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Just fresh out of CHI 2015 this week, a very interesting article on transferring HCI research into commercial product. “From User-Centered to Adoption-Centered Design: A Case Study of an HCI Research Innovation Becoming a Product” by Chilana, P., Ko, A.J. & Wobbrock, J.O.,  presents a “case study of how an HCI research innovation goes through the process of transitioning from a university project to a revenue-generating startup financed by venture capital.”

Keywords

Commercialization; productization; dissemination; research impact; technology transfer; adoption-centered design.

ACM Classification Keywords

H.5.2. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): User Interfaces—evaluation / methodology.

Structure and content

The paper begins with introducing the “the motivations for adopting different HCI methods at different stages during the evolution of the research, product, and startup business and the tradeoffs made between user-centered design” and what they have coined as “adoption-centered design”. It contextualises the case study within the borders of technology transfer in SE, innovation in the marketplace, and generalisability of HCI research evaluation.

After that, the authors provide two blocks of different knowledge, first one focused on HCI research to come up with a prototype, and the second one, focused on market innovation by transitioning from the research outcome to a commercial product.

After the describing the motivation for innovation and product, authors describe the HCI methods applied in the development and evaluation of a research prototype. First, a formative evaluation to inform interaction design, in which they have explored the design space of the concept and used a lo-fi paper based user study. Then, system feasibility technical evaluation using a mTurk-based crowdsourced user inquiry with simulated data. Finally, an ecological validity evaluation through a longitudinal field study, by getting potential adopters and deploying the prototype in the wild.

This process lead to a validated design and HCI research outcome, however, authors claim that had mainly demonstrated end user value. Not enough evidence of success for financing, or other business reasons like paying customers.

The second block depicts an incursion of the research outcome through the commercial scope of innovation. Business models, marketing, productisation, stakeholders, value proposition, market entry barriers and B2B adoption.

The questions the authors highlight along the paper:

  • Should we expect that good HCI science outcomes be transferable to users or costumers and would this be in the scope of HCI?
  • Should “potential for adoption” be adopted as criteria for research systems evaluation?
  • Is the traditional focus on generalisability only from end users restraining HCI tech transfer?
  • How to augment research systems evaluation with stakeholders perspectives?
  • Does it make sense to focus research on adoption given the lag of adoption of innovations?
  • Should “success” for this criteria focus on knowledge about its adoption barriers?
  • Could these perspectives increase the chances of product adoption and are they valid/adequate for delivering high quality and innovative research?

In the discussion authors reflect, on the one hand, on how “user-centered research innovation can be the invaluable foundation of a B2B software company”, drawing on how HCI evaluations inform business milestones. On the other hand, on how “user-centered focus typical of HCI research also occluded B2B adoption issues by not revealing important insights about the real-world customer support ecosystem and stakeholder dependencies.” making them depart into “adoption-centered design, uncovering knowledge specific to our business and product to fuel customer acquisition and inform product priorities.”

Also, authors provide arguments on the need to investigate Adoption-Centered in, its concerns for incorporating in HCI research, and suggest possible methods to achieve it. The also expose the benefits of such ordeal, suggesting that “more explicit adoption-centered approach to research might increase the chances that an investor, entrepreneur, or prospective employee would see business opportunities in HCI research. Combined with other systemic changes, such as more ex- tensive and rapid publicity of research innovations for the public and greater awareness of university intellectual property policy, an adoption-centered focus in HCI research might lead to a discipline of HCI technology transfer”.

Authors conclude by exposing the limitations of their study to ”one technology, one business, one university project and one perspective.” and by calling for further informing efforts that help ”transform HCI technology research from a source of ideas to a source of commercially disseminated solutions that create widespread value”.

Reference selection:

.Previous from authors:

[3] Chilana, P.K., Ko, A.J., Wobbrock, J.O. & Grossman, T. 2013. A multi-site field study of crowdsourced contextual help: usage and perspectives of end users and software teams. ACM CHI, 217–226.

[4] Chilana, P., Ko, A.J. & Wobbrock, J.O. 2012. Lemon- Aid: selection-based crowdsourced contextual help for web applications. ACM CHI, 1549–1558.

.Innovation and tech transfer:

[9] Henderson, A. 2005. The innovation pipeline: design collaborations between research and development. interac- tions, 12, 1, 24–29.

[11] Isaacs, E.A., Tang, J.C., Foley, J., Johnson, J., Ku- chinsky, A., Scholtz, J. & Bennett, J. 1996. Technology transfer: so much research, so few good products. ACM CHI Companion, 155–156.

[13] Kolko, J. 2014. Running an entrepreneurial pilot to identify value. interactions, 21, 4, 22–23.

[15] Larsson, M., Wall, A., Norström, C. & Crnkovic, I. 2006. Technology transfer: why some succeed and some don’t. Software Tech Transfer in Soft. Engr., 23–28.

[19] Pfleeger, S.L. 1999. Understanding and improving technology transfer in software engineering. J. of Systems and Software, 47, 2, 111–124.

[21] Rogers, E.M. 2010. Diffusion of innovations. Simon and Schuster.

[26] Winkler, D., Mordinyi, R. & Biffl, S. 2013. Research Prototypes versus Products: Lessons Learned from Software Development Processes in Research Projects. Systems, Soft- ware and Services Process Improvement. Springer, 48–59.

.Epistemology:

[16] Lee, A.S. & Baskerville, R.L. 2003. Generalizing generalizability in information systems research. Information systems research, 14, 3, 221–243.

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This week we had Kelly Snook, Tom Mitchell and Adam Stark visiting our research group and lab at Goldsmiths University of London. They are the team who made Imogen Heap‘s glove instrument, and they have brought a set gloves to show us. I had the pleasure to have a go with a pair of them, set up with Ableton Live, and controlling a fat synth bass with it! Amazing precision!

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