Moving to the University of Duisburg-Essen

From Monday on I will be at the University of Duisburg-Essen. After a little less than a year in Bonn a new challenge is ahead: setting up a new group on Pervasive Computing and User Interface Engineering.

The lab will be situated at the campus in Essen (Schützenbahn 70) in the heart of the city. Our group will be in the Institute for Computer Science and Business Information Systems in the faculty of Economics. Teaching starts in the winter term with a lecture on User Interface Engineering and several project oriented courses.

The focus will be on systems, user interfaces and novel applications in the domain of pervasive and ubiquitous computing.

UbiLog Workshop in Bremen

This afternoon our UbiLog workshop was held in Bremen as part of the Informatik 2007 conference. We selected 4 papers for presentation and had a lively and interesting discussion.

Following the talk of Nikolai Krambrock we discussed the use context, and in particular location, to restrict or allow access to information. My favourite example is an online-banking appliance that only works in predefined areas (e.g. at home and in my car). Using context appears one option in creating human understandable solutions for secure systems. People have developed means to protect physical objects and valuable, perhaps we should draw more on this experience in the design of secure systems.

Prof. Gerhard Krüger made honorary member of GI

At the dinner of this yeas GI conference Professor Gerhard Krüger became the 6th honorary member of the German Computer Science Society (GI, Gesellschaft für Informatik). He was one of the people who understood very early that computer science is a central topic and pushed in the 1980ies form higher capacities in computer science at German Universities.

When I was at Karlsruhe (1998-2001) he was my supervisor and taught me a lot! In short: invest in the development of people.

Ubicomp 2007

Over the last few days at Ubicomp 2007 in Innsbruck it was great to catch up with many people from the community. The discussions in the evenings are very inspiring and so were some of the talks.

We tried to explain the idea of ubiquitous computing to journalist and it seems they got the idea. And hence Ubicomp 2007 was featured in the Austrian Press:

Ubicomp 2008 will be in Korea.

CardioViz Demo at Ubicomp 2007

Alireza Sahami presented our CardiViz project at the demo session at Ubicomp. We were very happy that the project that was the result of our IPEC course on developing mobile applications was accepted as a demo.

For more details see:
Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Diana Cheng, Oliver Kroell, Dagmar Kern, Albrecht Schmidt. CardioViz: Contextual Capture and Visualization for Long-term ECG Data. Adjunct Proceedings of Ubicomp 2007 (Demo).

Jonna Häkkilä, Anind Dey, Kari Hjelt, and I organized organized the Ubiwell workshop (Interaction with Ubiquitous Wellness and Healthcare Applications) at this years pervasive. Alireza presented another paper on heartbeat monitoring there:
Florian Alt, Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Albrecht Schmidt. Monitoring Heartbeat per Day to Motivate Increasing Physical Activity. UbiWell workshop@Ubicomp 2007.

Car UIs transport Emotion

It is often discussed whether or not the user interface in the car matters or not. The basic argument is that cars are emotional and hence the driving experience matters and everything else is secondary.

However it seems the user interface becomes more and more part of the experience. On Saturday night I travelled via Munich to Innsbruck – and had again some time on in the lounge at the railway station. In a article on the new VW concept car UP it was interesting to see that about 15% of the text (about 20 lines text of the whole article of 130 lines, see red box) were about the new user touch screen – the section about the motor was similar in length.

The opening keynote at Ubicomp was given by Antonio Calvosa from Ferrari. Here two a very experienced and user interface focus could be seen. The talk touched issues of emotion and affective issues. Overall he argues that Ubicomp technologies should amplify what humans like to perceive.

Our Papers at Interact 2007

Heiko Drewes and Richard Atterer, collegues from university of Munich, have travelled to Interact 2007. Their emails indicate that the conference is this year at a most interesting place. The conference is in Rio de Janeiro, directly at the Copacabana. The conference was highly competitive and we are happy to have two papers we can present there.

Heiko presents a paper that shows that eye gestures can be used to interact with a computer. In his experiments he shows that users can learn gesture with eyes (basically moving the eyes in a certain pattern, e.g. following the outline of a dialog box). The paper is part of his PhD research on eye-tracking for interaction. More details are in:

Heiko Drewes, Albrecht Schmidt. Interacting with the Computer using Gaze Gestures. Proceedings of INTERACT 2007.

Richard’s paper is on collaboration support with a proxy based approach. Using our previous work on the UsaProxy we extended the functionality to supported synchronous communication while using the Web:

Richard Atterer, Albrecht Schmidt, and Monika Wnuk. A Proxy-Based Infrastructure for Web Application Sharing and Remote Collaboration on Web Pages. Proceedings of INTERACT 2007.

Article in the Economist

Some weeks ago Ben Sutherland from The Economist called. He was researching for an article discussing the computing revolution over the last 25 years. In his research he to talked to many different people (from different countries, different fields, different views) and was particularly interested in applications that will come in the future and with me in particular on the concept of context-awareness.

The article “The trouble with computers” appeared 6th of September and discusses a mix of ideas and viewpoints. We talked about 30 minutes on the phone and I am quite surprised what statement he picked from me (I said many things that were more interesting ;-). However I think it is great that people start trying to understanding the radical changes computers introduce – everywhere.

Mechanicals aids for addition and subtraction

In the school museum I came across two very simple pen-based computing aids. The devices are very simple mechanical tools that help to do addition and subtraction. It was called ADDIATOR.

The utility is limited to addition and subtraction and it provides a very simple mechanism to deal with carry-over. If the number which is to be moved is white the calculation is without carry-over and one pulls it down. If the number is red then there will be a carry over one has to pull up and around the semi-circle (this is the mechanism for carry over). A carry over beyond the next position is displayed with a special sign and has to be resolved by moving the next position. The curator told me that he remembers people in shops used them and that people where very quick with them. It seems they have been popular till I was born.

Schools history, tangibles again

After my daughter started school on Saturday we visited a historic school on Sunday. Comparing teaching materials is interesting. Especially providing up to date information in geography must haven quite a costly task. Many expensive charts and maps that were printed on canvas are now freely available in digital form. It seems that instead of having a film project, a slight projector, an overhead projector and canvas displays a computer and projector with internet access will do. Similarly having stamps to reproduce maps seems like ancient history, even though it has been still in use 20 years ago.

However I wonder what we loose by make things digital and whether or not this matters. Having a database (a box with cardboard dividers and a lot of paper slips) or a typewriter (with types that are moved by pressing buttons) on your desktop gives you a very immediate impression how things work. It is remarkable to see that historically tangibility of teaching materials was very common.

I think in the digital we should make more effort to provide means that people can understand the mechanism behind the technology (basics of HCI – conceptual models :-). This is however extremely difficult for purely digital products. My generation seems very lucky to have been witnesses of this transformation for many products from the physical to the digital – providing a lot of insight to us.