Barbara Holmes
Barbara Holmes

Posted on: March 20, 2013

In: Design


I recently attended the March Computer Human Interaction Forum of Oregon (CHIFOO) meeting, Experiential Makeovers: Transforming “Killing time” into “Making memories”.

I have attended many a CHIFOO event here in Portland, Oregon, but none so captivating or energizing as the recent talk given by Christopher Stapleton, Creative Catalyst of Simiosys. Chris has the jaw-droppingly fabulous job of designing full-on sensory experiences that combine the physical and the digital. His company Simiosys bills itself as “an applied research company specializing in innovations with experience design for education, entertainment, training, tourism and marketing.”

That sounds high-falutin’ and perhaps vague, but what it really means is this: Designing theme park rides and environments for Disney and Universal Studios. And this: Designing an artificial reality simulation for a hospital clinic that teaches life skills to patients with traumatic brain injury. Or this: Transforming a tired and dusty dinosaur exhibit into an immersive (literally) experience where giant fishes and dinosaurs come to life and you control their behavior. And finally, this: Bringing history to life by transforming a “standup and read” exhibit on WWII and the Holocaust to one with sound, video, embedded digital sensors and special effects, in which peering through a keyhole triggers ghost story-like re-enactment of the atrocities of the Holocaust.


Simiosys creates Phydgital Interspaces™ which combine the physical senses with the digital environment, and works to engage people in the space between a computer interface and a physical space. Christopher shared his passion and commitment to the premise that the interface will soon be dead — that the goal of designers is to create experiences so immersive, so captivating and intuitive that the GUI is no longer needed. The storytelling is the crux of the experience, and the designer’s ability to create a space in which people create memories.

I was enthralled by his presentation and inspired by his perspective on design, especially tenets such as “The smallest moments make the biggest impression” and “Easier is better than hard, but fun is better than easy.”

Using elements of fun to drive behavior is powerful, and snaps neatly into our own commitment to providing our clients with moments of delight. It re-energized my commitment to bring great ideas to our clients and to show them that the fusion of digital and real-world experiences is the customer experience.


(Bonus: If you’ve got a LiveScribe account, you can hear audio here.)

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