I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.


User Research, Interaction Design
Spring 2009
School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University in collaboration with Beijing Tsing Hua University

Omar Ramirez, Rui Wang, Michelle Li (Hong Kong PolyU)
Pai Liu, Han Tang, Litang Wang (Tsing Hua University)
Role: User research and interviews, concept development, web UI, interaction model poster, product photography, process report, presentation

Named after the Chinese goddesss of the sea, protector and guiding light of sailors and fishermen out at sea, Mazu is a modular communication system that keeps solo travellers in touch with loved ones back home while also providing a safety net for the traveller in medical emergencies. The system consists of a sleek tabletop device holding four wearable devices. The independent traveller will take and wear one of the Mazu pieces, which transmits GPS data and emotional state information back to the core Mazu block as a way for loved ones to keep an eye on the traveller as he embarks on his adventures.

User Research

The team targeted a broad group of travellers that we categorized as the Wandering Traveller, who is spontaneous, free-spirited and loves to connect with the local culture and people while exploring the world. To get a better sense of these travellers, we set up an online survey to collect stories, memories, and photos of people’s travel experiences to understand their values, motivations and what they deem important while abroad. We conducted in-depth interviews to get a better sense of their various backgrounds and demographics, their motivations for travelling alone, and to understand their different concerns and needs while travelling. Synthesizing our user data, we found a positive correlation between the sense of adventure of the travellers and their level of sociability, that is, their willingness to speak to strangers and meet new people. The travellers exhibiting the highest correlation are more likely to travel on their own and to venture out of their comfort zone.

Identifying Problems and Opportunities

From analyzing our data we decided to focus our target group on what we categorized as the Solo Culture Seeker. The culture seekers are those who enjoy travelling outside of their country/continent in search of different cultural experiences. The solo traveller chooses to visit a new destination to explore a different way of living, gain new perspectives of the world and to challenge oneself. We came to realize that while travelling, our target users do not care to make the effort to keep in touch with people back home, however, their family and friends may be concerned about their well-being or are simply interested in their travels and locations they have visited. It was only when a few people in our target group had encountered various medical emergencies on their travels that they longed to get into contact with their loved ones back home. We identified problems that our interviewees had encountered and created storyboards illustrating our users’ experiences. We then designed ideal scenarios to address and solve those problems.

Interaction Design
Mazu records a log of the traveller’s data like location, physiological data, health stats, activity states (awake or asleep). Medical records may also be stored  in Mazu in the case of emergencies. Overall health and emotional state information are transmitted back to the core Mazu block at home in an interpreted form of colour, light intensity, and pulse– giving the traveller’s loved ones a sense of connectedness and presence over distance. Loved ones can also check the traveller’s detailed profile online to view his past locations, current location and general health. Messages can also send a short message to the traveller that can be received on the traveller’s device. In medical emergencies, the traveller can present Mazu’s stored medical records and the physiological data logs to medical professionals, who can easily review and analyze with minimal language barriers.  Finally, a quick press of the emergency button on the device informs family back home of the health emergency so that members can go online, find out the contact details of his medical institution and easily get in touch.