Mobile Boarding Pass, the whole process matters

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 important information for the traveler – but you have to scroll to the bottom of the page to get the boarding number (which seems quite important for everyone else than the traveler – it was even on my handwritten boarding pass).

Teaching, Technical Training Day at the EPO

Together with Rene Mayrhofer and Alexander De Luca I organized a technical training at the European Patent Office in Munich. In the lectures we made the attempt to give a broad overview of recent advanced in this domain – and preparing such a day one realizes how much there is to it…. We covered the following topic:
  • Merging the physical and digital (e.g. sentient computing and dual reality [1])
  • Interlinking the real world and the virtual world (e.g. Internet of things)
  • Interacting with your body (e.g. implants for interaction, brain computer interaction, eye gaze interaction)
  • Interaction beyond the desktop, in particular sensor based UIs, touch interaction, haptics, and Interactive surfaces
  • Device authentication with focus on spontaneity and ubicomp environments
  • User authentication focus on authentication in the public 
  • Location-Awareness and Location Privacy
Overall we covered probably more than 100 references – here are just a few nice ones to read: computing tiles as basic building blocks for smart environments [2], a bendable computer interface [3], a touch screen you can also touch on the back side [4], and ideas on phones as basis for people centric censing [5].
[1] Lifton, J., Feldmeier, M., Ono, Y., Lewis, C., and Paradiso, J. A. 2007. A platform for ubiquitous sensor deployment in occupational and domestic environments In Proceedings of the 6th Conference on international information Processing in Sensor Networks (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, April 25 – 27, 2007). IPSN ’07. ACM, New York, NY, 119-127. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1236360.1236377
[2] Naohiko Kohtake, et al. u-Texture: Self-organizable Universal Panels for Creating Smart Surroundings. The 7th Int. Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp2005), pp.19-38, Tokyo, September, 2005. http://www.ht.sfc.keio.ac.jp/u-texture/paper.html
[3] Schwesig, C., Poupyrev, I., and Mori, E. 2004. Gummi: a bendable computer. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Vienna, Austria, April 24 – 29, 2004). CHI ’04. ACM, New York, NY, 263-270. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/985692.985726 
[4] Wigdor, D., Forlines, C., Baudisch, P., Barnwell, J., and Shen, C. 2007. Lucid touch: a seethrough mobile device. InProceedings of the 20th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Newport, Rhode Island, USA, October 07 – 10, 2007). UIST ’07. ACM, New York, NY, 269-278. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1294211.1294259 
[5] Campbell, A. T., Eisenman, S. B., Lane, N. D., Miluzzo, E., Peterson, R. A., Lu, H., Zheng, X., Musolesi, M., Fodor, K., and Ahn, G. 2008. The Rise of People-Centric Sensing. IEEE Internet Computing 12, 4 (Jul. 2008), 12-21. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MIC.2008.90  

Final Presentation: Advertising 2.0

Last term we ran an interdisciplinary project with our MSc students from computer science and business studies to explore new ways in outdoor advertising. The course was jointly organized by the chairs: Specification of Software Systems, Pervasive Computing and User Interface Engineering, and Marketing and Trade. We were in particular interested what you can do with mobile phones and public displays. It is always surprising how much a group of 10 motivated students can create in 3 months. The group we had this term was extraordinary – over the last weeks they regularly stayed in the evenings longer in the lab than me 😉

The overall task was very open and the students created a concept and than implemented it – as a complete system including backend server, end user client on the mobile phone, and administration interface for advertisers. After the presentation and demos we really started thinking where we can deploy it and who the potential partners would be. The system offers means for implicit and explicit interaction, creates interest profiles, and allows to target adverts to groups with specific interest. Overall such technologies can make advertising more effective for companies (more precisely targeted adverts) and more pleasant for consumers (getting adverts that match personal areas of interest).

There are more photos of the presentation on the server.

PS: one small finding on the side – Bluetooth in its current form is a pain for interaction with public display… but luckily there are other options.

Impact of colors – hints for ambient design?

There is a study that looked at how the performace in solving certain cognitive/creative tasks is influenced by the backgroun color [1]. In short: to make people alert and to increase performance on detail oriented tasks use red; to get people in creative mode use blue. Lucky us our corporate desktop background is mainly blue! Perhaps this could be interesting for ambient colors, e.g. in the automotive context…

[1] Mehta, Ravi and Rui (Juliet) Zhu (2009), “Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances” Science 27 February 2009:Vol. 323. no. 5918, pp. 1226 – 1229 DOI: 10.1126/science.1169144

Modular device – for prototyping only?


Over the last years there have been many ideas how to make devices more modular. Components that allow the end-user to create their own device – with exactly the functionality they want have been the central idea. So far they are only used in prototyping and have not really had success in the market place. The main reason seems that you get a device that has everything included and does everything – smaller and cheaper… But perhaps as electronics gets smaller and core functions get more mature it may happen.

Yanko Design has proposed a set of concepts along this line – and some of them are appealing 🙂
http://www.yankodesign.com/2007/12/12/chocolate-portable-hdd/
http://www.yankodesign.com/2007/11/26/blocky-mp3-player-oh-and-modular-too/
http://www.yankodesign.com/2007/08/31/it-was-a-rock-lobster/

Buglabs (http://www.buglabs.net) sells a functional system that allows you to build your own mobile device.

Being creative and designing your own system has been of interest in the computing and HCI community for many years. At last years CHI there was an paper by Buechley et al. [1] that looked how the LilyPad Arduino can make creating “computers” an intersting experience – and especially for girls.

[1] Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., and Crockett, A. 2008. The LilyPad Arduino: using computational textiles to investigate engagement, aesthetics, and diversity in computer science education. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 – 10, 2008). CHI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 423-432. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1357054.1357123

The next big thing – let’s look into the future

At Nokia Research Center in Tampere I gave a talk with the title “Computing Beyond Ubicomp – Mobile Communication changed the world – what else do we need?“. My main argument is that the next big thing is a device that allows us to predict the future – on a system as well as on a personal level. This is obviously very tricking as we have a free will and hence the future is not completely predictable – but extrapolating from the technologies we see now it seems not farfetched to create a device that enables predictions of the future in various contexts.

My argument goes as follows: the following points are technologically feasible in the near future:

  1. each car, bus, train, truck, …, object is tracked in real-time
  2. each person is tracked (location, activity, …, food intake, eye-gaze) in real-time
  3. environmental conditions are continuously sensed – globally and locally sensed
  4. with have a complete (3D) model of our world (e.g. buildings, street surface, …)

Having this information we can use data mining, learning, statistics, and models (e.g. a physics engine) to predict the future. If you wonder if I forget to thing about privacy – I did not (but it takes longer to explain – in short: the set of people who have a benefit or who do not care is large enough).

Considering this it becomes very clear that in medium term there is a great potential in having control over the access terminal to the virtual world, e.g. a phone… just thing how rich your profile in facebook/xing/linkedin can be if it takes all the information you implicitly generate on the phone into account.

Visit to Nokia Research Center Tampere, SMS, Physiological sensors

This trip was my first time in Tampere (nice to see sometimes a new place). After arriving yesterday night I got a quick cultural refresher course. I even met a person who was giving today a presentation to the president of Kazakhstan (and someone made a copy using a phone – hope he got back OK to Helsinki after the great time in the bar).

In the morning I met a number of people in Jonna Hakkila’s group at the Nokia Research Center. The team has a great mix of backgrounds and it was really interesting to discuss the project, ranging from new UI concepts to new hardware platform – just half a days is much too short… When Ari was recently visiting us in Essen he and Ali started to implement a small piece of software that (hopefull) improves the experience when receiving an SMS (to Ali/Ari – the TODOs for the Beta-release we identified are: sound design, screen design with statistics and the exit button in the menu, recognizing Ok and oK, autostart on reboot, volume level controlable and respecting silent mode). In case you have not helped us with our research yet please fill in the questionnaire: http://www.pcuie.uni-due.de/uieub/index.php?sid=74887#

I gave a talk (see separate post on the next big thing) and had the chance to meet Jari Kangas. We discovered some common interest in using physiological sensing in the user interface context. I think the next steps in integrating physiological sensors into devices are smaller than expected. My expectation is that we rather detect simple events like “surprise” rather than complex emotion (at least in the very near future). We will see where it goes – perhaps we should put some more students on the topic…

Bastian Pfleging joined the team (some weeks ago :-)

Bastian Pfleging joined us some weeks ago – his first day at work was at TEI’09 in Cambridge. We he came back he was so well integrted in the team that I forgot to write a blog entry. In fact he was already at a workshop with us some weeks ago – remember the photo?

Bastian studied computer science at TU Dortmund and his final project was on computer vision based interaction in smart environments in the Group of Gernot A. Fink.

Do you use Emoticons in your SMS? What are the first words in the SMS you receive?

We are curious in current practice in SMS use – and I hope for a good reason. Together with Jonna Hakkila and her group at Nokia Research we have discussed ideas how to make SMS a bit more emotional. Hopefully we have soon a public beta of a small program out. 
Till then it would be helpful to understand better how people use SMS and how the encode emotion in a very rudimentary way by 🙂 and 🙁 and alike. If you are curious, too and if you have 10 minutes it would be great to complete our survey: http://www.pcuie.uni-due.de/uieub/index.php?sid=74887#
Emotions in SMS and mobile communication has been a topic many people have been looking in, one of the early paper (in fact a design sketch not really a paper) was by Fagerberg et al.  [1] in our 2004 special issue on tangible UIs – an extended and more conceptual discussion of their work can be found in [2]; for more on their project see: http://www.sics.se/~petra/eMoto/
[1] Petra Fagerberg, Anna Ståhl, and Kristina Höök (2004) eMoto – Emotionally Engaging Interaction, Design Sketch in Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Special Issue on Tangible Interfaces in Perspective, Springer.
[2] Ståhl, A., Sundström, P., and Höök, K. 2005. A foundation for emotional expressivity. In Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Designing For User Experience (San Francisco, California, November 03 – 05, 2005). Designing For User Experiences, vol. 135. AIGA: American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York, NY, 33.

Zorah Mari Bauer visits, Shape the future but don’t ignore it

Zorah Mari Bauer, who describes herself as “… a theorist, pioneer and activist of innovative media”, visited our lab. She works at the crossroads of art, design, media and technology and looks into communities, web, TV, and mobile location based applications. We had an interesting discussion on upcoming trends in media and technology and how the inevitable shape our future and how a society has to innovate to be successful. It seems that people who understand the technologies seem to be more positive about the future than those who do not 🙂 It was very inspiring to discuss future trends with her – hope to continue the discussion in the future!

Reading the newspaper was a stark contrast to the interesting and forward looking exchange of ideas. On the way back I found an article in the German newspaper TAZ (www.taz.de) on how evil all the electronic publishing is – it is sometimes really frustrating how little some journalist – even at TAZ – research (or if they research how little they understand). One essential observation in business as well as in society is that if something does not have a value its existence is in danger. Moving towards a digital world for me the added value of traditional publishers is less and less clear – and the only way out is to be innovative… It is very clear that we can shape our future (and it is an exciting time for that) – but it is very clear that if you ignore the future it is still moving on. If you are a publisher and curious about ways to innovate talk to us we have some ideas! E.g. there is a great value if you facilitate relationships (between people, things, places, information) and people strive for external recognition.