MSI student presents at What If…? Conference in Las Vegas

Rachel Jaffe

Imagine walking into a building on a college campus and being able to pull up a mobile application that could show you if other students or faculty members in the area had expertise and research interests that could assist you in developing a project or idea.

Or if there was an app that could tell you that the route you are taking to work might pose unseen health risks based on the amount of car exhaust or other toxins you encounter along the way.

Rachel Jaffe, who is pursuing dual master's degrees in human-computer interaction from the School of Information and urban planning from U-M's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, is exploring ways to deliver location-based data to users in community settings with a goal of fostering interaction and collaboration.

The location-based apps that Rachel envisions would only work in one place and would be specifically designed with the physical environment of the place.  Increasing the precision of mobile networks or incorporating censors into building or urban designs could be potential techniques used to gather and deliver data to the applications.

Recently, Rachel explored what the future of the Internet and interconnectivity could like for collaboration and socializing through her presentation, "What if we could design the future experience of the city using place-specific digital applications?"

Rachel delivered the talk in December at the What If...? Conference in Las Vegas. [see video below]

The What If...? Conference brings together people with various levels of experience in their fields and gives them an opportunity to present their ideas, then participate in forums and breakout sessions to garner feedback and suggestions. The conference is structured to connect diverse groups and help people to innovate, build businesses, and further develop their ideas. 

Rachel said conference attendees provided her with overwhelmingly positive feedback, including teachers who were interested in using location-based apps in lesson plans that would challenge kids to explore their schools for clues on topics like foreign languages and require them to work together to translate the clues and figure out correct answers.   

Recently chosen as a Dow Sustainability Fellow, Rachel is also interested in developing projects that could help provide more digestible data to users and make them aware of pollutants or practices affecting the environment in their immediate area. 

With her background at both UMSI and in the Taubman urban planning program, Rachel sees a lot of opportunities for the two schools to collaborate in the future and combine technology with innovative design to create impactful urban plans and programs that can aid residents.

"I love the idea of how technology shapes the human experience and how it helps people interact, which is what I really like about technology and cities," Rachel says. "For future students coming to the UMSI or urban planning website, I would love for my dual degree program to be something that is more on the radar and recognized as a potential profession."

Watch Rachel’s What if…? Conference presentation:

Posted January 27, 2015