Finland is one country in Europe were it seems pretty hard to get to in the morning from Germany or Austria. If you have a meeting before 11 am you have to fly the day before.

I was invited to Helsinki to be opponent (together with Kaisa Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila) for the PhD defense of Elina Vartiainen at Helsinki University of Technology. The first time I came across work she was involved in was at CHI 2006 in Montreal. She worked with Virpi Roto on the Minimap web browser [1]. Last year in a doctoral colloquium in Finland we first discussed some… Continue reading

On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon I ran practical workshops on creating novel user interfaces complementing the tutorial on Wednesday morning. The aim of the practical was to motivate people to more fundamentally question user interface decisions that we make in our research projects.

On a very simple level an input user interface can be seen as a sensor, a transfer function or mapping, and an action in the system that is controlled. To motivate that this I showed two simple javascript programs that allowed to play with the mapping of the mouse to a movement of a button on the… Continue reading

If industries are not doing well one way forward is to promote innovation!

Since a number of years it became apparened that many PhD students in computer science and especially in human computer interaction work on topics related to user interfaces in the car. We think it is a good idea to forster a community in this area and hence we run the 1st International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (AutomotiveUI 2009)  in Essen, Germany. The conference is in the week after Mobile HCI and takes place Mon/Tue 21 – 22 September… Continue reading

In the User Interface Engineering lecture we discussed today input devices, especially to interact with 3D environments. In 3D environments having 6 degrees of freedom (3 directions in translation and 3 options for rotation) appears very natural. Looking back at 2D user interfaces with this in mind one has to ask why are we happy (an now for more than 25 years) with translation (in 2D) only and more specifically why is it not possible to rotate my application windows in Vista (or perhaps it is and I just dont know it). At first this questions seems like a joke… Continue reading

Over new year we went for a short skiing trip to Bödele in Austria. It is a small ski resort but great for learning to ski (and this is what Vivien did 🙂 We stayed in Dornbirn (not far from Lake Constance) in at Hotel Krone and had a really nice room – and it had a remarkable light installation. 

There were several lights (like you have them typical in a hotel room), then there were many switches, and finally there was a full page manual how to use the light – welcome to ambient intelligence! Instead of… Continue reading

Imagine there is a song – you know band and title – and you want to buy it. Should not be really something worthwhile reporting in a blog…

How long does it take to buy a song and how many steps does it need? I tried myself and was pretty much amazed that it is still more difficult than other ways to get music. The idea was to put the song into my shopping cart, press check-out, pay by credit card, and download. On the stores I encountered you have to register before to buy… I finally got the song… Continue reading

In Sydney I saw a legacy-free setup for washing hands in a public bathroom. I was surprised at the simple and solution with high utility! It is only a board mounted in an angle with water taps above. For typical use (washing hands under a flow of water) this is as good as a traditional setup. From looking at it, the legacy-free setup seems much easier to clean. I have never used a washbasin in a public bathroom by filling it – and I have never seen this functionality used (typically you can not use it in the lagacy way… Continue reading

Ina Wagner, Volker Wulf and Kjeld Schmidt organized a meeting to get together people from all over Europe that work on human centred computing. We had interesting discussions what is specific and distinct European human centred computing and how well it is represented in organizations such as the ACM.

Some years ago there has been significant support in this area of research on a European level – namely I3 and the disappearing computer initiative. Currently many of us feel that the value of user centred research is not supported enough and hence innovation happens somewhere else which can lead… Continue reading

Raimund Dachselt presented FaceZoom, a widget for quick navigation, e.g. for a tree structure [1]. I liked his characterizing “a stacked treemap” – which explains nicely what the widget does and where the efficency can be found. At TEI’08 he gave already a nice private demo on how this can be linked to mobile devices and how to use a off-the-shelf phone with an accelerometer as controller.

[1] Dachselt, R., Frisch, M., and Weiland, M. 2008. FacetZoom: a continuous multi-scale widget for navigating hierarchical metadata. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence,… 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

In the news section on standard software in the Germany IT magazine IX a Forrester Consulting survey was quoted that provides some evidence that UIs matter. . The survey states that for over 80% of CIOs and heads of IT departments the user interface is critical when they make buying decisions. (photo of the article is from IX 2008-01)

The IX magazine is typically more technically oriented and I think little article underlines a trend that happens: people responsible in IT realized how vital the interaction between users and systems are. In my eyes optimizing the user interface is in… Continue reading

In contrast to us people in the medical domain seem to start early in the morning. In the process of preparing a project proposal we visited the Elisabeth Hospital in Essen. We got the chance to see some invasive heart exams first hand.

It is impressive how well such complex processes run and how quick the staff can assess the conditions. Looking for potential to make theses processes easier is a touch challenges – espcially if you do not do this by sitting at your desk but if you want it to be realistic. In the discussion with the head… Continue reading

When driving back from a Workshop with the ART group of Fraunhofer IAIS at Naafs Häuschen I saw some interesting posters. A new car-related portal for selling and buying cars (pkw.de) has an interesting advertising campaign out. The only argument is on an easy to use and quick user interface – nothing else. So far many of them have tried to argue with the largest set of offers, but recently many of the major players (mobile.de and autoscout24.de) have improved their user interfaces.

It seems that a broader awareness for the user interface – basically that… Continue reading