Interaction Design

Visual Design



Time Frame

9 weeks


Concept Video

3D Modeled Objects

Interaction Flow

Presentation and Pitch


Mai Bouchet

Terrie Chan

Zihan Cheng

Emi MacLeod

Raj Makker

Shelley Xia

Totem is a concept for a mixed reality experience using Microsoft’s Hololens, focusing on visualizing, preserving, and sharing memories.


This product was created in conjunction with sponsors for Microsoft specifically for the 2017 Microsoft Design Expo, and answered the prompt to create Intentional Design for Positive Cultural Impact in Mixed Reality. Our team really wanted to focus on creating an entirely new mixed reality experience instead of using expected and inappropriate 2D based UI in a 3D world.

Our teamed formed with the initial idea that we would be creating an experience within the context of the home. After some secondary research we came to the conclusion that homes can be defined as an amalgamation of memories, collections, and people. To build on top of that, we realized that to focus on these three aspects really meant that we were focusing on objects, relationships, and experiences. Totem is the intersection of these three ideas.


  • Create innovating, 3D oriented interfaces
  • Leverage the concept of home as: memories, collections, and people

Conceptual Model

Reminiscing and memory are an inherent part of our lives. Totem works to express and visualize these memories and anchor them to specific objects in our homes.

By using gesture, voice, and both user collected and open source data to recreate environments of memories, users can tailor their experiences to be as accurate to their own memories as possible. The beauty of personal memory is that it is fallible and not just total recall, which is why we decided to let users create these memories instead of just having a device record their lives.


Storyboard illustrations executed by Shelley Xia


  • Create an cohesive understanding of a typical use case before fleshing out protoypes and interaction flows

Before jumping into the details of the way the interactions would look, we wanted to think of a scenario in which this would be used. How could we depict our general idea without getting too focused on prototyping just yet? We created a storyboard that depict a scenario in which the daughter of a family finds an old mug that is filled with memories, and the family recreates those memories together.

Early Prototypes


  • Prototype interactions before creating high fidelity mock ups
  • Explore novel interaction models within 3D space

In order to depict the initial design execution of our idea, we created a series of short gifs and images to demonstrate how these interactions may look. I was very interested in staying away from 2D inspired interfaces that mimic desktop or mobile interactions. With the ability to explore 3D interactions as well as gesture and voice, we wanted to push the boundaries of these design paradigms.

Each object will have all the saved memories attached to it as visible spheres, or the user has the option to create a new memory.

In the event that a user is entering a saved memory, there are several levels of immersiveness. Each level enhances the detail of the sound and visuals as the user becomes more and more immersed. These interactions are controlled by gestures.

Once the user is immersed in the memory, they may experience it as is, or edit things as they see fit.

Users can then invite others to collaborate, or insert new information using photos, videos, and digital content to make the memory more "accurate."

Interaction Flow

Interaction Flow visualization executed by Terrie Chan


  • Decide when to use voice or gesture interactions
  • Find any holes in logic or the interaction flow

We decided to solidify both the concept of our storyboard as well as the functionality of our UI by creating an comprehensive interaction flow to detail the user's journey and experience.

Final Prototype


  • Express Totem concept in a succinct and clear way
  • Visualize interactions

Finally we created a video prototype (available at the top of the page, and also here) to tell the story of not only how Totem works, but why it matters.

Totem lets us externalize and save our memories,

and choose how deeply we want to experience those memories,

whether it's just a little,

or maybe completely.

It lets us record how we remember our memories.

Totem allows us to make the ephemeral, tangible, to create lasting impressions and stronger connections.



  • Opportunity to learn how to to user test for mixed reality
  • Easier ways to prototype for mixed reality
  • More user research regarding gestures and interaction

Working in a field that in just now emerging created a really interesting space to work within. On one hand, there was an immense amount of freedom in terms of what we could come up with and how it could look. There were so many options and possibilities within the context of mixed reality that it was very much like being a kid in a toy store. However, because of how new this technology is, it was very difficult to prototype at the fidelity that we wanted to, or perhaps the fidelity that we were used to with 2D/on screen design. This is a project that I would have loved to see completed and built out, just to explore the different facets and challenges of working with virtual reality and designing for 3D space.

9 designers to write, act, shoot, edit, and present our final concept video

10 weeks from start to finish

3 sponsors from Microsoft to critique and guide our work

9 different software programs to develop, prototype, and present our work