The Future of Email - OzCHI 24hr Competition

The Future of Email is a series of concepts dedicated to reducing information overload caused by continuous email streams. The project was completed as part of the the OzCHI 2013's 24hour Student Design Challenge.  Our final report and video were shortlisted from amongst 40 international teams, and we were invited to present our findings at the OzCHI conference in Adelaide Australia. I traveled to the conference and presented our work before the whole conference. We won the competition and our findings were published.

24 Hours - Competition
Skills - Low-Fi Mock Ups, Video Prototyping 

Team - Marcel Penz, Kalliroi Pouliadou, Yedan Qian, Siuyan Fang

Initial Research

From the broader topic of email overload, we narrowed our focus to professional work environments. Over the last 5 years, there has been a dramatic decrease in the use of email to spread personal information, as this has been instead pushed onto social media platforms. Therefore, the challenge of addressing email overload in the future is tackling it in the workplace. 

Final Concept

This was our final presentation video, delivered at the end of the 24 hour period. It covers 5 concepts for features to help people address and manage their daily email streams. 

Visual Overview

In a traditional email inbox, information is sorted by timestamp. There is no real hierarchy of content, creating a massive wall of identical looking pieces of text. This new visual overview clusters email information and attachments based on content. Imagine if every project you worked on was automatically sorted into a cluster, and all attachments, images, contacts and messages associated with it were all kept together. 


Timeline View

Today, email is used not just for communication, but also for archiving and looking back on your past workflow. Timeline view provides a birds eye perspective of your pevious and current projects. Scrolling through, you can see all the emails you sent relating to projects, which are color coded.  In this way you can see which projects were taking up more of your time at which points and gain a powerful tracking and planning tool. 


Eye Tracking

Here we proposed a system that would help filter through emails. By tracking the users eye movements with the computer's built in camera, the system can detect when they linger their eyes on a specific word. With a confirmation action such as winking, the user can have that word highlighted and tagged as a key term, thereby creating a filtering system. Additionally the system can use eye tracking to see if you fail to read a whole email, leaving a bookmark for future reference so no information is lost.


Proximity Based Data Field

Sometimes necessary attachments and information can be buried in piles of email threads. We proposed that if two people were working on the same project, and were within a certain range of each other, their tablets would automatically bring up all the necessary files so that they could collaborate. This would allow more fluid collaborations and save the time of having to dig through attachments. 


Text and Voice Recording

One of the main problems with exclusively written correspondence is that there is no obvious tone of voice. Emails are especially ambiguous, and you have to spend a great deal of time formatting your message in order for it to be understood as you intended. We proposed that the sender could record themselves reading the email they're about to send, and attach this recording along with the email.  This way, the receiver gets both the final text, and the audio containing the intended tone of the message.  


The Conference and Competition