Cowabunga!: A system to facilitate multi-cultural diversity through CouchSurfing


The ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) series of academic conferences is considered to be the most prestigious in the field of user-experience and human-computer interaction. This year’s (CHI 2011) challenge for student design competition was:

"Design an object, interface, system, or service intended to help us appreciate our differences. "


Our solution has been accepted as one of the top twelve entries (out of 60+ international submissions from 11 countries) for the final round of the competition.

Our user-centered-design

We are proposing Cowabunga!, a mobile application which augments multi-cultural exchanges instigated by an online hospitality exchange community called (CS). By facilitating chance meetings that would not happen otherwise, our solution is helping people get spontaneous exposure to others with whom they may have nothing in common except their CS membership. Cowabunga! has been created through an iterative user-centered design process and bears a great potential of promoting diversity. The feedback we received suggested that such a complement to the CS platform is both interesting and has novel utility and is thus conducive to increasing cross-cultural awareness.


Design proccess


Here is our submitted CHI paper (PDF) and final poster (PDF).

My role

As the team lead for this project, I was responsible for literature review, running a Facebook ad campaign for recruiting couchsurfing community members, co-ordinating with couchsurfers from six countries for scheduling interviews and testing, creating low-fidelity and mid-fidelity prototypes conforming to Android interaction paradigm, conducting remote usability tests followed by data analysis. I played a key role in the group exercises of affinity diagramming, scenario creation and user interviews.

Artifacts and Screenshots

Figure: Cowabunga final poster

Figure: A part of our Affinity diagram

Figure: Low fidelity prototype

Figure: Mid-fidelity prototype at iteration 1

Figure: Mid-fidelity prototype at iteration 2

Figure: Mapview of nearby couchsurfers

Figure: Detailed view of couch surfing host profile

Figure: Couch request

Figure: Learning more about the language of the couch surfing host