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Human Experience & Design


Our group is about designing and fabricating new human experiences with computing. These play on many different kinds of human values, from amplifying efficiency and effectiveness to creating delight and wonder in our interactions with technology. And they can be situated in any aspect of everyday life, from increasing productivity in the workplace to respecting the tenderness of family life.

To do this, we draw on diverse perspectives across the sciences, engineering, arts and humanities. Because of our skill-set, we are unique in being able to create and explore new experiences end-to-end, starting from technology insight, user understanding or design.

As a part of Microsoft, we aim to build new technologies, to map out new design spaces, and to provide different ways of looking at human behaviour from low level interaction through to the social and cultural ramifications of technology.

(HXD was formerly called Socio-Digital Systems, part of Computer-Mediated Living.)


Current Projects




ASSESS MS is a system to support the clinical assessment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) using Kinect. The aim is to quantify changes in motor ability to enable more consistent and finer grained tracking of disease progression than currently possible. It is developed by a multi-disciplinary team of Human-Computer Interaction Researchers, Machine Learning Researchers, and Health Professionals, who have worked together over a period of 18 months to shape the system. A substantial challenge for the human-computer interaction has been to create a recording tool that captures neuro-assessment movements performed by patients with sufficient standardisation in the clinic. Our research has drawn on multi-disciplinary team meetings, design activities, observation of current clinical assessment practice, and user testing with healthy volunteers and patients to tease out design issues for depth-sensing computer vision in real world contexts.


Digital Possessions


Increasingly the things that matter to us live in the digital world, be they on computers and mobile devices, synced across Cloud services, generated as social media, or curated via sites like Pinterest. In this project we look more closely at what digital possessions are, where they are hosted and stored, how users can interact with them, and what this means for their relationships with them. Do users feel like they possess this content? And is this of concern to them, or has the landscape of Cloud computing, Web 2.0, and operating systems that hide away folder hierarchies changed the way we think about our digital stuff? If possession is important, how might it be supported?


Tenison Road Project


This project aims to better understand the relevance data has for the community living on Tenison Road in Cambridge and how it might use different kinds of local data in productive ways. While it is very much a project cooked up by some of us in the HXD group at Microsoft Research, the intention is for it to be a community-run project drawing on the collective interests and skills of people living and working on Tenison Road. The project was launched in October 2013 and has involved meetings and conversations amongst the people on Tenison Road and those of us at Microsoft Research. The emphasis here has been on working out what matters to Tenison Road and how data could play a role. Alongside these threads of conversation, we’re also building a number of systems or ‘data-instruments‘ to collect, aggregate and share relevant and meaningful data. Overall, the project is intended to illustrate how data can be thought about in deeper and more meaningful ways. At all levels, it is intended to be a common exercise in which we collectively work through the things that are important to a street and figure out new ways to participate and engage in social life.


Proximity and Social Devices


While we live in a world of heterogeneous devices and applications, our practices and experiences with these remains fractured. The notion of social device ecologies is to develop experiences that wirelessly and seamlessly and extend across multiple co-proximate devices in ways that exploits their combination of affordances. The idea is that devices and applications can be made aware of capabilities of other devices in the same place to enable richer and more continuous user experiences across them.


Touchless Interaction in Surgical Settings


Surgery is increasingly reliant on medical imaging to “look” inside the body with minimal physical invasion. However, a surgeon’s interaction with images is constrained by their need to maintain sterility. Re-scrubbing is time consuming, and instructing others to manipulate equipment interferes with a surgeon’s interpretation of the images. Working with two partner hospitals, we are developing two systems for manipulating image data. One is in partnership with vascular surgeons at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital in London, and the other with neurosurgeons at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. Both systems support surgeons to manipulate 3D renderings in ways which are sensitive to their existing practices and teamwork. This study is funded by MS Connections in collaboration with the Computer Vision group and Lancaster University. View Project Page with Machine Learning and Planning group.


Previous Projects




 Bill Buxton



Some Recent Publications



    • Kenton O'Hara, Gerardo Gonzalez, Abigail Sellen, Graeme Penney, Varnavas, Helena Mentis, Antonio Criminisi, Robert Corish, Mark Rouncefield, Neville Dastur, and Tom Carrell, Touchless Interaction in Surgery, in Communications of the ACM, December 2014.


    Issue 4 of our free magazine is all about Digital Possession

    Each issue of "Things We've Learnt About..." summarises the work of the Human Experience & Design group around a specific theme. Issue 4 is all about DIGITAL POSSESSION. It's packed full of insights and ideas that explore how we think about the digital things we own, all presented in way that we hope is interesting, insightful and inspirational. And most importantly, succinct. Get it here!

    Download Issue 4


    Trust, Computing and Society

    Trust, Computing and SocietyThe latest book from HXD is Trust, Computing and Society, (Harper, Ed). This set of essays explores the question of trust in computing from technical, socio-philosophical, and design perspectives.

    Reviews: 'Timely, nuanced and refreshing'; 'successful, thought-provoking, timely'.

    Being Human Report

    HXD, along with 40 or so of the world's best HCI researchers, have put together a report for anyone interested in the ramifications of our digital future and in ways society must adjust to the technological changes to come.


    Recent Press Coverage


    Contact Us

    Human Experience & Design
    Microsoft Research
    21 Station Road
    Cambridge CB1 2FB
    +44 1223 479700


    The Human Experience & Design group is always looking for interns and Post-docs. For more information, visit Microsoft Research Careers.

    MSR also funds PhD scholarships - in computer science primarily but in all the social sciences and humanities. Currently, the Human Experience & Design group is working with Professor Constantine Sandis, author of The Things We Do and Why We Do Them, on the philosophy of communication. Applicants for a PhD in that subject should apply here.