Monthly Archives: February 2008

This morning we visited the inHaus innovation center in Duisburg (run by Fraunhofer, located on the University campus). The inHaus is a prototype of a smart environment and a pretty unique research, development and experimentation facility in Germany. We got a tour of the house and Torsten Stevens from Fraunhofer IMS showed us some current developments and several demos. Some of the demos reminded me of work we started in Lancaster, but never pushed forward beyond a research prototype, e.g. the load sensing experiments [1], [2].

The inHaus demonstrates impressively the technical feasibility of home automation and the potential… Continue reading

We have tried several of the applications (called activities) and the basic functions seem OK. Vivien liked it and was quite curious to explore it further. The photos you can take with the built-in camera are similar in quality to a good web cam.

After discussing the Microsoft Vista interface guide in the last week of our course on User Interface Engineering it was really interesting to see the OLPC/Sugar user interface guidelines. Especially the shift away from save/open to keep and the journal are enormous changes (and hence probably quite hard for people who have used computers –… Continue reading

After the conference I had finally some time to try out my new XO Laptop (OLPC). It is fairly small, has a rubber keyboard and a very good screen. It can be used in laptop and e-book mode. A colleague described it as somewhere between a mobile phone and a notebook-computer – first I did not get it – but after using it I fully understand.

There is good documentation out – the getting started manual at laptop.org provides a very good entry point. Getting it up and running was really easy (finding the key for my WIFI-Access point at… Continue reading

Many keys (to rooms and buildings) are still tangible objects, where the tangible properties and affordances imply certain ways of usage .Who has not gotten a hotel key that you hand in at reception, because it is too big to be carried in a pocket? Moving digital many keys we get lack craft and unique affordances as they are just plastic cards or RFID tags in a specific form. With moving towards biometric authentication it seems that the key is intangible (so we loose options in the design space) but embedded into us (which opens up new possibilities).

The major… Continue reading

Paul Holleis presented at TEI’08 the results of the research he did during his internship at Nokia Research [1]. Over the summer Paul spent 3 month with Jonna Häkkila’s group in Helsinki, where he worked on two projects: combing touch and key-presses and wearable controls.

Technically both projects used capacitative sensing to recognize touch. In his paper “Studying Applications for Touch-Enabled Mobile Phone Keypads” [1] they added to common mobile phone buttons touch sensing so that multiple levels of interaction can be measured, such as approaching, touching and pressing. The paper additionally discusses new interaction possibility that arise… Continue reading

At social events of conferences interesting things happen. One issue with a borrowed key reminded me of a paper that colleagues in the smart-its project wrote several years ago – smart-its friends [1]. The central idea was to have means to connect objects (make them friends) by a gesture interaction, which is detected by comparing acceleration values. Technically it is feasible and highly interesting, but I wonder about the real world applicability – but the missing key may be evidence for it…

[1] Holmquist, L. E., Mattern, F., Schiele, B., Alahuhta, P., Beigl, M., and Gellersen, H. 2001. Smart-Its Friends:… Continue reading

In the evening Prof. Hiroshi Ishii from the MIT Medialab presented a fascinating keynote at TEI’08. He gave an exciting overview of his work in tangible user interfaces, starting from tangible bits [1]. Right after the demos it was impressive to see how much impact he had on this area of research. He has a paper that accompanies the keynote in the proceedings, that will be soon available in the ACM DL.

On central piece of advice on research was to work on visions rather than on applications. He argues visions may last 100 years and applications are likely to… Continue reading

The first day of the conference went well – thanks to many helping hands. The time we had for the demos seemed really long in the program but was too short to engage with every exhibit (for next year we should make sure to allocate even more time).

People made really last minutes efforts to make their demos work. We even went to Conrad electronics to get some pieces (which burned before in setting up the demos). Demos are in my eyes an extremely efficient means for communicating between scientists and sharing ideas.

This morning a new working group on tangible interaction in mixed realities (in German Be-greifbare Interaktion in Gemischten Wirklichkeiten) was established as part of the German Computer Science Society (GI). About 30 people from all over Germany gathered at B-IT in a pre-conference event to TEI’08. The group was interdisciplinary, including computer science, design, psychology, and pedagogic. The diversity of research projects as well as teaching programs in Germany in impressive.

For people who already arrive on Sunday, the day before the conference, we organised some museum visits: Arithmeum, Haus der Geschichte, Deutsches Museum, and Art Gallery. I only had time to see the Arithmeum (http://www.arithmeum.uni-bonn.de/) which was pretty impressive. Hiroshi Ishii (the keynote speaker of the conference) and Brygg Ullmer (last years conference co-chair) joined us, too.

It was unexpected how close the displayed artefacts are to our current research on tangible interaction. We had a very good guided tour by Nina Mertens, who gave us an interesting overview from counting tokens to calculation machines. Some of the… Continue reading

One of the fun parts of organizing a conference is to work with a team of student volunteers. It is always amazing how quick many hands can work! Today we met with some of the student volunteers to pack the bags and set up the poster and exhibition space. (Unexpectedly) we are well in time.

We have two press releases to announce TEI’08 – the second international conference on tangible and embedded interaction (in German only).

The first one is a general announcement with the invitation to the press conference: Internationale Konferenz zu neuen Möglichkeiten der Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion

The second one is explaining – in non-scientific terms – the idea of tangible and embedded interaction: Der Wetterfrosch im Regenschirm

Elise van den Hoven, the program co-chair of TEI08, organized the printing of the proceeding. We went there on Tuesday to collect the books – quite a heavy load! The books look really good and the cover is great.

In the afternoon I gave a lecture with the title “Interacting with Pervasive Computing Systems”. I have related some of our recent work and ideas to the focus of the course which is “intelligent systems, products and related services”. In particular I asked to re-think how we can find a balance between user needs and technology push – without… Continue reading

No we had the last lectures of the course User Interface Engineering for this term. We will have oral exams stating later this month. The whole set of slides I used over the term (a bit more than 800) are available on our website. This year we have the first time made a set of questions to assist revising the material. In total we have about 200 questions – and looking over the questions it is really interesting that user interface design is not as trivial as one thinks (after teaching it for several years 😉