Today we are talking with guest Brian Kane about Design Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and why you should be prototyping.  Brian Kane has had a dual career as both an artist and designer working with technology since the 80's.

Show Notes

Brian Kane


Two videos brought up in conversation:
AI and Design
AI Design, Human Considerations

the origin of the Big Mouth Billy Bass Alexa video:

0:49 Brian Kane Intro
3:33 Lowering the barrier to entry in innovation
5:26 What should IT leaders know about A.I.
9:44 Examples of A.I. that work well
13:05 Negative A.I. experiences
15:03 Getting familiar with Design Thinking
18:06 Design Doing vs Design Thinking
19:56 Using Design Doing process leading a team
21:58 Brian Kane's Tools of choice
23:37 Working with multicultural teams
29:32 What approaches do you use working with teams
37:58 Big Mouth Billy Bass Alex story
41:56 Creep Factor in A.I.
46:32 Book recommendation
47:46 Closing


Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things Kindle Edition
by Donald A. Norman

Hosted By:

Brian Comerford


Nick Lozano



Lead.exe is published bi-monthly on the 1st and the 15th of the month.

Subscribe and leave us a review to lets us know how we are doing.


Google Play:


Send us your feedback at [email protected]

Show Transcript

Brian Comerford  0:04
Thanks for joining us for this latest edition of lead.exe. Today we're joined with our special guest Brian Kane, who comes from a diverse background of technology leadership and various other talents. We're going to chat with him today starting with some conversation around design thinking, some of his own background related to design. But before we get started with that I'm your host Brian Comerford and joined with co host

Nick Lozano  0:38
Nick Lozano. How is everybody doing?

Brian Comerford  0:42
And we'd like to welcome Brian Kane if you can give us a little bit of an intro about yourself we'll we'll start off with that.

Brian Kane  0:49
Sure. So, thanks for having me appreciate the opportunity to do this with you. A little bit about my background. So, I've had dual career as both an artist and designer working with technology since the 80s. In the 1980s I got involved with 3D computing for philosophy in the entertainment industry. So, I was doing a lot of 3D CGI back in the day and doing that commercially. And then in the 1990s I got involved with live interactive video software, internet gaming, and robotic software. So, once I learned how to do programming in the 80s which started for 3d then I started to do more interesting things as the 90s went on. Then in the 2000s, I was a creative director for a computer gaming company and did UX for online commerce and finance industry. So as time moved on, I started to get more and more both into leadership roles and also into user experience because that proved to be such a valuable piece of making a commercial product. And then on the 2010s I got asked to teach at RISD, which is the Rhode Island School of Design. And so, I did that starting in the 2010s I taught industrial design, film, video, apparel, and digital media. So, we did some really interesting work there especially around wearable technology, although I don't like the term wearable. And then later started an ai design course there which I think was the first to really look at a high specifically from a user experience perspective. And now I’m working on some consumer products and so that's a whole different whole different ballgame so I can explain a little bit more about that. So, I discovered some of these what I think are new opportunities using ai to make consumer products and so I'm actually trying to put that to the test and make these products and get them to market.

Brian Comerford  2:59
That's great, thanks Brian.

Brian Kane  3:01
That's what I'm doing now.

Brian Comerford  3:03
Well it sounds like you like keep yourself busy that's for sure.

Brian Kane  3:13
Yeah, it's a really exciting time. There's a lot of opportunity for innovation right now, it's just you know in all the years I've been doing this I think it's probably the best time for doing innovative products and especially for making new things that are going to be very successful in the market. Mostly because the barrier of entry has been made so low.

Brian Comerford  3:33
So, talk to us a little bit about that, because of outsourced infrastructure because of the ubiquity of easy design tools to work collaboratively and what are some of those other things that you think have lowered the barrier to entry?

Brian Kane  3:49
Yes, as well as access to the technology. So, you know in the 1980s when I started doing 3d computer graphics you needed to have a quarter million dollars’ worth of computer or more just to do it. And now you can do much more sophisticated work on the regular laptop that you might buy best buy. The hardware and the software become much more accessible so a lot of this stuff is free. The chips themselves and all the components that it takes to make things become incredibly inexpensive. And there's also a gigantic ecosystem universe of free software to work with. So, you don't have to invent everything new anymore so read this place for a lot of these products are so commodified that, your average person can get back to garage inventing for low cost and can make lots of different things and test.

Brian Comerford  4:48
As well to have easy distribution channels for getting some of that content out in the world?

Brian Kane 4:54
Yeah distribution is another e-commerce is another is another way the distributing product directly like consumer to consumer. So, there's some interesting new models there that I think are going to become even bigger and bigger. You can invent something you can make it in your garage and you can sell it directly to your consumer using apps or internet now. You don't necessarily need to get a deal to have your thing distributed in Best Buy.

Brian Comerford 5:24
Okay Nick were you going to jump in with a question there?

Nick Lozano 5:26
Yeah, I was just gonna ask you kind of question generally. Where we're talking about artificial intelligence, you know and I immediately think to Watson when I think of artificial intelligence, but like in general terms what should IT leaders be thinking of when they think of artificial intelligence? Do they have to think you know that big scheme thing idea where they're trying to build a Watson that can read all of Wikipedia and answer jeopardy questions, or is there kind of like a smaller area where they can kind of get their feet wet and you know have something that's a little bit more easier to implement?

Brian Kane 5:59
So, it's very broad question because this this concept of ai has grown to be so expansive that it's unclear what it means anymore. But I'm a big fan of small a, which is what you're getting at. So, if you think about if you're developing any type of software project, you can have software that automatically makes decisions and that's incredible and they don't need to be huge decision but they can do small decisions. Then they can be incredibly helpful to the user. However, you run into this paradox where the system is doing something unexpected or potentially doing something unexpected to the user which for me from a ux perspective is generally a red flag. So, thinking from just from our straight ux perspective we generally want the system to be as responsive as possible to the users input. Whether that's physical input, or tangible input, or whether whether or not it conforms to their mental model in terms of what you asked it to do with what it did. So, when you get into something where it can automatically make decisions there's a back and forth and the user needs to really understand exactly what's happening, or else they may reject it right. So, if you if you ask him for ice cream and it goes back and it comes back and gives you the kind of ice cream that you don't like you're going to reject that for instance. But that doesn't mean that we don't want to not attempt to create these things, that can-do things to can make decisions because, that's huge. It has a lot of cognitive overload that comes from people that because you have to make too many decisions frequently when you're using digital systems there's too many options, too many choices, too many opportunities, to fail. So, once we can make things that actually make decisions basically autonomously, we can make amazing things. And I think people actually are going to love this once it's done right, I'm not sure if anyone's done it right yet. But to get back to your question, I very much tried to there's this concept of general ai which, is like you know it's every single sci fi movie that has come out for the last 20 years.

Nick Lozano 8:17
Probably more than that.

Brian Kane 8:19
Not only useless, it's actually kind of dragging everything into a strange direction because of that narrative. So, I'm a big fan of creating new narratives and we can use the design process to invent all these new narratives and new scenarios and new use cases that are really great. But first you sort of have to take that you know, the killer age of Altron robot take that whole story and throw it in the garbage and make it go away.

Nick Lozano 8:47
Because we're not worried about HAL are, we?

Brian Kane 8:51
Making it. And there is actually this is something that I've talked about quite a bit. So, there's the potential that you know ai could actually get rejected because of backlash culture in the same way that gmo has been rejected. Such a negative perception right now and people are really afraid. So, it could reach a point where people just say you know no no way, I write everything has to be ai free. And I don't want it I don't want to hear about that if it's an it's bad and I reject that. And we're right at the point where that could happen. In my in my opinion that's because of the perception that's been created, based upon false presentation, I think.

Brian Comerford 9:38
So, what are some of the things

Brian Kane 9:40
Or movie tickets. What?

Brian Comerford 9:44
I was just gonna ask what are some of the narratives of where we've got some semblance of ai in our daily lives already that could help mitigate some of that negative perception or fear orientation?

Brian Kane  9:59
Well mean what are some examples of what works well? I think GPS. GPS is a great example of something that people love. When you you know you put in your where you want to go and you trust that device to pick the fastest route, or the safest route or, the least expensive route whatever that is and then as you're using it, it's telling you things to do and we mostly accept that. I think gps has been very well received by people. Do you use it?

Nick Lozano 10:33
I use GPS all the time. Especially Waze. You know I'm assuming that are some kind of ai behind that telling me which which path to take, where there's traffic, or you know down tree , or something trying to reroute my traffic in real time. I imagine there's some kind of ai behind that as well.

Brian Kane 10:51
Right so there's a great example of where something it's making a decision autonomously for you and and you're willing to let it tell you what to do and accepted results. However, if it starts to make bad recommendations, then you may just throw it away and so this is where the whole user experience thing comes into into play. And that's just that's one. I think internet search is another where we generally we go to search for something and we generally trust that the results that come up the top three in the top five are relevant. Whether we consciously make that decision or whether that we just inherently trust it.

Brian Comerford 11:33
I tend to come across things that are only fake news if they don't align with my pre-biased opinions.

Nick Lozano 11:42
Google will actually give you biased results, that's why I always search in incognito mode when I need something like a general answer on something. I do that in an incognito window because it actually utilizes your past search history to kind of tailor the results for you.

Brian Kane 12:01
Sure, and one of the one of the ways that I tend to say I'm really into this idea of personality and so I would I would say is that you, you want a certain personality from that experience and I usually like to call that a flavor. So, you know if you use different search engines you can see that they have different flavors over time and it's very hard to really be specific about what that is but you know it's got a different. The word I think of this flavor and so you know sometimes the more it feels like it's, I don't know if I have the right words for this, but if it feels like it's overly ai that has too much ai flavor and I think people want to back off from that. I think that's sort of what's happening with with things like with Facebook as well. So, you know initially felt like I was I’m the user and I’m doing this and then all of a sudden it feels like this other thing is sort of controlling my experience. And I don't like that flavor.

Nick Lozano 13:05
Yeah that kind of kind of reminds me of like I don't know if you've called the united recently?  I tried to get something rebooked that they have like a virtual assistant and it instantly doesn't understand anything you're trying to ask it and you just want to get a live person because it is just driving you insane.

Brian Kane 13:19
And that and so so that was an experience that you remember, but it was a negative experience, right?

Nick Lozano 13:24
Yes, it was yeah.

Brian Kane 13:25
And so, these are the types of things that using design as we start to make these types of things that you know from my perspective, I think we want to put design first right. We want to we want to figure these things out and it's not expensive to test many many different prototypes and start to get an understanding of that and that way we can make products that are there better for the user and they're better for the company. Right because we want to make the things that people like. One of the things that I think is interesting because it only gets talked about in terms of technology but really what we're doing is we're designing characters and the people that have them experience with that are artists and entertainers and the movie studios. Because that's their business right. They make they make stories and they make characters and they make experiences that can work with people on an emotional level. So, I would argue the word goal going into now is this transition where everything was technology lead for the last 30 or 40 years and we're switching over to this thing where it's going to be more storytelling and creatively. We're at that inflection point now everybody has laptops and computers and internet connections and you can buy cheap microprocessors and all the different that stuff is becoming commodified but what's going to become the real of what's the biggest value or the people that can create these at the like personalities and experiences and really know how to design these things so that they're the best. Right if there's 50 ais to choose from you want the one that's the best for you. That is going to be a design not a technology.

Brian Comerford 15:03
So, let's let's talk about that a little bit. For particularly for leaders whether or not their technology leaders who are unfamiliar with design thinking as a process. Can you help articulate a little bit what's the starting point for that? Is there a framework, is there a model to follow, how does someone who's completely new to it become exposed to some of what you're talking about?

Brian Kane 15:29
There's definitely definitely a framework or model for that process. So, you know I lecture on this and I teach it and the one that I usually use was created by the by Don Norman at the Nielsen Norman group. They're one of the biggest consultants out there. And it's a circular process that I can send you it's in my deck one of their slides. It's basically it's a it's a cyclical process where, you empathize with some type of condition out there that has to do with people or some scenario. Then once you've looked at that that's an observational process then you start to define what you think your research and your product might be. Then you come up with ideas that make that tangible but then you very quickly get to prototyping. So, you know from an IT perspective, I think that it's getting out of big upfront thinking and very quickly getting to to creating prototypes. So, I'd rather have I'd rather have a prototype in two days that I can test on somebody, then spend 12 weeks in meetings. And then once you once you've created a prototype then you move on and you start testing it. And that prototype doesn't need to really even do much more than test what do you think it's going to do with people. So, it can be either fake or it can be super hack together or it can only have that one little function that you think it is that you want to test. And the it's what I call design doing. right so my whole thing is I like to move people out of design thinking and it's a design doing. Right. So, you don't overthink it you know get into the traps of groupthink, or have all sorts of assumptions that you're going to drag along through your expensive long IT project. And you get to the point where you're building stuff early to test out all those assumptions and make a lot of mistakes. Right. So, IT projects because they're so big and they can be complicated and expensive they tend to be a little risk averse, which which makes sense from a business perspective. But unless you make a lot of mistakes, you're not going to know how to get them right when put it in front of the user or the customer. So, for me that sort of summarizes the whole design thinking process which is. First is based on observation, then you can up with some ideas, but then you very very quickly prototype it and then you test it on real people as soon as possible.

Brian Comerford 18:06
So, let's talk a little bit about design doing. And let's say that you're engaged with a group of folks who they're very confident in their leadership for the business that they know. Right operationally their leadership is sound. Now you confront them with some of these concepts around design thinking and design doing. How do you start to unleash where their creativity might actually get stirred in a way that is potentially unfamiliar to them?

Brian Kane 18:36
Yeah well, so I wouldn't confront I would I always like to present it as opportunities. And there are opportunities to do a couple of things. So, one is to take somebody's great idea and make it happen very quickly. So, if leadership has an idea you said okay let's try that. And you can do it very small. So, if somebody has an idea you might be able to test that out in a very very small way very very quickly. So, it's more it's more way to say yes them to say no. Okay let's try that. I don't know

Nick Lozano 19:07
It kind of reminds me. Reminds me of

Brian Kane 19:08
Which flavored ice cream I don't know. But projecting that out of hand let's make up a batch and try it.

Nick Lozano 19:15
Kind of reminds me of agile programming. Or like kind of system development lifecycle, kind of seems kind of similar to that. Where you kind of iterate on a smaller scale and when you fail you fail hard and you fail fast and you go back to the drawing board and try again.

Brian Kane 19:30
It's it's totally tied to agile. I mean so many of these things agile is wonderful and I really love it. But these things but they become rigid sometimes when they're introduced into different types of work environments. So yeah agile if you can keep it agile. Design thinking and agile are joined at the hip.

Brian Comerford 19:56
And that's kind of where I was going Brian. With the design doing comment that you made. So, you know from an agile framework, right I think part of what you just alluded to that rigidity. Some folks you know they're really comfortable as long as they're within the guardrails of a framework. Thinking creatively outside of those things may be challenging to some. So, I'm curious from a design doing perspective, when you're thinking about that is there doing that becomes part of the activity of a leadership team that you might be engaged with? Or is the doing really on you and other design partners that are?

Brian Kane 20:34
I think it's part of the process. So, if somebody has somebody might have a fantastic idea, says okay come, go do it, come back in a week. No let's do it, let's no more PowerPoints. Show me, show me show me something that works. Or at least is is the is the first step to that and that's it's about it's about prototyping. It's sort of like if you get out of that analysis paralysis and start making them start making and things don't necessarily have to be perfect or work right up front. They have to they have to be good enough to test this idea. Whatever that whatever that idea is. In terms of selling into management which I think was your question. I think it's a decent sell in terms of you can say it's low cost,  it's fast, and we can test your great ideas. Right, let’s let's let's spend time working on on your great ideas and get it done quickly and have something that we can actually show. And give ourselves a path to to profit that's that's you know relatively fast. And has a higher chance of succeeding and putting all your eggs in one basket. Hoping that it works later.

Brian Comerford 21:58
From a prototyping perspective what are some of your tools of choice?

Brian Kane 22:02
In software?

Brian Comerford 22:03
Yeah, we can start there. I know you work in different areas.

Brian Kane 22:08
So, for software with JavaScript and all the different JavaScript libraries that are out there. There's in terms of ai there's this is a whole lot of interesting api's that are available now. From some of the big commercial vendors so Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Clarify a bunch of different companies have. So, you can do it free or almost free using their api. So, you don't have to build your own ai infrastructure. And then you know I've been working a lot with Arduino kind of stuff which is c++ and now there's this python that's available on these little microprocessors. And then you know I kind of for making physical prototypes, laser cutting a lot, 3d printing. But even because I really like to do things fast so for me sometimes even the 3d printing is too slow. I'm really not making that up. It's like if you have to spend a day doing that it's a waste of time if you can like make it out of clay, or you can use the toilet paper to cut it in half and glue something to it. You'll end up getting getting like right to the core and doing it as fast as possible. You know the modern prototyping tools are amazing.

Brian Comerford 23:35
Nick you got another question for us there?

Nick Lozano 23:37
This is a question I know a B.C. told me that you've worked a lot with, kind of teams overseas like multicultural. I was kind of curious how you kind of deal with that? With the you know different language barriers and different you know cultural differences you know with leading a team and the challenges that come with that. Do you find anything, some helpful tips you have for our listeners that kind of help you get through that? Or some thoughts or ideas?

Brian Kane 24:06
Well yeah. So, the biggest issue is who's going to stay up late. So, if I can be the one that stays up late that can be helpful. So, you get people during their productive day hours. Communicating well that's always a challenge. Try to try to just be very clear in your communications have a good translator you need one. Drawings can help quite a bit. Prototypes also. So, it's easy if you make prototypes say here see it's supposed to be like this. You don't need so many words to describe it. And then there's other, this may it might may or may not be what you're talking about so there's all sorts of ethnographic issues with which come into play when you're going to design product. yeah so and are we recording?

Nick Lozano 25:07
Yes, we are.

Brian Kane 25:08
Can we pause it for a second while I go get go get a prop?

Nick Lozano 25:12
Yeah go ahead go ahead.

Brian Kane 25:13
Let me go let me go get a prop.

Nick Lozano 25:14
yep go for it.

Microphone 25:20
Your Bluetooth device is ready to pair.

Brian Kane 25:27
Alight, so this was a pretty hot selling product in China right now. And it's a handheld karaoke microphone.

Nick Lozano 25:34

Brian Kane 25:36
Have you seen this?

Brian Comerford 25:38
I've seen it, I've seen in one of your posts yeah.

Brian Kane 25:42
So, this is a really hot product in China and other parts of Asia right now, but you've never seen it in the US.

Brian Comerford 25:49

Nick Lozano 25:51
I have not no.

Brian Kane 25:52
Okay so that's it that's a great example of an ethnographic difference between cultures. You can buy these on Amazon but they're not popular here. And so, the reason I bring that up is so you really need to understand your user in terms of what they want, what they expect, and the culture that they live in. So frequently you know if you're designing a product for a North American audience, you have assumptions in your head but then you go you look at audiences or users in different parts of the world they may have different expectations. So, you always want to understand who who your user is. And that's again on the design thinking process that's really all. So, you want to do observational studies if you users or who knows what why why why why is karaoke popular and half the world and not in the other half of the world. And it was really interesting because, we we think of the objects and the experiences and the technology that we interact with in different ways. So as designers we need to really need to understand that if we want people to adopt them. And getting value out of the products that we're making whether that's hardware software.

Brian Comerford 27:08

Nick Lozano 27:09
No, I completely understand and I've never seen that device ever.

Brian Kane 27:15
It's only if you want to really rock the house with your IT project.

Nick Lozano 27:19
Hey you know I think I'm not I think I’m going to go buy one of those and rocket in the office and see how everything goes.

Brian Comerford 27:28
It could certainly be a way to break down barriers pretty quickly, quickly amongst you know alpha type decision makers and any project team that's for sure.

Nick Lozano 27:36
Exactly next next team meeting making a purchasing decision that's that's the only way you can talk as if you have to karaoke mic in your hand.

Brian Kane 27:47
Your question specifically has to do with you know how do you manage people that are in different parts of the world and hopefully they're working together. And so, you know you have to understand that you come from a certain place and they come from a certain place. And make sure that we're all talking about the same thing and frequently if you have assumptions, other people might not have them. And then there's the logistics issues of timing and communicating and making sure that things are clear communicated properly and that's I mean that's a challenge, that's a challenge if you're sitting in the same room with someone or if you're working 5000 miles away.

Nick Lozano 28:25
no completely agree I used to be on a software development team and we had a counterpart in India and we were having a development team meeting and I said it's a catch 22. And so, I had to explain it and then explain what a catch 22 was and then they get the meeting notes back the next day and it literally has a whole transcript of me saying what a catch 22 was. That that was one of one of my first experiences with you know a multi-cultural difference to you know kind of tone my language down or any you know sayings that I would use to try to you know curb those out, because people might not understand stand them.

Brian Kane 29:02
You know there's a couple tips that you can meet in person I think that's great. And also, this kind of video conferencing that we're doing now I think is also really really useful. So, it's it's hard to you know when everything is texts and emails it's actually hard to understand that there's a real person there. Right so, I think especially with the video conferencing done done properly it's a way to have its more it's a more personal more human way of communicating.

Brian Comerford 29:32
Yeah and I think it also brings up a point that I’m curious in your opinion about. Which is you know really how do you bring a clarity of ideas to the design thinking process? Part of why I asked that is because I've interacted with a lot of different leaders, a lot of different folks, who are accustomed to having their thoughts translated into some some kind of factual reality. But they're you know while something may be clear in their own head it's hard to draw out very clear details about what they might be describing. I've found that to be a leadership challenge myself and I'm curious have some of your own techniques or approaches that you might apply to that challenge?

Brian Kane 30:23
Well drawing is one. So being able to draw out an idea you know they say drawing is worth 1000 words. So, drawing can actually you can say well what did you mean this? Would be nice to you know when you sit around did you mean this for this? You know what let's draw draw me a picture of that? And so that can frequently get things very very focused very quickly. And then the other thing is so this is a metaphor that I use with my students. So, think about drawing so typically we think about drawing and you just drawing drawing drawing and he keep on adding. We want to flip it over the eraser is just as powerful as the as the drawing right right. So, taking things away is equally valuable. So, you say can we get rid of this? Can we get rid of this? And let's boil it down what what is the core of what we're talking about here. And so frequently it's a process of elimination. You know it's not this, it's not this not this,  and that lets you get right down to the to the little nugget in the center. Which is the core concept that you can go and build something to prototype and test it. And the IT metaphor is feature creep.

Nick Lozano 31:35
we all know that

Brian Kane 31:36
the feature creeps

Nick Lozano 31:37
One more thing.

Brian Kane 31:38
But sometimes you can sit down and say let's we're going to have an inverted feature creep meeting. We're just going to get rid of in this meeting, let's get rid of 10 features right now. So, we're going to take things away, until this product is no longer viable. Until it breaks. And so that reverse process of taking things away is equally if not as important as making things. And if you look at a lot of consumer products like apples does, they used to be really good at that. And that's where this people think of the products as simple and easy to use and understandable. For a lot of us because of what they didn't do.  Yeah, yeah. That's a great point. You know it leads me to another set of questions that I have for your related to ecosystems. So, I heard you touch on that a little bit at the beginning of our conversation here. We certainly have an ecosystem related to apple. We've got an ecosystem related to Microsoft. There are various other ecosystems out there Salesforce platform all sorts of examples of this. From a you know convergence around some of these design principles we're starting to see more and more tools being built into those various ecosystems. What is the best way to kind of bring some of those things into ubiquity right? So, part of what I mean by that is you know from a consumer base, you might see that a lot of folks have apple as their preferred ecosystem. And yet in the business world Microsoft seems to dominate you know what the what the ecosystem is all about. Let's talk a little bit about how that's being harmonized or if it is. As as we see more and more technology sort of competing for a greater share of these preferred ecosystems. I'm not sure if it's being productized. It seems like it's being more fragmented right now. And specifically, in terms of ai it looks like these different companies are competing. it's all black box a walled garden type stuff, that they're competing to dominate. You know so it's like who's gonna win is it Alexa or Siri or google home assistant. And they don't talk to each other and they really do you know they're really do much. There's, there's little hooks around the edge where you can kind of do things with them but there's not really a robust open source tools. I need to be careful what I’m saying because things are changing so much.

Nick Lozano 34:25
It'll be different tomorrow.

Brian Kane 34:27
But there there's certainly seems to be a competition who's gonna who's gonna dominate, in that space. On the other side for right you know like for IT, most of the tools right now are open source. Or most of the big tools most, of the big languages, database. I mean there's still Oracle but a lot of the internet is certainly built on open source technology. Which is relatively indifferent to you know whether it's Apple or Microsoft or Unix. That might be different flavors. I like to keep my stuff in the open source sector when I can. so, I tend to work there. Does that answer your question?

Brian Comerford 35:11
It does yeah and you really kind of went to where

Brian Kane 35:14
You know as long as it's called, we're going to they're going to be competing to create walled gardens. Yeah you there on the internet as well right with things like social media which are basically sort of walled gardens.

Nick Lozano 35:26
Totally believe that it as we're seeing kind of you know technology be more consumerized. And you know with the, you know Alexa coming out google home assistance Siri and Microsoft Cortana. Are you seeing that kind of evolve the ai space more where people are kind of asking for the you know see different products that have ai baked into, where it's not just kind of like what's the weather? Set a timer. Because that's what I seem to use Alexa for mostly.

Brian Kane 36:00
Yeah so, you know we've done some research into this like. How to is what one of the questions we asked a couple years ago is how do people actually live with these things, and what's the life cycle and and so we see that. But there's not that much engagement with the product with the products. Or maybe they do one more thing one or two things well. So, the user for that. There is also a sort of a honeymoon product, so you get it you love it for a couple weeks and then it sits on your shelf and you don't use it that much.

Nick Lozano 36:29
It responds to commercials. That's what mine does.

Brian Kane 36:35
So, you know so this is a really interesting subject for me. And so, you know I would argue that these are these are solutions without problems. And these products they're, they're being pushed into the consumer space because you've got a generation of executives that grew up watching star trek. Literally building their childhood fantasy in the real world now. Despite the fact that it's not. People don't love it that much right. I mean there's little enthusiasm at a consumer level for self-driving cars. And you know this is supposed to be the thing that everybody wants and it's not really not, but it's being pushed by a certain generation that grew up on 2001, star trek, Star Wars. And there, there are literally building the things that they envisioned when they were kids. And that's what we're that's what oh yeah, you're going to talk to in the future you're going to talk to your computer. Okay. Now that you can talk to it it's engaging and experience.

Nick Lozano 37:34
Yeah, I know that at least for me I don't want to talk to my phone out the middle of public anyways. It's just kind of looks weird riding the subway.

Brian Kane 37:42
And nobody wants to get into self-driving car.

Nick Lozano 37:45
Exactly, exactly.

Brian Kane 37:47

Nick Lozano 37:47
You never know you could wind up like the guy in Silicon Valley he gets in the self-driving car and it takes them to a container to go to china.

Brian Kane 37:58
That's why and that's why it's like if we can if we can step away from those old narratives and use this design process to like testing create things. We will create interesting things that that people actually really want. You know and there's a long story but you know when I was teaching this ai design course and so I was doing a demonstration on how to rapid prototype that I put together that fish, the the Billy bass that was connected to Alexa. And we put that out on the internet and I said hey you know; user testing is real easy let's just post this on the internet and see if anybody likes it. Well people like that guy there's a demand for for these types of experiences that are a lot more fun and engaging and curious and much more human, than than the stuff that's kind of being pushed down from the top. So that's where I was getting it so by doing quick little experiments like that that was a three four-hour project, we can you can discover things that people really respond to a positive way. And you can also find out what they're going to reject you know. Like I don't think it does a lot of like a lot of ai is it's what I call them nag-ware.  It's like it just nagged you. It's like oh do you really want to eat that, why don't you eat broccoli. It's like nobody wants that in your life.

Brian Comerford 39:28
Well I don't know about you guys,

But I’m saying right I mean the direction that's going down

Brian Kane 39:36

Nick Lozano 39:37
Again, okay completely see that. You know a lot of the features I see lately is like read your email created to do task for you. I was like I don't need something to make it to do task for me I could do that myself I need to do that.

Brian Kane 39:50
yeah well

you're interested but there's a whole lot of interesting design problems that occur when things make decision for people. so, it's really a fundamentally new. It's a fundamental new design problem with a lot of opportunities but we don't have a lot of we don't we don't have a whole lot of foundational work to look at to understand that how it's supposed to work. So, if you think about user experience and human computer interaction like I was saying. So, think about something like like Microsoft word or Adobe photoshop these programs keep on getting more and more complicated in order to give the user increasing levels of control right. You know I want to put the space between that period and that last letter. It was all these features that could you unbelievable levels of control most people never use any of these features but when you're using the product you feel like you have the ability to do everything. When you start to add ai to that it's the opposite. So, you're actually giving up control the same I want more convenience you know. Make make me here's 10 pictures make me a web page the shows my kid's birthday party to my family, just do that for me. You're going to give up maybe some control over the colors and the gif animations or whatever it is you're giving up control and that's a that's a whole new area for user experience design to start dealing working with. This it's the it's the exact inverse of the direction that we're going, to turn the rules right. Interesting concept, right?

Nick Lozano 41:40
No totally is totally.

Brian Kane 41:42
Remember another issue where they appear to be alive.

Nick Lozano 41:45

Brian Kane 41:46

Nick Lozano 41:47
Yeah there's some there's some pretty cool stuff out there and some some of that kind of creeps me out to. Like some of the robots and everything like that so it was a little too real.

Brian Kane 41:56
Part of that creep factor has to do and this is another interesting thing so once things start to appear alive, we need to very quickly as a human there's this this species to that species is, we need to determine if it's friend or foe. Or what's our relationship to this other thing that's a lot of. Our tools aren't alive or tools or under our control. We haven't fixed unknown relationship to the tools that we use. So, it's a whole different at a psychological level it's in a whole different place. And you know I mean these these things are really easy to test as well. If you know if I've got my, I've got my device here. I think I understand what's going to happen I can hold it and I can turn it on. But if it's just sitting there and all of a sudden that comes on and starts talking to me and starts rolling around.

Nick Lozano 42:48
Starts ordering a pizza for you.

Brian Kane 42:50
Especially if it starts moving.

Nick Lozano 42:52

Brian Kane 42:54
Then we're dealing it's a species to species interaction and I need to decide is that threatening, or is it lovely, reassuring is it comfort, is it scary is it freaking me out. And that's that creep factor that you're talking about. It's freaking me out. And so, you know this is another thing so the industry right now is really focused on this idea of assistance. But I don't see a huge demand for people that want assistants. However, what I do see a big demand for him and this concept of inventing new species. We love pets and so it's really interesting to look at our relationship to pets and start using the way that we interact with the pets, plants and animals and things like that. As design principles as we're making these new products. Why, why, why do we think it's cute when the when the cat jumps up on our keyboard makes a mess? But what we do you know we we love cats we hate spiders why do we hate spiders? Many people hate by which is really irrational. So, it's this type of thinking that's going to have to happen. And this is again this is where the people like the specially the cartoon makers they have an edge they understand these things how to make creatures and personalities that are lovable or hate able. understanding motion ways of speaking that's what I think they have they have the advantage. I'm not you know I’m not sure if I would assign them. It's sort of like you know assigning an IT project to make a hit movie.

Nick Lozano 44:32
Yeah, that's asking for disaster.

Brian Kane 44:37

Nick Lozano 44:37
If you if you do that you get the tv show from from England called the IT crowd that's that's what you get

Brian Kane 44:43
Okay, well but it's it's really interesting because there are these different cultures. You know and I think this whole session on assistance is going to look really silly over time as well. It's not what people rather have a friend or and assistant? I think they'd rather have a friend and that's just my guess.

Nick Lozano 45:03
It's a valid point that's kind of how I feel about them. You know it’s kind of like when I see the Samsung fringes that have a tablet on them and has a camera so I can see what's inside of it. It's like I can see what's inside of my fridge just by opening the door. I don't need an app, because I’m too lazy to hand put my hand on the door and open it and see what's in there.

Brian Comerford 45:22
So, does that mean that the digital assistant is going to go the way of the mullet? it's going to be like the technological equivalent of a mullet in the next few years here?

Brian Kane 45:30
Yeah, I can go that metaphor. I don't know it that ever goes out of style you know. Yeah well, I mean it might be. No but it's actually I think it's all the way it's presented so when you talk about ways that you don't think of that as an assistant right. It's a tool right. It doesn't come on and say hi I'm your I'm your driving assistant. so, one of the lot of these things it's really about just creating experiences that people actually like right. I mean Uber, Uber isn't your personal transportation system but it sure can be useful. And that's another example of where like the logistics involved with that probably involve some level of ai. But we don't need to know about that necessarily because it delivers a decent quality experience.

Brian Comerford 46:24
Brian I really appreciate you taking the time to come on board. Nick do we have any parting questions from you as we kind of wrap things up?

Nick Lozano 46:32
I just have one question. I've been asking everybody has nothing to do with ai or anything in general. Is there any book you know had a big influence on you or a piece of media or anything like that at all that you want to share with anybody?

Brian Kane 46:45
Sure, Emotional Designed by Don Norman. That's probably good 15 or 20 years now but it's an incredible book. And Don Norman is an amazing designer. Anything by Don Norman you can find him on on YouTube. But specifically, emotional design and that's the only book that I assigned to every single class that I teach. It's understanding design not necessarily as solving problems but understanding people's emotional responses and interactions with objects and experiences.

Nick Lozano 47:20
Now sounds like an interesting read I’m definitely have to pick it up myself.

Brian Kane 47:24
Yes, it's the one and it's a library it's not a long book.

Nick Lozano 47:31
I'm not scared of big books

Brian Kane 47:34
Okay, never mind, I'll skip that.

Brian Comerford 47:41
Brian working folks find out more about you and some of the work that you're involved in?

Brian Kane 47:46
Ah so my main website is I have these two videos which I'll send to you after this that outline a little bit more in depth some of the ideas that I've been talking about and some of the opportunities. So, if I can leave it on one thing is that I think it's a great time for entrepreneurs to try to get into this market. I think it's like I think it's a really great garage inventing time again. That there's like really fantastic opportunities what entrepreneur or even a non-entrepreneur as well for people to start getting hands on with this stuff. And from my perspective the most interesting things I think we're going to see in the next three to five years, are probably going to be these oddball creations that people did on their own in a small way. That's my prediction. It's a good time to get started.

Brian Comerford 48:42
That's great. That's a perfect place to leave it thank you so much for your time today Brian really appreciate you being willing to join us for some of this discussion.

Brian Kane 48:51
Oh, one more thing.

Nick Lozano 48:53
Sure, go for it.

Brian Kane 48:54
Put creatives on the project. That's the last thing I’ll say. So, you were talking earlier about IT projects. I always talk about doing things creatively but then the project always gets done by technical people.

Nick Lozano 49:10
you we're not good at design.

Brian Kane 49:14
A designer, but you know put the designer as a project owner. They don't have to be the whole owner maybe maybe a 50/50 design and engineering. Let them jointly within jointly on the project. Make sure that the creative is involved because that that slips through the cracks a lot of corporate projects. And at this point I feel like it's a strategic edge.

Brian Comerford 49:36
I couldn't agree more. You ah, I’ve got a presentation that I've created myself called why it needs creative sensibilities.

Brian Kane 49:48
Yeah and people.

Nick Lozano 49:50
I want to thank everyone for listening today and thank thank Brian Kane for coming on and giving us a great interview. We're going to go ahead and post everything that Brian Kane mentioned in the show notes. That's the link to his slides, the link to the original tweet with the big mouth Billy bass which he's probably most known for and to the book that he mentioned. If you could go ahead and subscribe to our show. If you're liking us go ahead and leave a review let us know how we're doing. You can also shoot us any comments or suggestions you have to [email protected]. Again, I'm Nick Lozano joined by my cohost Brian Comerford. Thanks for listening.