Projects

Projects that have run in the Knight Lab Studio.

Design Research

Inspiration and Ideation

Audience Engagement and Onboarding with Hearken

Students are working closely with the team at Hearken, and are gaining valuable insights into how important audience engagement is to our media landscape.

Auditing the News Evaluating News Quality on Smart Speakers

Alexa, Siri, Google Home, Cortana—smart speakers and agents are now used by about 20% of US homes. People use them to ask about weather, set timers, play games, get information, or listen to the news. But are these devices delivering high-quality news and information or could they be misinforming and sharing “junk” news? This project aims to find out. By developing an audit method that defines what queries to audit and systematically collects data on the results over time for those queries from several different smart speakers, the project will allow for an assessment and comparison of news quality from these different devices.

Civic Engagement with City Bureau

As local news organizations shrink, many civic advocates fear that no one will be monitoring the day-to-day processes that make city governments run. As part of their innovative approach to closing news gaps and promoting civic engagement, Chicago’s City Bureau has developed their “Documenters” program to train citizens to observe and record public meetings. As they develop this team of citizen journalists, they are now considering the complementary question: what is the most effective way to make the work they produce available and useful to Chicagoans?

For this project, the Northwestern student team will conduct design research and prototyping to explore solutions. Students will be expected to be in close contact with City Bureau’s team, with current documenters, and with engaged citizens who want to stay informed about what’s happening at the heart of these civic processes. Students should be prepared to go out into Chicago to meet with these people face to face for interviews, observations, and prototype testing.

Crowdsourcing for Journalism

Many important news stories are buried amidst huge numbers of documents. And sometimes, those documents are hard for news organizations to process, either because of the sheer number, or the formats in which the documents are published.

Historical Census Data

Census Reporter is a tool that helps journalists find and understand data from the US Census American Community Survey (ACS), making that data much more easily accessible and digestible. However, it only presents data from the most recent ACS releases.

Open Data Reporter

“Open data" might be a buzzword, but there are still significant obstacles to taking advantage of valuable datasets. They can be hard to find, hard to clean, and hard to manage. Human-centered design and a little coding energy can make it substantially easier for people to find stories and explore data. This team will approach a high-value public data set and aim to make the data more usable.

Podcast Discoverability

The podcasting landscape is overcrowded, with larger voices from legacy broadcast media sometimes drowning out new entrants. Browsing for new-to-you, quality podcasts is hard, with shows scattered across distribution platforms. This team will explore how we might provide users a better path to discovering new podcasts.

ProPublica Illinois

Students will design, develop, prototype and test one tool for community engagement, with a likely focus on the listening and information gathering stage.

Sidebar: Context without Clutter

Publishing a story requires a constant balancing act: you have to get to your point, but you don’t always know whether your audience is fully up-to-speed on the content. Or maybe in your research you found some really fascinating information, but you have to admit it’s kind of a distraction from your main point. The web was developed on the promise of linking between documents, but too often a simple link fails -- it doesn’t give the reader much sense of what sort of information is at the end of the link, and it runs the risk of sending your audience off down a rabbit hole, never to return to your work.

Smarter News

How might we better understand how to reach our audience, delivering the right news at the right moment, or for the right mood, or for the right amount of time?

Writing and Designing for Chatbots

Students will examine conversational user interfaces—that’s to say, using chat as a medium to interact with a bot.

Mixed Reality

Virtual, Augmented... It's all Reality

A Tool for Creating Shareable, Embeddable WebVR Stories

This team is looking at how to accommodate image formats from a variety of popular 360-degree cameras, including iPhone panoramas. The goal is to make a tool not only for journalists but also for any storyteller looking to tell a story in VR.

Augmented Reality Visualization Tool

Based on the outcomes of our a Exploring AR Visualizations project in the Winter, this project will take the unique forms of visualizations discovered and develop a tool that makes it easy for storytellers to build and embed augmented reality visualizations in their stories and projects.

Resurrecting History for VR

Automated Photogrammetry. As AR and VR increasingly becomes the focus as we move away from smartphones, media organizations will have to find ways to produce content native to those mediums. These same organizations have a wealth of stories that continue to have value over time. Flat video and photo will become less desirable as we continue to move into these new spaces. Previous projects in the lab have surfaced an opportunity to take existing video and process it using photogrammetry software to produce a 3D model.

Exploring Augmented Reality Visualizations

An experimental design project that explores visualizing data in three dimensions for augmented reality. Visualizations that can be examined and inspected by physically getting closer or understood by walking around them, open up exciting possibilities for how we communicate complex ideas and data that reveals hidden truths.

Exploring Data Visualization in VR

An experimental design project, in which we students are analyzing methods for communicating data visually and exploring how those principles might be transferred and transformed in a 360 environment.

Information Spaces in AR/VR

An experimental design project that explores an emerging concept of information spaces. This concept is behind Microsoft’s pivot to create future Windows operating systems that exist in mixed reality headsets. Students will explore the concept of a news/information app that exists in AR and/or VR. For example, a political news feed might exist on a wall in your living room, and breaking news would appear on a coffee table, twitter reactions surround the coffee table on the floor. Students will also explore the same concept in a virtual environment.

Designing Information Spaces for Augmented Reality

Immersive technology allows creators to engage users in new and novel ways, many of which can make the interactions users have with information easier or more meaningful. This project will look at a four different storytelling formats that exist today (a cooking blog, a sports broadcast, a web interactive and a podcast) and reimagine them for augmented reality using tools like Torch for iOS and Magic Leap’s Create tool.

Iterative Story Design Play-Testing Augmented Reality

This project will build on the work of the Location Based Storytelling Studio group from Fall 18 which produced and ran an initial play-test for an AR game about climate change. During Winter 19, we will continue play-testing and refining the game while gathering feedback from players through surveys and interviews. Can playing a game really impact attitudes about climate change? Which is more impactful--a game designed for “fun” or a game that’s more transparent about its educational goals?

Location-based Storytelling with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality allows creators to tell stories in the places where they actually happened. For the purpose of this project, we’ll be working with the concept of physical accessibility on campus. We will use the Unity game engine and a framework developed at Knight Lab so that we can quickly experiment and refine our ideas. We’ll spend some time early in the quarter looking at AR experiences from museums and tourist attractions as well as games like Ingress and Pokemon Go. From there, we’ll build an app and start testing it with users, refining ideas as we go along. We’ll consider the differences between gamified apps that include scavenger hunts or challenges and AR applications that lay out information in a more traditional way.

Navigating Virtual Reality

Though many in journalism are excited about VR, few are addressing real issues with making it attractive and interactive for their audience. This story team will explore the idea of making multiple three-dimensional VR photos around a scene and linking them together so that the user can navigate it. They’ll be exploring complex VR design challenges, such as how to move around space without disorienting the user and how to easily author interactive environments.

Oscillations: Immersive Virtual Experiences in the Performing Arts

Based on the outcomes of Oscillations project in Winter quarter, this project will continue exploring using the latest VR production techniques to create engaging VR experiences. Students will record performances using motion capture and use machine learning to teach a computer to improvise a performance.

Oscillations: Immersive Virtual Experiences in the Performing Arts

Based on the outcomes of Oscillations project in Winter and Spring quarters, this project will continue exploring using the latest VR production techniques to create engaging VR experiences. Students will record performances using motion capture and use machine learning to teach a computer to improvise a performance.

Oscillations: Immersive Virtual Experiences in the Performing Arts

Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience and immersive technologies provide mechanisms for engineering an entirely new mode of performance art — one that engages audiences to unprecedented degrees.

Photojournalism in 3D for VR and Beyond

In this project, students will use modern approaches to making 3D images both with hardware and software processing.

Projection Mapping

Imagine that any wall, building floor or doorway could come alive and tell stories. Using projection mapping, many artists, advertisers and industries are already doing it. In this project, students will explore ways in which projection mapping is currently being used and adapt them for journalistic purposes. Students will build and prototype their adaptations.

Storytelling Layers on 360 Video

In this project, students will film 360 video and explore the best ways to add on that additional layer; students will finish the quarter with two videos, and will document their findings to make their storytelling methods more accessible to others.

Product

Our most solution-oriented projects.

Conversational Fact Checking

The goal would be to provide factual verification of the news that supports further questions about the context (history, alternative points of view, evidence, etc.) of a news story and/or quote. The challenge would be to provide immediate access to the facts in real or semi-real time.

Creative Co-Author

Creative Co-author is a creative writing enhancement tool that focuses primarily on pounding out the first draft. It is type-ahead cranked up to eleven. It types ahead, lurks behind, and generally peers over your shoulder while you pound out words in a speed-draft writing reverie.

This second iteration of the co-author will build on the research done in the first iteration and focus on moving from concepts developed in that research to a working interactive anti-writer’s-block tool. In particular, we will improve work recommendations by considering context, look into UX improvements to enhance author flow, and will move to sentence-level generation for richer creative inspiration.

Creative Co-Author

Creative Co-author is a creative writing enhancement tool that focuses primarily on pounding out the first draft. It is type-ahead cranked up to eleven. It types ahead, lurks behind, and generally peers over your shoulder while you pound out words in a speed-draft writing reverie.

Factchecking Flow

While Artificial Intelligence is all the buzz, there are a lot of opportunities for technology that augments human intelligence instead of replacing it. An important but time-consuming part of editorial review is verifying all facts in a story. Is there a way we can augment the capabilities of writers and editors to make this work faster and better? Building upon promising results in the Winter edition of the studio class, we will continue developing a system which makes humans more effective in this phase of publishing a story. This project will be a combination of theory and practice: the focus will be on developing a functional system that is as ready for release as possible, but we will keep our eyes out for "stretch" opportunities and invest some time exploring how they might take shape.

Interactive Audio

This team will design an interactive audio/radio story, almost like Choose-Your-Own-Adventure meets Serial. We’ll be creating it for the Amazon Echo, a bluetooth speaker outfitted with microphones so that you can talk to it. What makes this device different is that it has no screen; you command it with your voice. This kind of interaction is relatively new territory; how people talk to it, and how to talk back, will be fertile ground for this project.

Juxtapose Improving a Storytelling Tool

Juxtapose helps storytellers compare two pieces of similar media, including photos, and GIFs. It’s ideal for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.). This popular tool could be more useful to storytellers and web-makers if it had a couple of key features that have come up in user feedback. Auto aligning images and animated GIF social sharing are two features that would be of great improvements.

Legislator Tracker

Since the last elections, public interest in contacting elected representatives about legislation under consideration has boomed. News organizations could do better addressing the public's interest in understanding how their representatives are planning to vote on various issues.

Personalize My Story Automatically Adapting News Article Text for Individual Users

Algorithmic news curation aggregators (e.g. Google News) are sometimes known to personalize the selection of stories shown to individuals. But far less is known about the potential for article-level personalization in which an article is automatically re-written to appeal to different types of users, perhaps even adapted to each individual. Could this be used to manipulate, persuade, inform, or engage people more effectively? The goal of this project is to prototype one or more templates for automated news articles that adapt to different types of people or individuals based on a given user model based on the types of information a news site might know (e.g. gender, age, race, location, interest-level, etc.). These templates will be used to produce personalizable news articles that are published to the web.

Photo Bingo

Create a mobile application which could be used by a news organization to involve their audience in covering a festival while having fun.

Story for You: Writing stories for people who don’t want to read them

Studies have shown that people on opposing sides of political issues use fundamentally different language to discuss their views. One of the effects of this is that people living in News Filter Bubbles can immediately notice and then discard stories that use the terms associated with their opposition.

Storyline: Charts that tell stories.

One of the most common problems we see in data storytelling is how and when to introduce an editorial layer onto a visualization. Mobile devices afford us very little real estate to work with, and interactivity must be limited. But without a “story” layer, users are left without the context to understand what events might impact or inform a trend. They see something going up or down but don’t see why. “Storyline” will be a tool for creating stories around line graphs.

Talking to Data

The aim of this project is to provide users with a conversational interface to data sets that allow them to first describe what the data is about, where the various elements that they can ask about can be found, and then ask questions about the data.

Watch Me Work: Search driven by your own writing

As we work, we often need information to support our thinking. This often requires turning away from the work, pulling up an engine and then typing in a query. If you are writing, however, the queries that we need are already embedded in the text of the document we are authoring.

Sensors

Using sensors to collect information about our environment.

Environmental Reporting with Sensors II

Sensor journalism uses sensors to collect information about our environment. It opens new possibilities for journalists enabling them to collect and process data that might not be available or at a level of detail not previously available.

Environmental Reporting with Sensors

Sensor journalism uses sensors to collect information about our environment. It opens new possibilities for journalists enabling them to collect and process data that might not be available or at a level of detail not previously available.

Privacy Mirror

The average person today that has a smartphone, walks around leaking information about themselves over radio signals. WiFi, bluetooth and NFC radiate personal information into the public airwaves. These signals can tell you a lot about a person without their knowledge. To raise awareness around privacy and security for digital devices, this project will seek to create a “mirror” that reflects back information that is radiating out from anyone who stands in front of it. Frequencies include: RFID cell phones, WiFi, bluetooth, Misc RF at 900Mhz 2.4Ghz 5Ghz

SensorGrid API and Dashboard

SensorGrid is Knight Lab's experimental prototype environmental sensor wireless network system. This project will focus on the design and development of the web API and user dashboard for SensorGrid data management and presentation.