CMU HCII Department Marks 25th Anniversary with Film Retrospective by BOOM

In 1994, a group of Carnegie Mellon University faculty members created an interdisciplinary, collaborative center to focus on the complexities of human relationships with technology. The Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) was founded to integrate previously siloed aspects of computer science.

“The HCII was founded by people that really had a future vision of something that didn’t exist at the time,” Says HCII Geschke director and professor Jodi Forlizzi, “25 years ago, the institute looked very different. It was a handful of computer, cognitive, and social scientists. As the discipline evolved, design became a formative part of what we do. We created design research as a field and put it on the map, changing what human-computer interaction is.”

25 years later, the HCII is a predominant publishing force in the field, and is still considered one of the leading centers of human-computer interaction research in the world.

A list of HCII founders and contributors reads like a who’s-who of technology and design; Dan Siewiorek, Randy Pausch, Dan Olsen, Sara Kiesler, Brad Myers and current HCII Director, Jodi Forlizzi are just a small sample of the impressive pedigree within this first of its kind program. Today, the Institute recognizes 31 prestigious CHI/IEEE Fellows for their contributions to the advancement of engineering, science, and technology and value added to society. 

The innovative, user-centered research by HCII faculty and alumni is applied behind the scenes to the design of everyday things, such as the design of touchscreen scrolling. More than 1,000 HCII alumni now dot the tech and design landscape of the world among the bright lights of industry leaders Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, IDEO, NASA and Uber.

BOOM Creative is proud to have been chosen as the creative partner with HCII in the creation of a filmed retrospective of the formation of the program, and thoughts about the future potential of human-computer interaction.

BOOM’s task was to spend time with Forlizzi’s team and HCII members past and present, to capture their memories and thoughts into a cohesive, compelling story. BOOM’s Director of motion Mark Spaeder opted to devote most of the film’s visual content to the people that drive the program rather than the technology. “There’s no shortage of amazing technology and projects that have been developed or launched at CMU,” says Spaeder, “Invariably if you feature tech in a video, it looks dated in a very short time because the information curve is just expanding so exponentially every day. In talking with Jodi, it became clear that the story here is about the people – ‘The Human in the equation’ and that’s how we chose to depict it.”

Former HCII director Dan Olsen provided some thoughts about the unique nature of the program and where the next big ideas are going to come from, “If it’s not fun you’re doing it wrong. The great ideas do not happen at the center of a discipline in the field that’s settled. The exciting things happen at the boundaries. It’s where fields rub against each other, the spark gets created, and people have their deeply held ideas disturbed. That’s where the fun happens. And that’s what’s exciting about HCII.”

BOOM Creative Director Nyde Handley recalls a moment during the filming that underscored the human side of the program, “When we finished filming Dan Siewiorek and were packing up, he came out into the hall and talked about being an Eagle Scout to our junior cameraman, David, himself a recent Eagle Scout and current CMU Computer Science undergrad.  Dan’s eyes sparkled as he brought out a photograph of himself alongside his late friend and colleague Randy Pausch, and related Pausch’s quote about being an Eagle Scout from his book The Last Lecture – ‘Becoming an Eagle Scout is just about the only thing you can put on your resume at age fifty that you did at age fourteen–and it still impresses.’ “

“Boom really captured the history and essence of the HCII, from the story of how it was founded to the great spirit of the staff, students, and faculty that are here today. They helped to tell our important story, and convey how fundamentally important people are here!” said Forlizzi about the longform film, “The people who design, study and build systems, but more importantly the stakeholders that we build them for, and those who use them. And we’re happy when we know that we’ve improved the world with our research and development.”

Check out the full length film on Vimeo.

– Jodi Forlizzi
– Dan Olsen
– Skip Shelly
– Dan Siewiorek

– Director of Motion – Mark Spaeder
– Creative Director – Rob Nyde Handley
– Script/Moderator – Scot Fleming
– 2nd Unit Camera/Grip David Domalik
– Audio Capture – Rob Bayne
– Key Grip – Alex Fleming