Haiyan Zhang

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Haiyan Zhang
Haiyan Zhang on Japan Geigermap (2).jpg
Haiyan Zhang discusses her Japan Geigermap in 2012
Alma materMonash University
Interaction Design Institute Ivrea
EmployerMicrosoft Research
Known forThe Emma Watch
Innovations in Technology Making

Haiyan Zhang is a designer and engineer. She is Director of Innovation at Microsoft Research and Technical Advisor to Lab Director, Christopher Bishop. She appeared on the BBC show "Big Life Fix".


Zhang was born in China, and migrated to Australia with her parents aged eight.[1] She attended Monash University, where she earned first-class honours for a bachelor's degree in computer science in 1998. Zhang worked for Space-Time Research until 2000, when she left Australia to further her studies in design. Zhang moved to Canada to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Interactive Multimedia at Sheridan College, which she completed in 2003.[2] Whilst there she helped develop a tool for visualising electroencephalography for intra-operative monitoring.[3] She moved to Italy to study at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, where she completed a Masters in Interaction Design.[4]


Zhang worked as an Interaction Designer for the British Design Council and Stanford University.[1] Zhang joined IDEO as Principal Interaction Designer in 2006.[5] Here she "created new technology experiences for community building, entertainment, financial services". with Mattel, Electronic Arts, HBO, France Telecom, Alcatel, Cisco, and AT&T.[6][7][8] She was a founder of the innovation platform OpenIDEO, which brings together makers around the world to solve challenges for social good. The site has over 150,000 users worldwide.[9]

She joined Microsoft in 2013, working in the Lift London studio on games and wearables.[1] In 2015 she became Innovation Director at Microsoft Research.[1] She is interested in technology for "Connected Play" and wellness.[10] In 2011, Zhang developed an interactive map of radiation levels around Japan, widely used in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. She was a mapping consultant for Safecast, a volunteer organisation developing geiger counters that can be built simply by non-experts, which are distributed around Fukushima.[11]

Big Life Fix[edit]

The BBC Two show "Big Life Fix" paired technology experts with members of the public who were facing real life challenges. Zhang was one of seven makers.[12] Zhang developed two products, the Emma Watch and Fizzyo. Fizzyo is a toy to encourage children with cystic fibrosis to do their breathing exercises to clear their lungs.[13] It comprises a wireless electronic sensor in the mouthpiece, which sends an electronic signal to control a computer game on a tablet.[13] The Emma Watch is a device for sufferers Parkinson's disease, which looks to reduce limb tremors by disrupting the "feedback loop between the brain and hand".[1][14][15] Microsoft unveiled the device at their annual developer's conference.[16] It was named after Emma Lawton, a graphic designer who Zhang met on the show.[17][18] The invention received significant media coverage.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Zhang regularly delivers public talks and appears on podcasts, where she discusses design and engineering.[26][27][28][29] She is an advocate for increasing the representation of women in technology.[30] She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).[31][32][33]


  1. ^ a b c d e "How a watch helped Emma write again". Microsoft News Centre UK. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Alumni News | Alumni | Sheridan College". Sheridan College. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Haiyan Zhang (Australia)". Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. 2003. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Haiyan Zhang". Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Haiyan Zhang | IDEO Labs". labs.ideo.com. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  6. ^ European Young Innovators Forum (28 September 2012), Interview with Haiyan Zhang, design lead for OpenIDEODEO at EYIF UNCONVENTION 2012, retrieved 25 February 2018
  7. ^ RedMonk Tech Events (15 March 2016), Thingmonk TALK - Haiyan Zhang on Crowdsourced Science at Fukushima, retrieved 25 February 2018
  8. ^ OpenPlanet Ideas (30 May 2011), Haiyan Zhang from IDEO shares her thoughts on realisation, retrieved 25 February 2018
  9. ^ "Haiyan Zhang at Microsoft Research". Microsoft Research. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Microsoft Future Decoded". www.futuredecoded.com. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  11. ^ Microsoft UK (22 January 2018), Haiyan Zhang - Microsoft Innovation, retrieved 25 February 2018
  12. ^ "Series 1, The Big Life Fix with Simon Reeve - Haiyan Zhang - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Physios join Microsoft for ground breaking cystic fibrosis tech project". The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Haiyan Zhang | The Science of Parkinson's disease". scienceofparkinsons.com. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  15. ^ McGoogan, Cara (11 May 2017). "Microsoft built a watch that calmed woman's Parkinson's tremors". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  16. ^ BBC Stories (7 December 2016), This invention helped me write again - BBC Stories, retrieved 25 February 2018
  17. ^ "A fix for life". Monash University. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Project Emma: Helping reduce hand tremorsfor Parkinson's patients - Microsoft Research". Microsoft Research. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  19. ^ "The invention that helped me write again". BBC News. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  20. ^ "'Project Emma' tremor-reducing watch unveiled by Microsoft CEO". Parkinson's Life. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  21. ^ "Meet the Aussie inventor whose watch reduces Parkinson's tremors". Guide. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  22. ^ "Technologie Du Futur: Haiyan Zhang". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  23. ^ Thomas, Josh (9 December 2016). "Cambridge inventor helps Parkinson's disease sufferer to write again". cambridgenews. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Microsoft's Project Emma is a wearable that helps with Parkinson's tremors". The Verge. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Microsoft shows off Parkinson's wearable during keynote at Build 2017". Digital Trends. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  26. ^ "Haiyan Zhang's keynote – Interaction 18 – 3—8 February 2018 • Lyon, France". Interaction 18. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  27. ^ "Health Wearables with Haiyan Zhang". Software Engineering Daily. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  28. ^ "Haiyan Zhang: Design for Good". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  29. ^ "#MakerMonday with Haiyan Zhang". HereEast. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  30. ^ "Haiyan Zhang, innovation Director, Microsoft Research". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  31. ^ "New Members in 2017". www.bafta.org. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  32. ^ RSA. "Engage with our research - RSA". www.thersa.org. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  33. ^ RSA. "Find a Fellow - RSA". www.thersa.org. Retrieved 25 February 2018.