The CDTM is a joint elite study program from LMU Munich and TU Munich (http://www.cdtm.de/). It offers a set of complementary course for students from different backgrounds including math, business studies, engineering, computer science and media informatics. In their course on multimodal HCI I gave today an introductory lecture on the motivation for and the basics of user interface engineering.
In the seminar room was a real typewrite – in fact a travel type write. It was a real good prop to discuss micro- and macro-efficiency.
One question about the sustainability of a competitive advantage based on user interfaces made me really think. As the user interface is visible it is really hard to protect the competitive advantage and IPR are difficult on this topic. Desktop GUIs are a good example how quickly ideas propagate between competing systems. The only real option to maintain a competitive advantage is to continuously innovate – keeping the status quo means falling behind. The fact that one can not keep new user interface concepts secret (if one includes them in a product) is one of the most exciting aspects of user interfaces research – it is fast moving because everyone shows off their results!