"We know that the best projects come from close collaboration and that for this project to succeed it had to be collaborative."—Jason Holley
MC: There are different types of collaboration, I think. There’s the type where everyone brings their notebooks, has done their homework, contributes what they were meant to and then just heads back into their own silos to do the work. I strongly feel that misses half of the potential of a collaborative session, however. And then there’s the other kind, which I’m pleased to say we had with Universal. We weren’t sure if they were going to come into the project and be like ‘right, we’re on the architecture only’, but from the very beginning it was clear that they were going to help shape everything from the robots to the human-cognition side of the interactions.
JH: I still remember that first trip to your studio in Providence [Rhode Island] and seeing all the experimental electronic and robotic installations. At this point, of course, we still had a critical distance from the project, so were able to react and feed back with fresh eyes. On reviewing the outputs from the user testing at the Boston Museum of Science [where some of the experiments were being housed temporarily], it was clear that visitors felt engaged because their opinion was actively being sought and that they felt part of the experiment. I can remember saying to Matt that this was exactly how the final exhibition should feel – that people were part of the experiment, and not just being told something – like a real lab. He called out to his team and asked me to explain my thinking. His willingness to allow my opinion to be shared with the whole team at this early stage was a clear indicator of the openness with which we would conduct the project. But what was really exciting was that people just seemed to naturally forget what background they were coming from or what silo they were in, and began pitching in at all levels.
"After two decades of working on these kinds of projects, I’m still not always clear on what makes them work, but it’s definitely something about the people involved – it’s all about the human relationships and how ready people are to set ego aside." — Matt Cottam
"We were very lucky with this project – I remember sitting in the cafeteria at Google one day thinking how exciting it was that we didn’t know where we were going but that everyone was on board for the journey." — Matt Cottam