions

While designing micro interactions, we focused on a language that builds on our existing understanding of widely used digital products. In order to create proper feedback for users, we incorporated appropriate visual and sound signifiers to guide users. The act of capturing a glimpse is as simple as tapping on your smart glasses.


To capture the Glimpse, the user taps on their glasses to begin recording. The dial on the right shows how much time has elapsed. A second tap stops the recording and automatically saves the footage.



Once the Glimpse has been captured, it can be tagged to an object. The user does this by gazing at the object and selecting it with a tap. Next the user can pinch, drag and release the desired Glimpse over the object and it’s added to the collection of stories already tagged to the object.


The reveal experience differs depending on whether the user has the physical object or not. Here is the experience when the user doesn’t have the object. First, the user receives a notification when there’s a new Glimpse. Next, the user can swipe through his/her collection of digital objects and select one with a tap. To view a Glimpse, they tap on it to begin the immersive experience. The experience for the user with the physical object is the same just that they interact directly with the object.

Research Roadmap

This timeline shows all of the research methods used throughout our design process along with the major points of reframe as we learned more about our problem space. First we interviewed our stakeholders and then engaged them in co-creation. From our insights, we developed concept storyboards that we tested with our users, and then, we selected a concept to prototype.

Territory Definition

Finding the Right Domain

We first set out to find a domain in which MR solutions would offer value to the world. Based on parameters set by the brief, opportunities presented by MR, and future context in which our solution will live, we narrowed our focus to some themes by asking,

How Might We Leverage Mixed Reality to Address a Real-World Problem?


Territory Mapping

Our first hunch was to explore the area of travel, because of the many potential pain-points associated with navigating an unknown environment. After understanding the essence of mindful travel from people’s perspective, we thought about the motivations that inspire them to travel mindfully and in contrast, how the technological and social trends keep them from being present in the moment which lead us to question,

How Might We Enable People to Travel More Mindfully?

Exploratory Phase

As we started to understand our focus on promoting more meaningful and curated travel experience, some key research questions surfaced. To answer these we conducted:

Seven stakeholder interviews
with people having extensive travel experiences, or interesting take on the process of capturing & documenting memories.

Three expert interviews
with the director of Memory Lab at CMU,
co-director of Alzheimer Disease Research Center at UPMC and a Creative Technologist.

Two diary studies
to see the difference in content that we share with family to that we post on social media.

Research Synthesis

To make sense of the large quantity of qualitative data, we used affinity diagramming, bucket sorting, and thematic analysis. A couple key insights surfaced from the synthesis,

The stories that we share with the public differ from what we might share with close friends and family.

The content that we share with friends and family is less composed and more contextual. This led us to wonder if there was an opportunity for richer documentation and storytelling between family and friends.

Generative Phase

In examining families, we identified two key stakeholder groups: adult children who are 20-40 years old, and their parents in the 40-65 year age range.


We wanted to identify how communication preferences and motivations may differ between generations, learn what they wanted to share with one another, and start identifying the boundaries between intimacy and invasion of privacy. Our survey results showed,

83% of respondents connect with their parents at least once a week, yet almost half of respondents felt that it wasn’t enough.

3 people connect with their parents everyday. 2 out of 3 said it wasn’t enough.




We ran a generative workshop with a group of young adults from diverse social and economical backgrounds to explore the future of intergenerational communication with adult children that live apart from their parents. 

The activities of collaging revealed some personal stories of the participants. A major pain point was the feeling of missing out.

Participants desired to maintain a balance between their independent lives and the interdependence of their family lives.



Activity 01

Participants were asked to revisit the last conversation they might have had with their parents over any medium and create a collage for that. Soon after, we asked them to think about the most memorable experience they might have had when they were physically in the same space and covey the experience through collage. The activities of collaging pushed them to think about what they missed, or wished they could communicate. 

Activity 02

The activities of collaging pushed them to think about what they missed, or wished they could communicate. We wanted them to further imagine an ideal tool that would help them overcome some the issues they just thought about. We gave them two set of tools to work with for this exercise. One being the assorted supplies for the making a tangible form and the other being the “superpowers and senses" that would help them imagine and innovate with the intangible aspects of the device.


Research Synthesis

We devised a framework to guide our concept generation. We plotted the nature of the communication method along the X axis, and the distance between parents and their adult children along the Y axis. We noticed, during our synthesis, that current modes of communication are able to provide stakeholders with communication in the bottom-left corner of this matrix. With M.R., we realized our opportunity rests in the bottom-right quadrant. This is the opportunity space that we worked with to develop the concepts moving further with the question,

How Might We Enable the Continuity of Family Relationships Across Distance?


Design Principles

As a result of our explorations, we defined our design principles and used them to guide our concept generation.

Provide opportunities to engage in spontaneous communication and activities.

Minimize the possibility of miscommunication between parents and child generations.

Foster sense of interdependence while giving people option to be independent

Create opportunities for shared experiences despite physical and temporal limitations


Design Directions

With these principles in mind, we began ideating various design concepts.

Evaluative Phase

Speed Dating

To proceed further, we created more provocative variations of the original four concepts to help us test the social boundaries of each our participants. To help us test these concepts we decided to hold a series of speed dating exercises where we put them in front of our users to get their reactions to them.



Body Storming

We decided to further explore the virtual care package concept. Through paper prototyping and role playing exercises, we explored what it would be like to receive a physical package versus receive something in your digital inbox. We also explored various forms for the care package: experimenting with physical communication mediums like handwritten notes and even physical gifts/objects.


Experience Prototype

We also created two experience prototypes that were sent to two of our own family members, a parent living in San Francisco and a spouse living in Chicago. The experience was prototyped using an app called Blippar.

Our family members enjoyed the serendipity of receiving something in the mail. They suggested that the box could take on other forms like a greeting card or postcard, or that it could be a permanent fixture in the home like a mantle piece.


Research Insights

need catalysts

When families live apart, they lose continuity of communication and what has been happening in their lives

Gifts help build
family bonds

Gifting is a really important human interaction that can define relationships and strengthen family bonds

requires context

content being shared between families is overwhelming and hidden away on various devices

Less Frequent ≠
Less Meaningful

Certain modes of communication are less frequent but that doesn’t mean that they’re less meaningful


Design Principles

From these prototyping inquiries, we distilled four principles to guide our refinement of the virtual care package concept.


Make the process of capturing easy and intuitive 

Leverage existing systems

Give life to the physical world in the future of MR

Enable storytelling

Connect families living afar by curated content

Surprise and delight

Create serendipitous experiences in MR

Design Development


With these principles we developed our solution,

A toolkit that allows the user to enhance everyday objects, such as this postcard, with virtual content. One can then share that object and the embedded content with their loved ones. The content could include any media that they might have captured for their parents. Basically, experiences that the user curates for their family and then infuse into tangible objects but only reveal themselves through the magic of mixed reality.


Journey Mapping

We used this exercise to flesh out the user experience for both sender and the receiver. It helped us think about adding an extension to our journey map : the reconnection stage where family members can continue to tag experiences and communicate around the object. We used three different personas and mapped three unique scenarios to our journey map to help us understand how the experience might differ between users.


Defining the Interactions

Following the journey mapping exercise, we decided to delve deeper into the high-level interactions and storyboard the four main phases within our journey  : curate, tag, reveal and reconnect. Storyboarding proved to be an effective method for capturing what we had been exploring through conversation and bodystorming. 

Future Vision

While we’ve talked about Glimpse as it relates to the sending and receiving of objects within the context of families, we think the platform that we created for these interactions is much more broadly applicable. Essentially, Glimpse is a platform for capturing, categorizing and curating content around any physical object.






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