Having coordinated the editing of a shared document with about 100 pages I still wonder why I have not come across a really good solutions that work in a real life context. We were 10 people working on the document which also contained about 100 references various tables and graphs, which originated in spreadsheets. Our solution using (different version) of Microsoft Word and Excel on different platforms (Win and Mac) was at best sup-optimal. Track changes works great if I write something and someone else corrects it – but with a larger number of people creating and reworking the document… Continue reading

Over the last three years I have been regularly to Dublin to act as external examiner for the Ubicomp MSc course. For me this was a good experience to see how serious The School of Computing at Trinity College takes external quality control and how well processes are managed. And besides the administrative part I saw a great many interesting MSc dissertations over the years. Even though the term has come to an end I hope to travel to Dublin in the future too – perhaps on Holiday to see more of the city (which I did not really manage… Continue reading

It is about 15 years that I came across the idea of newspapers – printed in the shop where you buy them (sometime when I studied in Ulm). Today I have seen an advert for print on demand newspapers in the international newspapers kiosk in the central station in Munich. They have 850 titles from 70 countries available – as print on demand. The display copies had a decent quality – looked like A3 size color laser printouts – perhaps I can fetch a copy tomorrow.

I wonder how long it will take to move more (low volume papers, local… Continue reading

Why would I write a post about a power plug? Perhaps in some years this may be so common that we do not know when the first appeared 😉 And here is my reference point for Essen, Germany.There is a German news article about these chargeing points – there are 22 in Essen and they started sometime back in Berlin (where they plan to have 500 by the end of the year).

It looks very much like an ordinary power plug and I have not figured out how it really works – e.g. How to pay? How to reserve that… Continue reading

Having used the Sony PRS-505 now for a few weeks (mainly to read dissertations and project reports) I have quickly gotten used to carrying less weight. The user interface requires some learning – as the screen is pretty slow pressing a button does not give immediate feedback and that feels strange – more than expected. I wonder if there are studies on traditional interacton with electronic paper? Another issue: it seems to depend on the crew whether or not it is OK to read from an eBook during the entire flight (including take-off and landing)…

While reading a thesis I… Continue reading

Ever wanted to cite the number of “Mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitance” in Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, …., United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia or Zimbabwe? Or the spending on mobile telephony or the computer penetration in these countries? Then the website I just came across may be interesting for you too: http://measuring-ict.unctad.org/

Here are the direct links to documents containing data:

Some of the figures seem really high to me – but I have not looked into detail. They… Continue reading

Yesterday night I did an online check-in for my flight from Düsseldorf to Manchester. For convenience and curiosity I chose the mobile boarding pass. It is amazingly easy and it worked in principle very well. Only not everyone can work without paper yet. At some point in the process (after border control) I got a hand written “boarding pass” because this person needs to stamp it 😉 and we would probably have gotten into an argument if he tried to stamp my phone. There is some further room for improvement. The boarding pass shows besides the 2D barcode all the… Continue reading

We put together a poster discussing some of our recent work on mobile displays for HotMobile. While presenting the poster I got a number of interesting ideas and concerns. One idea is to widening the idea of advertsing and fuse it with traditional classify ads by private people (e.g. advertising a flat or telling the world that you lost your cat). The big question is really how to measure audince exposure and eventually conversion. There are several ideas how to do this – but looks more like another master project on the topic than a overnight hack 😉

The… 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

While waiting for my conneting flight a saw a women posting a letter and filming this as she did it. She created some sort of proof. Thinking a little more and having further information in the background (e.g. a clock, the schedule display, people waiting) this this has some potential to replace registered mail for certain domains? This gives me an idea for a small weekend project…

Recently I get this question more often – especially how to keep up with developments outside the scientific community. Some tell this is not important if you do research, however to me the actual uses are a very important inspirations.

There is no single source but an interesting address in the WWW is textually.org – it is very international and covers much more than technology!

Florian Michahelles, associate director of the AutoID-Labs in Zürich visited our group and gave a presentation in my course on Pervaisve Computing. He introduced the vision of using RFID in businesses, gave a brief technology overview and discussed the potential impact – in a very interactive session. Florian and I worked together in the Smart-its project and during his PhD studies he and Stavros were well know as the experts on Ikea PAX [1], [2]. In 2006 and 2007 we ran workshops on RFID technologies and published the results and a discussion on emerging trends in RFID together [3],… Continue reading

Flying back from Sydney with Qantas and now flying to Seattle with Lufthansa I had to long distance flights in which I had the opportunity to study (n=1, subject=me, plus over-shoulder-observation-while-walking-up-and-down-the-aisle 😉 the user interface for the in-flight entertainment.

The 2 systems have very different hardware and software designs. The Qantas infotainment system is a regular screen and interaction is done via a wired moveable remote control store in the armrest. The Lufthansa system uses a touch screen (It also has some hard buttons for volume in the armrest). Overall the content on the Qantas system comprised of more content… Continue reading

Reading the new products section in the IEEE pervasive computing magazine (Vol.7, No.2, April-June 2008) I came across a child monitoring systems: Kiddo Kidkeeper – In the smart-its project Henrik Jernström developed 2001 a similar system in his master thesis at PLAY which was published as a Demo at Ubicomp [1]. I remember very lively the discussion about the validity of this application (basically people – including me – asking “Who would want such technology?”). However it seems society and values are constantly changing – there is an interesting ongoing discussion related to that: Free Range Kids (this is the… Continue reading

Attention is precious and there is a clear fight for it. This is very easy to observe on advertising boards and in news shops. Coming back from Berlin I went in Augsburg into the news agent to get a news paper – and not really looking at magazines is still discovered from the corner of my eyes an issue of FHM with a changing cover page. Technically it is very simple: a lenticular lens that presents and image depending on the viewing angle – alternating between 3 pictures – one of which is a full page advert (for details on… 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

The parking meter is some streets of Dublin are an interesting example of an interface following the basic idea of physical mobile interaction. As you see from the manual sticker – the first part is on the mobile phone: you call a number and then provide the place in which you are (by typing in a number). The second part is then on the ticket machine – till you get the print out. The amazing thing was I really saw people using it!

The user interface design is interesting as they use on the phone typical phone interaction (basically dialing… Continue reading

The picture does not show a research prototype – it shows the actual interior of a 5-series BMW (fairly recent model). The driver (an elderly lady) adapted the UI to suit her needs. This modification includes the labeling of controls which are important, writing some instructions for more complicate controls close to them (hereby implementing one of the key ideas of embedded information [1]), an covering some to the user “useless” controls.

At first I assumed this is a prank* – but it seems to be genuine and that makes it really interesting and carries important lessons with regard to… 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

Today I met with Matthias Kranz in Munich. Besides discussing his thesis I got to see his new car (a prius) – quite impressive and interesting interfaces. Later I met with Wolfang Spießl who started recently his PhD in cooperation with BMW – again seeing an interesting and impressive (test)car.

It is really curious to see that there is a lot of interest in the hobbyist communities on car interfaces and protocols. In the June/2007 issues of Elektor (http://www.elektor.de/) was an article on a OBD-2-analyser, in a recent issue of the EAM (http://www.eam-magazin.de/) was a similar… Continue reading

Today I was reminded of a discussion in 1998 on the implications of computing technologies becoming cheaper and cheaper. Even then it seemed inevitable that many artifacts will include computational and perceptual qualities. The discussion was in the context of the European project TEA (technology for enabling awareness) where we built a context-aware phone [1]. Walter van de Velde suggested imagining that processors, sensors, communication will only cost cents (or will be virtually free as part of the production process) and we worked on the question: what products and services will emerge? One generic answer then was than any… Continue reading

It seems that in the research community a lot of people are convinced of interactive public spaces and interactive window displays. Over the last month I have see great visions and ideas – as well as reflected on our own multi-touch ideas for interactive shop windows.

The installations I have seen in the real world however are at best boring (and often not functioning at all). It seems that even a student-project-lab-demo is more appealing and works at least as realiable.

Especially combining sensing (e.g. simple activity recognition, context) with low threshold interactive content seems to have great potential. If… Continue reading

It was great to spend some time chatting with Alois Ferscha and Gabi Kotsis in Linz. We discussed future forms of advertisement and it seems that it is very clear that pervasive computing technologies – ranging from new displays, to tracking and implicit and explicit interaction – will change our high streets (and any other place where we expect or don’t advertising) in the near future significantly. Looking at current installations we can already see that the race for grapping customer’s attention is on. Given the many ideas around I expect it will be quite exciting.

One interesting movie on… Continue reading

Thought experiment: if we have the same number of trains we have at the moment and we let them travel as we do at the moment – but without time tables (basically a train is always on time – it is there when it arrives – similar to today). Customers would have real time access to all trains and the system could provide estimates when a certain train is where – perhaps with a confidence interval and probabilities of connections and travel times (obviously with an understandable user interface).

Would this be a better or worse model of public transport?… Continue reading

What have learned to do when our computer or phone does not work anymore? Easy just reboot it. A colleague recently told me his rental car broke down (basically did not work anymore) but after resetting it, it worked fine again. When he told me I found this pretty strange – ok the radio or opening the car boot – but essential functions related to driving?

Today I was travelling on an ICE high-speed train to Amsterdam for the CHI-Notes committee meeting and shortly after we left Germany the train lost speed and became slower and just rolled out. Then… Continue reading

At the moment I am travelling a lot on the train and it seems that there is an increase in people using their mobile devices (e.g. Sony PSP, mobile phones) to watch cinema movies and episodes of TV-shows. Some individually and others even share the experience. Over the last years it become popular that people watched DVDs on their notebook computer on the train – but it seems the real mobile age is moving on.

Even though the screen is very small it shows again that one needs little to create the illusion of a movie. In the end it… Continue reading

My first day of the holidays I got myself into an interesting project – setting up a satellite dish that receives Astra 19.2 (German TV) and Astra 28.2 (major UK TV stations). Going back between my roof and living room I finally got it to work – thanks to many posts on the Internet. That brings me back to a question I ask myself more and more (not just for setting up TVs): how did people share technical and practical information before the Internet? It seems that the Internet really is a catalyst for implementation.

After having the hardware in… Continue reading