VIA School Project

The Problem:

Travelling to foreign countries usually involves some acclimation time, during which, one adapts to the cultural differences and learns to navigate them. How can we make the travellers prepare in advance and practice for the social norms prevalent in the country they are going to visit?

The Solution:

VIA is a mobile app that prepares the travellers in advance for some of the critical social norms that will affect their upcoming travel. During the travel, VIA helps the users navigate the cultural differences by giving useful and contextual tips and sometimes acting on their behalf. Once the user learns the nuance social norms, he can adjust the level of intrusion VIA has and take care of the social norms by himself.


Cultural Probe Research, User Enactment Storyboards, User Enactment Research, Technical Feasibility, Experience Prototype


Runze, Bryan, Rohit, Ying

Cultural Probe Research

Key Research Question:
How do people make sense of new surroundings — including new things, people, and behaviors?

Key Findings:

  1. Different people have different level of tolerance for ambiguity when it comes to discovering new objects and environemnt.
  2. Leraning new behaviors and norms is much harder than learning about new objects.

User Enactment Storyboards

Preparation before the actual user enactment research.

User Enactment Research

Before this research, we had come to the conclusion that any traveling to a foreign environment includes three phases - Preparation, Acclimation, and Habituation.

Research Questions:

  1. What is the ideal level of proactivity for system to intervene with advice about correct cultural behaviors?
  2. What is the ideal level of ambiguity in the information/advice that the system provides the user?

Technical Feasibility

How does Via work?
It takes information about the world through a combination of sensors present on a mobile phone (GPS, accelerometer, etc), compares it to information on the cloud (gathered from crowdsourced and search engine data), uses various algorithms to determine impact level, proactivity level, etc, and presents information to the user. The user is also able to give the system feedback and contribute to the crowdsourced data.

Experience Prototype


Contact: | @SomeshRahul