BA Student Emily deGrandpre Presents App at Global Grad Show in Dubai

Emily deGrandpre, BA ’19 (center) co-developed the Amica app with School of Design class of 2018 alumni Tina Park (left) and Joseph (Ji Tae) Kim (right).

Emily deGrandpre, BA ’19 (center) co-developed the Amica app with School of Design class of 2018 alumni Tina Park (left) and Joseph (Ji Tae) Kim (right).

By Kathryn Reilly

Emily deGrandpre, fourth-year Bachelor of Arts in Architecture (BA) student, traveled to the Global Grad Show in Dubai this past November to present the app Amica that she co-developed with School of Design class of 2018 alumni Joseph (Ji Tae) Kim and Tina Park. The app acts as a social media platform to allow the “trailing spouses” of recently internationally relocated workers to connect with people and experiences in their new community. Amica was part of a select group of projects invited for inclusion in the event, which exhibits graduate work from the world’s leading design and technology schools. Since launching in 2015, the show has grown to become the world’s largest such student gathering.

The Global Grad Show, curated by Brendan McGetrick, was located in the Dubai Design District as a program within Dubai Design Week from 12-17 November 2018. Under the theme of “Design for Connection” the show highlighted projects that bring people together and help build communication and community. The event included works from 100 universities and 61 nationalities, brought together in a single space and presented to the public by the designers. Emily represented her group amongst an impressive field of invited artists, computer scientists, academics, designers, and engineers. "It was a great experience and I was able to interact with a lot of designers from around the world,” said Emily.

The team developed Amica as a final project for CMU professor Wayne Chung’s course “Tools for UX Design” in the fall of 2017. Students were asked to identify opportunities where technology could play a significant role in people's interactions and experiences. Amica was “designed to help newcomers find a sense of community” in their new hometowns by supporting their exploration of new social environments and experiences. The app acts as an artificially intelligent personal assistant that learns from inputs in the UI as well as spoken one-on-one conversations with the user. Using Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, Amica then shows the user recommended events and groups in their area, and suggests individuals that the user may want to connect and interact with.

While developing Amica, the design team was cognizant of how social media can isolate people so they sought to create a technology that’s centered on bringing people together through in-person communication and community building. The designers’ intention is that Amica will allow traveling spouses to “make their new home feel like home.”

The app is the group’s response to the question of whether responsible AI can radically improve human experience. “I've always struggled to organically cultivate new relationships as a foreigner,” said Joseph Kim. “I hope Amica could help foreigners find hope and navigate through the immense transition in their lives by enabling them to continue their passions and share these experiences with those who are in the same shoes.”

Kathryn Reilly is a third-year Professional Writing student in the Carnegie Mellon University Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.