Thesis Project 01: Topics

It’s very exciting to start a two-semester journey of my thesis project. I hope my thesis project can be a persuasive potential startup concept in the real world that can achieve business viability, technical feasibility(Have some core technical demos), and customer desirability. What I want to get out of this project is to think and do like an entrepreneur. What I fear most about the thesis is to make the concept to be executable in the real world, which is big enough to make it valuable and also small enough to make it feasible using limited resources. So I think scalability is the most challenging part I need to pay attention to in this thesis journey.

SPEEDex: My undergraduate thesis project at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China

The Reflection from my undergraduate thesis project:

My undergraduate thesis project is a tourist service framework that attracts more tourists from cities to spend their weekend in the villages with tourism resources near the high-speed railway by providing convenient modern integrated digital trip-planning and service-offering platform. This framework also aims to provide more intelligent economic growth opportunities for the rural areas near the high-speed railway. I took one month in the rural area in the northeast of China to conduct field research and finally the vision of this thesis project helped me win the Dean’s Graduation Award 19 at CAFA. However, the weakness of this project is obvious that although I was successful in validating the desirability in the tourist's side and stakeholders’ side(local residents and businesses, local government, the railway company), It was hard to introduce a small-to-big scalable roadmap to make this concept executable in the real world. As a result, I also received some critiques about the lack of viability evidence. So I would like to think more about the executable perspective in my graduate thesis project.

My first list of topics:

1. (Most interesting🌟) For people with amateur-level instrument skills, how might we provide an engaging opportunity for them to connect with each other through co-playing?

I am interested in this topic because I have instrument skills. I love playing the piano since I was little, and I also learn the violin at the university. I am passionate about making more friends with instrument skills and hope we can co-play together in some ways to enjoy a happy moment with a sense of achievement in our spare time.

54% of American households reported having a least one musical instrument player, the highest figure since the study began in 1978.” — Gallup Poll, American Attitudes Toward Music.

There are 128.58 million households in the U.S. in 2019 [A]. which means about 70 million Americans can play a kind of instrument. Of these 70 million Americans, 45.5 million people are adults. However, only 0.14 million people are pursuing their career as a musician or music-related workers [B]. As a result, I am interested in how the rest 45.3 million American adults with an amateur-level musical instrument skill spend their no-working spare time playing an instrument, or how many of them are still spending their spare time playing the instrument in their daily life (still using their instrument skill)? What stops them from playing an instrument? And if they are still playing, what do they want to get out of it?

97% of respondents that playing a musical instrument provided a sense of accomplishment and is a good means of expression…93% said playing an instrument helps make friends” — Gallup Poll, American Attitudes Toward Music.

This data shows people’s general needs for playing a musical instrument. It inspired me to further research the expectations and frustrations of non-musician adults with musical instrument skills who want to get a sense of accomplishment, get a good means of expression, and make friends from instrument playing.

As a young adult who has amateur-level skills in piano and violin, here are some of my assumptions to my target user group:

  1. Single or multiple musical instrument co-play is a desirable way for non-musician adults with musical instrument skills to get more sense of accomplishment, get a good means of expression, and make friends.
  2. Non-musician adults are hard to organize the co-play, because of the difficulty and complexity of finding local partners with the diverse musical instrument skills but in the same skill level, preparing the suitable multi-player music score, planning & managing training time, and sharing their co-play show with a broader audience.
  3. If having curated and guided opportunities, Non-musician adults with musical instrument skills are willing to spend their spare time co-playing with their friends who also have musical instrument skills, to get a sense of achievement and meaningfully interact with their friends.
  4. If having curated and guided opportunities, Non-musician adults with musical instrument skills are willing to connect with new people who have musical instrument skills and make friends through spending time co-playing with them.
  5. Non-musician adults with musical instrument skills are willing to share their musical achievement (a piece of new music they learned to play, a video about their instrument playing moments they recorded) to their family, friends, and a broader audience on the internet, to make it an unforgettable memory in their life.

I plan to conduct contextual inquiries among my friends to validate these assumptions.

There is no existing online musical instrument co-play platform for non-musician adults, because of the technical limitations. Currently, only professional composers have the skills to compose or customize multi-player music scores to meet the needs of different musical instrument compositions and players’ skill level compositions. However, the application of emerging music AI technology can be the technical opportunity to solve this issue. In 2019, trained music AI successfully recomposed an orchestral vision of a piece of traditional Chinese music. It shows music AI’s promising capabilities of efficiently processing the customizable tasks of recomposing multi-player music scores.

World’s first AI-composed orchestra music by Ping An Tech Institute. Image from Music Link:

Although there are no direct competitors in this market space, there are big players in the music AI industry and music co-creation industry.

  • In the music AI industry, there are a couple of big players using AI to generate music for professional or semi-professional composers and content creators (so-called AI music generator). The top three AI music generator companies are Amper Music, AVIA, Ecrett Music.
  • In the music co-creation industry, Smule is the top social singing & Karaoke app that enables users to make friends by singing together.

Besides, I noticed an interesting cultural difference between APAC and AMER about the popularity of Karaoke and its online format-Karaoke app. I want to research more about the reasons and its potential impact on my thesis project.

2. Treasure gaming experience of “ancient” video games in a more ritual way. (rephrasing…)

As an enthusiastic gamer, I have played almost 1000 video games since I was little. I was so happy when I found some people who shared the same game interest. I love talking with them about the details of the game. Unfortunately, a lot of games published 15 years ago already became “antiques”. They are not active in the mainstream game platform like Steam anymore. As a result, it’s harder and harder to find the fans of these ancient games to recall the happy memory of these games together. How might we create a more ritual way for gamers to record, share, and celebrate their happy moments and unforgettable memory in these ancient games?

There are a lot of competitors in this area, including the forum section in game platforms like Steam, independent game forum websites, and gaming video-sharing platforms.

3. Make children explore how daily products are made in an interesting way.

Complex things are built from simple things. I am interested in how to use AR to make children understand how the simple products in their daily life are made, such as cola cans, book s, power strips…How are they produced in the factory, and what raw material they are made from?

4. Help elderly people better organize and manage their home storage space.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the average American home contains 300,000 items. Compared to young people, elderly people find it hard to remember where is each item. How might we build a more intelligent home storage space management and organization system for elderly people to easily organize and find home items? I noticed the trends of leveraging voice assistant, wearable technology, and home IoT technology in the product & service market for elderly people. Can I use these techs on this topic?

5. Contextual Cloud Gaming On-the-go

Cloud Gaming on-the-go is a touchable future scenario for every gamer within 5 years due to the application of 5G. In the near future, people can use their mobile phone to play any game without the limitation of different game platforms. How might we provide on-the-go gamers with a more contextual gaming experience? For example, if you are gaming at the airport, you can play airport management games, with the gamers also at the airport. Will it become a compelling gaming experience? Not sure…



UX Designer at EY Design Studio | SVA IxD 21' | Designed at Logitech Gaming and Neo4j

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Frank Gong

UX Designer at EY Design Studio | SVA IxD 21' | Designed at Logitech Gaming and Neo4j