A lifelong space nerd, I was blown away when I heard about OnSight, a Microsoft HoloLens experience that allows NASA scientists to navigate the surface of Mars using imagery captured from the Curiosity Rover. I met a creative leader of HoloLens, Riccardo Giraldi, at a conference in Milan, and was so impressed by the work he and his team at Microsoft presented.
The work was done in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jeff Norris, one of the NASA crew, described how people react when they experience OnSight:
"When they first encounter this project," Norris says, people "have a feeling of, 'Wow, I've lived to see this.'"
That's precisely how I felt. Mic. Dropped. It left me wanting to know a lot more about Riccardo and his work. I'll let him take it from here:
An Italian, beardy guy who likes to travel and observe people, learn about the world, and wonder how to make it a better place. (It turns out you can get paid to do that.)
I’m leading the NEXT’s (New Experiences and Technologies) incubation team at Microsoft. We work on a number of new secret devices and experiences that have not been announced yet. Most recently, the Microsoft Hololens and Windows Mixed Reality. I learn by doing. In fact, I’m still learning how to do my job, and I expect to never stop.
I grew up in a small town in Italy, which was a great place to live, but there were not many opportunities. So I moved to London and started working as a developer there at Unit9 before moving back to design. I have a mixed background that reflects my many passions: I studied electronics and design and learned how to program on the side.
Since then, I have lived in Stockholm, New York, and now Seattle, always looking for new opportunities to learn and grow.
Chrome WebLab by Google
Old family photo albums.
All my books, now spread across two continents, which I dream of reuniting as one big library.
And of course BMO [a stuffed, plush video game console from Adventure Time] because it makes my niece laugh out loud when we play together.
Mind Controlled Scalextric
You could argue that what I really do daily is to press a lot of buttons, scribble on a whiteboard, and discuss with people. Sometimes I travel.
As a creative leader, I strive to build inclusive environments that foster creativity and enable every individual to learn, grow, and express their full potential. Every day is different. We research, brainstorm, sketch, build, discuss, and learn as much as we can to iterate and constantly improve.
What I personally do daily evolves pretty much every year, and I believe the role of designers and creative leaders will keep evolving with the rise of artificial intelligence. I would be surprised if my current job still exists in ten years.
Sometimes all it takes me is a shower, a nap, a walk, or a good dinner with friends. It helps me to read a lot of books, travel, meet new people, and be immersed in new realities that are far from my daily bubble. And it’s good to have a creative process, both as a reference to give you confidence when you feel lost, and as a framework to break away from when you are inspired.
Introducing Microsoft HoloLens: Transform your world with holograms
Um...let’s see. In 2078 I’ll be 94, maybe somewhere in the countryside in Tuscany surrounded by my grand kids, and hopefully I'll still be curious to travel, learn, and give back to the next generation. It might be a good idea to plan to be somewhere in the hills, just in case global warming makes my hometown a beach town.
It’s hard to make predictions, and too easy to fall into the trap of describing a dystopian future.
As designers, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to influence what future we want to live in. It doesn’t matter how small our contribution will be, it’s worth trying to push for a desirable future scenario.
My desirable future scenario looks like this:
Some of us will live (probably with machines) on other planets, in the ocean, or the thermosphere, working hard to give us all an alternative to extinction and overpopulation.
We might have learned how to control our planet's energy, gravity, climate, and resources. Some of us will live (probably with machines) on other planets, in the ocean, or the thermosphere, working hard to give us all an alternative to extinction and overpopulation. We will find new ways to help animals stay alive. We will learn how to balance ecosystems, maybe even to re-introduce extinct species, or introduce new human-made species that will help us fight illnesses and colonize new planets, making them habitable.
The meaning of being human might change in our lifetime. We might be super humans by then, and we will have to be very careful, as there is a huge risk of creating new inequalities based on who can afford what extension. There might be incredible innovations in brain-computer interactions, connecting us to technology and each other via a collective mind.
There might also be supermachines, hopefully like R2-D2 and C-3PO, to assist us and help us be better humans.
I really like Bret Victor’s way of thinking.
I feel very lucky to work with some incredibly interesting people from all over the world to help imagine the future. We are always facing new challenges—sometime solving problems for the very first time and defining experiences that have never existed before.
Riccardo in a card.