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University of Michigan School of Information


Percy Long

Percy Long and another person standing on either side of a sign for Cerence

Percy Long (MSI ’24) didn’t have to travel far in order to help create the future of travel. In Farmington Hills, Long is working in a satellite office of the software company Cerence, which develops artificial intelligence technology for automobiles. “What I’ve been doing is building a bridge between technology and human beings,” he said. 

As a UX intern, a position that he was invited to extend into the fall, he is testing two technologies that are intended to create a more seamless interaction between driver and car. One technology eliminates the need for wake-up words — like “Hey Google” and “Hey Siri” — when using a voice assistant. The other, called Cerence Look, detects a driver’s gaze to facilitate interaction with points of interest outside the car. 

“Basically, you look at something and you can ask what it is or give a command,” Long said. For example, a driver could glance at a coffee shop down the street and ask the voice assistant, “Does that shop have WiFi?” 

Long said he benefited from courses like SI 622 Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation and SI 501 Contextual Inquiry and Consulting Foundations, which taught him methods for interviewing users and collecting and analyzing data. But his internship has also represented a new experience. “I used to only have UX design experience — designing websites and apps and making them more user friendly,” he said. “But this was a little bit different, because it’s UX research. So it gives me a diverse background.”

He was excited by the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies and have an impact on products that he’ll someday see on the market. Down the road, Long hopes to become an entrepreneur himself. 

As an international student from China, he is aware of the additional challenges he might face in finding a job in the U.S. after graduation, given the need for visa sponsorship. When he was deciding between graduate programs, he heard about the comprehensive resources offered by the Career Development Office, including a designated career advisor. This was the deciding factor for him in choosing UMSI. 

“I don’t regret it at all,” he said.