September 19, 2012

Wixon @ SCA

New Microsoft Endowed Professor Installed at USC

If you are reading this sentence on a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone, chances are, the new Microsoft Endowed Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media Division, Dennis

Dennis Wixon in the Ray Stark Theater

Wixon, had something to do with the creation and implementation of your experience. Wixon has designed intuitive interfaces for keyboards, XBOX controllers, online game tutorials and many other devices, and on Tuesday, September 19th, he added a new chapter to his extensive biography by joining the USC School of Cinematic Arts as the Microsoft Endowed Professor.

A reception and discussion were hosted in the Ray Stark Family Theatre in the George Lucas Building at SCA, which was attended by Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett, Phil Spencer, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios, Kent Foster, the director of University Relations for Microsoft, Nancy Tellem, the recently announced President of Entertainment and Digital Media of Microsoft and Wixon.

The evening, moderated by Professor Mark Bolas, featured several devices, including an “inverted-T” keyboard, a Newton tablet from Apple, an Xbox controller, an early mouse and a Microsoft Kinect - all of which Wixon had a hand in creating and testing.

Dennis Wixon and Mark Bolas field questions from the packed house

On the design experience of natural user interface, Wixon explained, "We're thinking of the natural user interface as something that makes the user natural, that enables the user to be at one with the technology and even enables them to experience things and to achieve things they wouldn’t have done before.” Wixon then joked, “So it’s really a ‘natural user’ interface, rather than a ‘natural user interface.’”

With more than thirteen years at the Microsoft Corporation, Wixon's exensitve innovation in design initiatives is more than impressive. Wixon has served as the founding User Research Manager for Microsoft Game Studios, Research Manager for Microsoft Surface, Senior User Researcher in their Startup Business Group, the Senior Research Lead in their Business Products Experience Group and the head of SQL Azure research and innovation. His team’s innovative research methods, such as RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) and TRUE (Tracking Real-time User Experience), have been successfully applied to the best-selling Halo franchise. In 2011, he was elected to the SIGCHI Academy, which honors leaders and shapers of the field of human-computer interaction.

When Wixon was asked about the games that students produce, he remarked, “I’m very happy to be here. [The games] students are working on here are very ambitious and professional in the highest degree. It really is the perfect partnership between a practical approach - in terms of usability - and an artistic ambition in terms of experience.”