From family games night to an apps challenge, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and Samsung Electronics Canada are joining forces to explore and improve human interaction with technology. The initiatives are intended to prepare young people for the realities of living and working in the ever-evolving digital media environment.
UTM and Samsung are collaborating on at least two projects this year – a Design Jam and the SPARK (Sharing Possibilities for Apps in Research and Knowledge) Apps Challenge. These innovative projects are enabling students to better understand the future of digital design, the user experience and the effect of new media on society. The initiatives encourage students to apply critical thinking and collaboration skills to designing and developing new media initiatives and to rethink the way users relate to technology. As a world leader in the development of technologies that facilitate knowledge sharing, Samsung has provided SMART TVs, smartphones and tablets for these projects.
“We are excited to work with Samsung Canada on these projects that will benefit our students, our graduates and, ultimately, our society,” says Professor Anthony Wensley, director of UTM’s Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology. “Through our partnership, we are focusing on the skills our digital design students will need when they enter the workforce and the innovative applications that will best meet the needs of our wired and networked community.”
“Samsung is dedicated to developing products that allow people to connect and share in ways that were never before possible,” says Philippe Lozier, director business development – convergence with Samsung Electronics Canada. “By participating in these initiatives, we are not only expanding our strong community partnerships in Canada, but also enhancing the hands-on student learning experiences at UTM, instilling a passion for technology into the leaders who will drive innovation in the future.”
The first of the projects, the Knowledge Media Design Jam, facilitated by U of T’s Knowledge Media Design Institute, focused on the question: What does a family games night in a networked home environment look like? Four teams of undergraduate and graduate students worked together to brainstorm, sketch, build wireframes and develop prototypes of digital games an entire family could enjoy. Projects ranged from a networked version of the board game Risk and family scavenger hunt to karaoke contest and multimedia game involving household chores.
One team developed a family activity that incorporated multimedia activities – such as photographing the family pet – into a networked municipal, national and global conquest game. The group envisioned a “smartTable” around which families could gather to play and share memories, images and videos of their day. Another team used a multi-player karaoke game to demonstrate how various platforms and devices could be used, instead of traditional game console systems, to play collaborative and educational games, while yet another developed a family scavenger hunt where devices became portals into Augmented Reality, hiding clues in the house.
Samsung and UTM are currently collaborating on another initiative – the SPARK Apps Challenge. High school students from southern Ontario have been invited to submit conceptual designs for apps focused on collaboration in education, business innovation or social responsibility. Early in 2012, the challenge will be extended to post-secondary students at U of T, Sheridan College and OCAD and Ryerson Universities who will be invited to submit functional prototypes. Winners will receive prizes and opportunities to further develop theirs apps for the Samsung and Android market.
These initiatives have been developed through a partnership of Samsung, UTM’s Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology and U of T’s Knowledge Media Design Institute. The Design Jam was hosted in September by ThingTank, a U of T-led public-private academic consortium that includes members from cultural organizations, digital media small and medium enterprises, and other post-secondary GTA institutions.