2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Building Next-Generation User Experiences at NASA

Written by Megan Simpson | January 22, 2014

At SXSW, Sam Hashemi focuses on NASA's next generation user experiences

We often say that the SXSW Interactive Festival is a great place to experience a new topic that you’ve previously left unexplored. Often times, those sessions with which you have had little or no familiarity are the most valuable. With more than 800 sessions, there’s something new for everyone at SXSW Interactive. Today’s installment of the Session Spotlight, will have you excited to join the panel organized by Sam Hashemi, “Building Next-Generation User Experiences at NASA”.

SXSW: What is your panel at SXSW Interactive focused on?
Hashemi: People imagine space software to be sleek and modern. But the tools NASA use today look nothing like their Star Trek counterparts. Instead, they’re text-based, neon-colored, and complicated with age. This is a shame, but it’s also an opportunity. We’re a small design team within NASA, working to break this trend. We’ve redesigned systems for the Mars Curiosity Rover, the Kepler Space Telescope, and the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. In this session you'll see some of this work, and learn how we’re pushing NASA forward to the touch and gesture based future.

SXSW: Who do you expect to turnout for this session?
Hashemi: We expect two types of folks: (1) those interested in the nitty gritty of how space missions are actually put together and how they actually run and (2) designers and developers interested in seeing how designing for highly complex missions differs from consumer software.

SXSW: If a SXSW Interactive registrant is unfamiliar with this topic, will they still be able to follow the discussion?
Hashemi: Yes. Definitely! To get the most out of the session I recommend having a background in the design of normal consumer software. This will make the contrasts and comparisons to our design process especially interesting. But either way, we'll carefully explain the details of the space software and the unique challenges it presents.

SXSW: Didn’t you speak about this topic last year at SXSW?
Hashemi: Yes. Last year at SXSW we spoke about designing the systems for the space station, and had a great reaction. The room was filled far past capacity, and lots of folks came up after and said it was one of their favorite talks.

SXSW: Why should people come listen to your session?
Hashemi: We are charming and handsome people!

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Building Next-Generation User Experiences at NASA” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.