UO launches mobile interface design competition

The UO’s office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education (RIGE) officially launched the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge with a Kickoff Coaching Session on Oct. 10 designed to get teams excited about competing. The contest offers students from any discipline the chance to win $15,000 by designing the best graphical user interface (GUI) for a mobile platform. The final deadline for teams to enter the competition is Oct. 24.

The challenge is the brainchild of mobile technology pioneer Ed Colligan ‘83, former CEO of Palm and founder of Handspring. The theme for the contest is “Making Mobile Meaningful,” which challenges students to consider how mobile software and systems can add value and meaning in everyday lives.

The kickoff event featured a guest presentation from Peter Slovic of the Decision Research Institute. He challenged student so consider how their designs might address pressing global issues and discussed how psychology might come into play as students attempt to design an interface that will connect with users. Chuck Williams, assistant vice-president for innovation at the UO, discussed how teams could work with the UO’s Innovation Partnership Services if they design a concept that they want to seriously pursue beyond the competition.

The contest will move into its next phase of coaching today with a Concept Visualization event featuring presentations by Colligan and coaches Jason Germany, assistant professor of Product Design, and Ken Kato, associate director of the InfoGraphics Lab in the Department of Geography. The cooperation between the two departments illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of the challenge.

During the first weeks of winter term next year, final concepts will be presented to a panel of reviewers that includes Colligan, prospective investors and industry leaders. Based on the panel’s selections, prize money will be handed out to the winner and runner-up teams.

GUI’s — for example, the icons, buttons and other visual indicators on a smartphone that are touched to operate the device — are found in everything from hand-held devices such as MP3 players to portable media players to gaming devices to household appliances and office equipment.

“What I’d like to see is for this to snowball into an area of expertise for the University — graphical user interface design or user experience design,” Colligan said. “At some point it could even be a degree area of study and it starts being recognized as an area of excellence for the school.”

For more information on the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge, go to http://colliganchallenge.uoregon.edu/.