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Embedded Intelligent Empathy in Design

Embedding Intelligent Empathy in Design is a one-year feasibility study funded by Connected Everything II: Accelerating Digital Manufacturing Research Collaboration and Innovation (EPSRC-funded research network for the Digital Manufacturing community). The goal of this project is to model empathy and systematically integrate it in computational design. Can a computer algorithm substitute a human designer? An algorithm can automatically generate form, but where does human empathy sit within this design process?

One of the key challenges in the digital age is creating products that trigger an emotional connection. Considering that empathy, the capacity to create an emotional connection, is a non-quantifiable parameter and a design skill that goes beyond intellectual knowing, we seek to answer a very specific question:

  • How can we systematically integrate empathy in the next generation of smart products in order to align with the emotions driving behaviours and forge powerful connections with the users?

This project will implement a research approach from the discipline of Architecture to investigate how to systematically design products with specific features that can trigger an emotional connection. Our industrial partners are currently in the process of developing products in which empathy plays a fundamental role in supporting the wellbeing of users, especially in terms of the needs of an ageing population. There is therefore an urgent requirement to make this integral connection between empathy and computational design in practice and make a roadmap for the development of tools that create an effective workflow.

Through co-design sessions with stakeholders and state-of-the-art research in the areas of computational design and soundscape, we will create a comprehensive lexicon of emotional responses to sound for smart objects. This project will generate a workflow between machines, data, and people in order to enable design optimisation processes that have matured over the years to be ready for the era of embedded intelligent empathy.

The project team is led by Dr Anna Chatzimichali from the University of the West of England (UWE). The full team comprises Dr Merate Barakat (UWE), Dr Yahya Lavaf Pour (UWE), Dr Ying Liu (Cardiff University), and Dr Mirian Calvo (Lancaster University), including our industry collaborators Rheon Labs, Bonnie Binary and Vasthu.

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