Students Develop Cutting-Edge PrototypesSandlin, Anu  | Sep 28, 2018
In the Texas iSchool’s Interaction Design class, students learn to “put it all together,” says Dr. Fleming Seay, a longtime adjunct faculty member and senior principal UX engineer at Dell. The project-based course in design thinking allows students to tackle a real-world problem of their choice by gathering and interpreting data, and transforming the implications of that data into a prototype design that is then tested and refined.
I’m always impressed with how prescient the students are when it comes to project topics
“I’m always impressed with how prescient the students are when it comes to project topics,” he says, noting that over the years, his students have developed prototypes that anticipated Google Maps, Foursquare, and Tinder. One student developed a concept for an e-reader and digital store before there was a Kindle. “I’d say we have at least one incubator-worthy concept per class, often two or three.”
Texas iSchool student Semeon Risom recently led a team that developed a prototype for an app to promote physical fitness for elderly people through virtual-reality technology. The app allows users to walk, jog, bike, or paddle in virtual settings of their choice. Semeon continued to work on the app after completing Dr. Seay’s class and demonstrated it at the iSchool Open House in Spring 2017.
During the demonstration, users of Semeon’s app pedaled a stationary bicycle while wearing a VR headset, creating the sensation of mountain-biking on a forest trail. “The application is called ViRtually Young,” said Semeon. “It allows someone who is elderly or who otherwise may not be able to perform the exercise activities they’d like to do, to do that in a safe environment, whether that’s in their home, at a doctor’s office or with a physical therapist.”
New faculty member studies child development and immersive mediaFerguson, John  | Feb 05, 2018
The Texas iSchool is welcoming a new faculty member who specializes in immersive media and its influence on cognition, behavior and learning.
Assistant Professor Jakki Bailey joins the School of Information from Stanford, where she recently completed her PhD in Communication and was a research assistant at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
“I research people’s psychological and social experiences of technology and media, and I currently specialize in looking at virtual reality and immersive experiences, particularly in how they relate to questions of child and human development,” Dr. Bailey said.
Her studies of virtual reality are expected to contribute to the School of Information’s ongoing work in the disciplines of human-computer interaction and user experience. The Texas iSchool faculty’s interdisciplinary approach to information particularly appealed to her, Dr. Bailey added.
“What’s unique about the iSchool is all the different backgrounds and research that people do here,” she said. “There are historians and computer scientists and psychologists and traditional information specialists here, which is really exciting because you can’t ever approach a problem or experience life in one dimension.”
Dr. Bailey has already begun to create a virtual-reality lab at the iSchool and said she is looking for opportunities to collaborate both within and outside the school. In the future, she also hopes to make her projects as mobile as possible in order to connect with the Austin-area community through museums and possibly schools.
Studies in the social science of VR in relation to child development are still in their infancy, Dr. Bailey noted. Although the technology is not new, it has only recently become affordable enough for widespread adoption and research.
“This is the first time VR has been commercially available, and there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered about children’s use and safety, how content interacts with hardware when you’re inside a game, and how that relates to learning outcomes,” she said. “In the projects I’ve done, kids have generally enjoyed the experience. They haven’t reported any type of emotional or physical distress.”
In her research, she has found that children respond to the "characters" in a virtual environment as if the characters are real, which also raises interesting questions, Dr. Bailey noted. “These are short interactions, so there’s still a lot to learn and a lot to understand about it,” she added.
At Stanford, Dr. Bailey was the recipient of the 2016-2017 Sesame Workshop Dissertation Award. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communication and a master’s in Sociology, both from Stanford as well.
Her past research has included studying how technology affects behavior change such as through Internet-based programs to reduce the risk of mental disorders and leveraging VR to promote pro-environmental behaviors in adults. In addition to her academic research and service, Bailey has advised children’s media company executives on the psychological, social, and ethical implications of VR in youth’s lives.
Interim Dean Randolph G. Bias said he is “thrilled” to welcome Dr. Bailey onboard as the school’s newest assistant professor. “Dr. Bailey studies the effects of media-technology on human behavior. One recent research thread of hers is on virtual reality’s influence on children’s cognitive skills and social interactions. Thus, she not only adds linkages among our current faculty members’ interests, but will broaden our connections across campus, and beyond. We are fortunate to have her on our team.”