Looking Glass

Conceptual play on augmented reality to help residents engage with public art.

Four month project at Carnegie Mellon University (August 2019 - December 2019)

Team members: Aaron Bishop, Emily Yang, Elizabeth La, Haley Park My contribution: I was a very pro active and supportive member of the team. My greatest strength was my work on the design side of all the assignments. For example, I built the low fidelity prototype, designed all the templates and final poster by myself. During this assignment I also learnt how to apply various design research methods and tools to my project.


My team and I wanted to explore the idea of what engagement with public art in Pittsburgh means to its residents. We noticed that the dialogue between the public art installation and the viewer is one-way and because public art tends to be static, installations cease to retain the interest and attention of residents and offer few opportunities for self-expression and connection.

So we asked ourselves:
How might we increase engagement around public art by creating a more dynamic and expressive experience for residents?

We wanted to create value around public art by letting residents engage with their local public art in new ways. We started by conducting secondary research and laying it out on a wall.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

Contextual Inquiry:

We observed how people currently engage with public art to learn more about their experiences with public art are. In teams of two we stood next to the public art and used the observe and intercept method to interview people who had either actively (taking pictures, pointing, etc) or passively (giving the public art a long glance, looking in that direction while walking) engaged with the public art.

I was surprised by my ability to walk up to strangers and start organic conversations. Many residents were willing to help me in my research process.

We then used affinity diagrams to draw insights:

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

We learnt that experience with public art can be very personal and people want a way to express their interpretations on public art.

Worst Idea:

We brainstormed the worst ideas to implement as a way of idea generation. Generating bad ideas helped us formulate our thought process and identify pain points and potential solutions.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

Think Aloud Protocol:

To determine the suitability of Augmented Reality (AR) for our final solution (creating a new dimension for people to interact with public art) we applied the think aloud protocol on an AR app called Wallame. We asked participants to talk aloud as they go through different screens on the app.

People were delighted by the AR but had a tough time navigating the app. The concept of AR was confusing or unfamiliar to a lot of people. We would have to be careful with any AR solution we proposed.


Through our insights we developed multiple concepts which we wanted to test out with users. So we walked participants through different storyboards showing varying concepts. Our concepts- ways to express opinions, engaging and sharing thoughts about public art.

I got the strongest reactions on my storyboard, which gave users a way to engage with public art. Through my storyboard I learnt that users want to engage, but are weary of concepts that vandalized/distorted the public art itself. They wanted a way to interact with public art, while keeping the artists intention intact.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

Experience Prototyping:

I created a low fidelity prototype for my team, so we could find out if people want to engage creatively with public art and share their contribution. We got overwhelmingly positive results.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

Local residents have a stronger desire to contribute to local art projects.

"I want to make a contribution to this type of public art project but I have never seen anything like this."

People want novel experiences, surprising and new interactions with the art that does not subvert the artist’s intention.

"I feel like collaborative art is endearing, especially when the community comes together. I would be curious to see what the community wanted to see."

People are curious to see what others’ thoughts/interpretations are.

"I like to see temporary spins on a permanent installation… [but it] needs to root back to the purpose of the installation … [and] the original intent of the art."

Users felt that hand-held electronics were a distraction from the art rather than a medium through which to engage with the art.

"I think it’s interesting that he walked out of his way to look at this from a different view, almost like he’s making the most out of his experience embracing this art."


The Pittsburgh LookingGlass is a conceptual play on augmented reality, fixed to a specific physical location. It is a transparent smart board placed near a public art installation that viewers use to illustrate overtop the art, comment on the art, and take photographs of the augmented view of the art.

To validate our concept, we left our prototype in front of the Agnes Plaza in Pittsburgh, to see if residents would interact with our prototype organically. Three residents illustrated on the prototype by follwing the directions printed on the stand. They also posted their interactions on our instagram page without us prompting them.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

LookingGlass provides local residents a way to express their creativity and have a dialogue with their community. The LookingGlass can feature collaborations with other artists and give Pittsburgh residents a means to contribute to public art and see the art in new ways.

Labeling existing pages on Ameriprise screen

The new navigation is currently being built by the public site agile team.