[ISEA2020] Paper: Rilla Khaled, Steven Sych, Samuelle Bourgault & Pippin Barr — NEO//QAB: Creating a World Through Speculative Play


Keywords: Speculative design, critical design, playful design, interactivity, augmented reality, prototyping

We present a design case study of NEO//QAB, an augmented reality speculative design experience that provides a provocative take on religious tolerance, empowering individuals to deal with those who resist cultural assimilation by replacing them visually. NEO//QAB is a two person experience, involving a wearer of a full-body garment, and a controller who controls the appearance of the garment. NEO//QAB falls within the intersection of speculative design and game design; this is a design space we refer to as speculative play, where digital playful interaction is leveraged to prompt speculation on alternative presents and futures. Across four iterations of NEO//QAB, we have observed how different prototypes and their materials have brought to life related, but different, instantiations of the NEO//QAB world. In this paper we expose the design trajectory that has led us to the current instantiation of NEO//QAB, and identify four design strategies for speculative play that focus on successful worlding.


  • Dr. Rilla Khaled is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada, where she teaches interaction design, serious game design, and programming, among other subjects. She is the director of the Technoculture, Art, and Games (TAG) Research Centre, Canada’s most well-established games research lab, in the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology. Dr. Khaled’s research is focused on the use of interactive technologies to improve the human condition, a career-long passion that has led to diverse outcomes, including designing award-winning serious games, creating speculative prototypes of near-future technologies, developing a framework for game design specifically aimed at reflective outcomes, and working with Indigenous communities to use contemporary technologies to imagine new, inclusive futures.
  • Sam Bourgault (Montreal, CA) is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Media Arts and Technology program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. She owns a bachelor in Computation Arts from Concordia University (2019) and in Physics Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal (2015). Her work has been exhibited at IEEE-ICRA-X Robotic Program (Montreal, 2019), Sight & Sound Festival (Montreal, 2019), Ars Electronica Campus Exhibition (Linz, 2018), OFFTA (Montreal, 2019), RIPA (Montreal 2019), Mutek Festival (Montreal, 2017), Art Matters (Montreal, 2018), among others. She has also participated in OBORO residency as part of the New Media Grant (2019) and LA SERRE – You Are Here live art residency (2018). sambourgault.com
  • Steven Sych & Pippin Barr, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada