Twenty students from Boston-area colleges were tasked with designing a prototype of the hotel lobby of the future for a “Designing Interactions: Reinventing the Hotel Experience” class at the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, in collaboration with Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Their goal: transform that ho-hum hotel space into “an epicenter of social energy that integrates the hotel with the surrounding community,” according to the course description. Led by Federico Casalegno, lab director, the students formed a research group that looked at ways to make lobbies more exciting, more user-friendly, and more relevant. Offered this year for the first time, the class brought together a multidisciplinary group of students — including artists, designers, engineers, and social media majors. “We pushed students to break the boundaries of disciplines, to rethink and reinvent objects, ideas, and experiences,” Casalegno said. “We took students into some uncomfortable places, making social media students think of mechanical engineering concepts,” and vice-versa, he continued. Their final project: to present their ideas to their instructors and executives from Marriott International. The students’ prototypes applied advanced technologies to the social elements of the Marriott guest experience, “welcome, chill, relax, recharge.” Their presentations revealed that Gen Y travelers — assuming they are representative of their peer group — are serendipitous types who want social interaction, and seek to make connections, but also like to feel independent and in charge. They described themselves as “urban explorers” who reject brochures and touristy attractions but appreciate “informed wandering” from in-the-know peers. From the hotelier’s perspective, this is good to know. Gen Y-ers (born between 1980-89) are a coveted demographic. Get the full story at Boston Globe