Wingtip, a Microsoft Design Expo project

Coursework is not the only challenge faced by college student.

Getting into college means spending the next few years in a brand new environment, which brings difficulties.

“It takes me too much effort to talk with people I don’t know, and understand people from different culture.”

“I don’t want to offend people by saying something because I may get misunderstood.”

“Making friend with local people is hard, because I don’t know what to talk about, and I don’t know what are they talking about.”

“I always try to be social and meet new people, but I don’t know where should I start.”

Because of lacking common interest, new students, no matter from another state or another country, find it hard to start conversations with local students. On the other hand, although University of Washington provides its students with large amount of resources, those resources are all separated into more than twelve different platforms, so students can hardly make use of them.


We believe, Conversational User Interface (CUI), with its ability to understand users' environment and provide real-time feedback, might be a good approach to help those new students to face the challenges, and boost their college life experiences.

A personal assistant through Conversational User Interface.

We implement Wingtip on the Husky Card (ID card for University of Washington students, faculties and staffs), because it is the thing that takes the journey through college with you. It stores personal information and people take it everywhere; making it the perfect platform.


The conversational system also coordinates with My UW website to access your personal information like course schedule, and the Wingtip mobile application helps store the data about your interest and previous experiences gathered through the conversation. It uses both voice and text message to communicate with you, depends on your current environment and condition. All the data are stored locally so no one can access them besides you.

By understanding users' circumstances and the surrounding environment, Wingtip can provide active or on-demand services via voice communication or text messages.
Get prepared.

Wingtip prepares the student for college by helping them fill out paper work, and schedule orientation.

It begins to learn about the student by asking about himself/herself and it answers any questions that the students may have.

During your study,

Wingtip checks in from time to time to see if the student needs any help settling in.

It encourages the student to go out and make friends. It shares events and activities of interest to the student.

As you get comfortable,

Share resources like UW fairs, talks and concerts, as well as Seattle events based on interests.

Informs the student about the resources at UW and the surrounding area.

Wingtips provides encouragement, explanations, and tips when necessary.

What else?

Other college campuses or any large organizations could use Wingtip to help their members become more involved.


It connects people and highlights resources, letting people successfully fit into the new environment.

This is Annie's story with her new best friend, Wingtip.
A brief overview of our research and design process.
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Research & insights

Conversational User Interface (CUI) is not a new concept, and there are several successful applications in the market. So we began our project by conducting some secondary research on the current state of CUI and its uses. We discovered that CUI could be an assistant for people to transfer into a new environment because of its ability to quickly access and communicate information in a comforting manner. ​


Because four of our team members were international students from China, a big challenge for us was to avoid bias during the research process. Sometimes designers tend to conclude the problems base on their personal experiences, but they cannot fully represent users' problems. To avoid bias, we set two user groups, local students and international students, and interviewed people in each group. We realized that the lack of common interest and necessary information prevented new students from merging into the community.


Concept development

Designing a CUI was differ from designing a GUI, because it focused on the interaction instead of the graphic interface. In this process, envisioning how the agent would interact with the students was best accomplished by developing a narrative in the form of a storyboard.


Considering myself as a good storyteller, I wrote the script for multiple storyboards, to demonstrate when, where, and how students interact with the CUI. Those storyboards helped us realize that, our final product should not only help the international students. Instead, it should also be useful for students coming from other states, or even local students.  

We gave our CUI a cool name: Wingtip, a wingman that gives your tips all the time. 



To let Wingtip be accessible to all the students, we implemented it on the Husky Card, which always stayed with students, becoming an essential part of their campus lives. Wingtip could also be used on smartphones, because a smartphone could communicate with its user via both text and voice. We knew that in some circumstances it was not convenient to start a conversation, so Wingtip could also use text messages to communicate with students.

In the end, we created the video prototype shown previously to demonstrate the idea of "Wingtip in real life."

Final presentation

There were two main points for our final presentation: why Wingtip is necessary and how Wingtip works. I sat down with another team member to draft out a way to tell our story that filled all of the holes and accurately described Wingtip's functions. We used the structure of an explanatory essay for the deck, also paid lots of attention on the visual elements of our deck, to make it enjoyable to read.


Wingtip - Your new best friend in college.

Team: Maddy Harrison, Mingxiao Hu, Natalie Huang, Olivia RaoSummer Shang.

My role: research, persona development, storyboarding, interaction design, filming.

Winter 2016 // Be Boundless.