The Future of Our Spatial Experience -
a Master's thesis project by Sara Vrbinc
supervised by prof Marjatta Itkonen + dr Laura Ferrarello
Aalto University, Helsinki + Royal College of Art, London
summer 2015

Follow this <link> to browse through the full thesis document, 
or scroll down the page to see/read the extract of my favourite chapter.


Abstract emerges as a dystopian question of how we might experience space in the future. The project observes our dependence on mobile devices, and questions what might be a behavioural consequence; how could artificial intelligence affect our own intelligence and cognition in the future, and what is a designer’s role in that.

Design mediates between technologies and people: it enables interaction by providing interface: a repository for organisation of information into a perceivable form and control of our behaviours. As such, design takes responsibility of how technology might affect our cognition: it transforms the role of technology into either sensory aid, extension, or replacement.

Project criticises the way design makes the AI interactive for people. Throughout the theoretical research, it probes this question and gathers knowledge from cognitive neuroscience and computer engineering. Additional research testifies how the latter responds in people’s experiences; how interfaces affect their spatial behaviour. Research has show that navigational applications provide an interaction, while AI takes over some prior human tasks (insight, planning, decision) that are otherwise performed by people’s brain while they are fully aware of their movements. In such case, people’s brain automatically creates a mental map that later on serves as a repository for thinking, learning, memorising, and imagining future steps. But, if an app does that instead of us, and when our phone suddenly dies, then we are left with our mind empty, not knowing where to go, neither where we are.


I have (de)constructed the theoretical framework of design for spatial behaviour, and proposed new concepts of spatial learning, principles for designing while using the AI in order to support our own cognitive performance. To apply the latter to a concrete case, I have designed a conceptual tangible interface for spatial experience. proposes a design solution, a playful tool for experiencing space, a conceptual interface that forms an abstract framework of spatial and temporal reference through two small, skin adhesive, marbles. While it draws attention to joy, haptic feedback encourages psychomotor learning and so facilitates active memorisation. It uses synthetic technology to achieve data privacy and lets people control actionable data through latent interaction. As such, it shifts the focus from functionality to meaning.

Project aims to make everyone involved, rethink where are we going, and how to be aware of our path now, before we suddenly get lost in the future without knowing what went wrong.


way-finding, tangible interface, ubiquotous computing, wearable technology, cognitive performance, spatial learning, future implications of interaction design practice