Weekly Wrap Up - Small Bot in the Big(ish) City
16 Aug 2016
Hey, there good-lookin’. You know we’ve got something (bots, in particular) cookin’, so how about we cook something up for you?
Yeah, we’re looking at you Denver, with your lights ever-gleaming (some almost 24 hours) and your urban sprawl bursting with fun names like LoHi and RiNo; add us to the list of new residents because we’re moving in.
Well, kinda. You may have noticed the lack of elbow room we have here in Boulder, so we’ve packed some snack-pack bags and set our sights on the big city for urban pastures. That’s right, we’ve locked down some temporary work space in the OG neighborhood of LoDo for those of us who commute from the Mile High city on the daily, extending the life of our gas mileage and giving other Spheroites breathing room.
The new office is pretty rad, within walking distance to Union Station, awesome neighbors and great local fare to choose from. Tired of walking that whole block back and fourth to feed your meter? A quick hop on the 16th Street Mall Ride will cure what ails you. Or maybe will just ail you, depending on what time of day you choose to go. That scary hallway has also become a right of passage as you make your way to the bathroom, and we’re enjoying the proximity to 5 Starbuckses to make sure our caffeine supply never runs dry.
What we’re trying to say is we like you, Denver…A LOT and we hope you like us too.
And even though we’re excited, we don’t want to rush anything. So, is it cool if we take things slow?
Just keep being your beautiful, classy self and we’ll keep making our rad, classroom-friendly bots inside of you.
A Day In The Life: Amara Poolswasdi Hulslander
Q. Okay. To start this off, would you mind telling us your name and title here at Sphero?
A. Amara Poolswasdi Hulslander, Senior Experience Designer.
Q. And what do you do at Sphero every day?
A. I design the digital and physical inter-usability of our products. I also lead all of our user research efforts, ensuring that the products we create are enjoyed by people of all ages and technical abilities. I fight to ensure that our users are represented during our product development process.
Q. Keep fighting the good fight. What advice can you offer for others looking to influence the UI experience?
A. It'll be hard to find a degree program that'll prepare you for a job like this. It's a very new field. The best thing you can do to be prepared for something like this is to get into something like digital design or engineering, where you get as close as possible to creating a product. Ideally you'd also like to talk to or observe others, so if you're academically inclined, loading up on social science classes will definitely help. You don't have to be an expert in any one thing. Some of the best experience designers I know are masters in many crafts. All you really need is an undying enthusiasm to create the best user experience possible, an insatiable desire to learn, the ability to work quickly, and the humility to take direction from others.
Q. Solid advice all around. Can you share what you’re currently working on?
A. I'm currently working on preparing the Star Wars Force Band for launch!
Q. Besides that cool thing—and we thank you for it—what do you enjoy most working at Sphero?
A. One of the best things about working at Sphero is being able to observe the way that people play with our products, and being able to take those insights back to my team. It's also great being able to take our products into classrooms and to see all the creative ways kids interpret how to use our products.
Q. Do you favour one of our bots more than the others?
A. SPRK will always be my favorite. It helps level the playing field for non-technologists and allows people to dabble with programming concepts without the usual cognitive heavy-lifting generally associated with computer science.
Q. So what do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. Outside of Sphero, I teach at General Assembly-Denver and University of Colorado-Denver. I'm very passionate about design and having come from an under-resourced design school, I'm incredibly passionate about making this occupation accessible to others. My ultimate goal is to prepare my students to become the most valuable design thinkers our world has ever known, so that they are the ones to solve the hardest human-facing technological problems that we've yet to identify.
Q. That’s quite the endeavor we can get behind. What do you love most about living in Colorado?
A. I greatly enjoy the proximity to the mountains and to other metro cities. I'm only a few driving hours away from skiing, and a few hours by plane to each coast.
Q. Are there any places you recommend we gotta see or check out?
A. The interior of Union Station is one of the most beautiful places I've seen. I enjoy sitting inside Union Station during rush hour, watching the commuters and travelers rushing to and fro. I do my best thinking while I am or others are in transit, and being around others who are so purposefully-driven -- even if it is fleeting -- provides me with a creative respite.
Q. Okay, I’m counting on Union Station for eureka moments. Last question: Tell us something surprising or unexpected about yourself.
A. I'm currently training for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge in early January 2017 - you run a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday. Wish me luck!