Visiting the Culture Lab in Newcastle

While being in the north of England I stopped by in Newcastle at the Culture Lab. If the CHI-conference is a measure for quality in research in Human Computer Interaction Culture Lab is currently one of the places to be – if you are not convinced have look at Patrick Olivier’s publications. The lab is one of a few places where I think a real ubicomp spirit is left – people developing new hardware and devices (e.g. mini data acquisition boards, specific wireless sensor, embedded actuators) and interdisciplinary research plays a central role. This is very refreshing to see, especially as so many others in Ubicomp have moved to mainly creating software on phones and tables…

Diana, one of our former students from Duisburg-Essen, is currently working on her master thesis in Newcastle. She looks into new tangible forms of interaction on table top UIs. Especially actuation of controls is a central question. The approach she uses for moving things is compared to other approached, e.g. [1], very simple but effective – looking forward to reading the paper on the technical details (I promised not to tell any details here). The example application she has developed is in chemistry education.

Some years back at a visit to the culture lab I had already seen some of the concepts and ideas for the kitchen. Over the last years this has progressed and the current state is very appealing. I really thing the screens behind glass in the black design make a huge difference. Using a set of small sensors they have implemented a set of aware kitchen utensils [2]. Matthias Kranz (back in our group in Munich) worked on a similar idea and created a knife that knows what it cuts [3]. It seems worthwhile to exploring the aware artifacts vision further …

[1] Gian Pangaro, Dan Maynes-Aminzade, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2002. The actuated workbench: computer-controlled actuation in tabletop tangible interfaces. In Proceedings of the 15th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (UIST ’02). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 181-190. DOI=10.1145/571985.572011 

[2] Wagner, J., Ploetz, T., Halteren, A. V., Hoonhout, J., Moynihan, P., Jackson, D., Ladha, C., et al. (2011). Towards a Pervasive Kitchen Infrastructure for Measuring Cooking Competence. Proc Int Conf Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare (pp. 107-114). PDF

[3] Matthias Kranz, Albrecht Schmidt, Alexis Maldonado, Radu Bogdan Rusu, Michael Beetz, Benedikt Hörnler, and Gerhard Rigoll. 2007. Context-aware kitchen utilities. InProceedings of the 1st international conference on Tangible and embedded interaction (TEI ’07). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 213-214. DOI=10.1145/1226969.1227013 (PDF)

Open Lab Day in Essen

Today we had an open lab day – our first one in Essen. We invited colleagues, admin staff, students, friends, and family to have a look how we spent our days 😉 and what interesting systems we create with our students and in our research projects. We had several applications on our multi-touch table running, showed two prototypes in the automotive domain (text input while driving and vibration feedback in the steering wheel), demonstrated a new form of interaction with a public display and let people try an eye-tracking application.

GIST, Gwangju, Korea

Yesterday I arrived in Gwangju for the ISUVR-2008. It is my first time in Korea and it is an amazing place. Together with some of the other invited speakers and PhD students we went for a Korean style dinner (photos from the dinner). The campus (photos from the campus) is large and very new.

This morning we had the opportunity to see several demos from Woontack’s students in the U-VR lab. There is a lot of work on haptics and mobile augmented reality going on. See the pictures of the open lab demo for yourself…

In the afternoon we had some time for culture and sightseeing – the country side parks are very different from Europe. Here are some of the photos of the trip around Gwangju and see

In 2005 Yoosoo Oh, a PhD student with Woontack Wo at GIST, was a visiting student in our lab in Munich. We worked together on issues related to context awareness and published a paper together discussing the whole design cycle and in particular the evaluation (based on a heuristic approach) of context-aware systems [1].

[1] Yoosoo Oh, Albrecht Schmidt, Woontack Woo: Designing, Developing, and Evaluating Context-Aware Systems. MUE 2007: 1158-1163

Photos – ISUVR2008 – GIST – Korea

A service for true random numbers

After the exam board meeting at Trinity College in Dublin (I am external examiner for the Ubicomp program) I went back with Mads Haahr (the course director) to his office. Besides the screen on which he works he has one extra where constantly the log entries of his web server is displayed. It is an interesting awareness devices 😉 some years ago we did a project where we used the IP-address of incoming HTTP-requests to guess who the visitors are and to show their web pages on an awareness display [1], [2]. Looking back at web visitors works very well in an academic context and with request out of larger companies where one can expect that information is available on the web. Perhaps we should revisit the work and look how we can push this further given the new possibilities in the web.

The web-server Mads has in his office is pretty cool – it provides true random numbers – based on atmospheric noise picked up with 3 real radios (I saw them)! Have a look at the service for yourself: It provides an HTTP interface to use those numbers in your own applications. I would not have though of a web service to provide random numbers – but thinking a little more it makes a lot of sense…

[1] Schmidt, A. and Gellersen, H. 2001. Visitor awareness in the web. In Proceedings of the 10th international Conference on World Wide Web (Hong Kong, Hong Kong, May 01 – 05, 2001). WWW ’01. ACM, New York, NY, 745-753. DOI=

[2] Gellersen, H. and Schmidt, A. 2002. Look who’s visiting: supporting visitor awareness in the web. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 56, 1 (Jan. 2002), 25-46. DOI=

Work on our new lab space started – ideas for intelligent building material

This week work on our new lab space started 🙂 With all the drilling and hammering leaving for CHI in Florence seemed like perfect timing. Our rooms are located in a listed historical building and hence planning is always a little bit more complicated but we are compensated by working in a really nice building.

As I was involved in the planning space for the lab we had the opportunity to integrate a space dedicated to large interactive surfaces where we can explore different options for interaction.

Seeing the process of planning and carrying out indoor building work ideas related to smart building materials inevitably spring to mind. Much work goes into communication between different people involved in the process and into establishing and communicating the current status (structure, power routing, ventilation shafts, insulation, etc.) of the building. When imagine that brick, fixture, panel, screw and cable used could provide information about its position and status we could create valuable applications. Obviously always based on the assumption that computing and communication gets cheaper… I think it could be an interesting student project to systematically assess what building material would most benefit from sensing (or self-awareness) and processing and what applications this would enable; and in a second step create and validate a prototype.

Talk at the opening of the Fraunhofer IAO interaction lab

The Fraunhofer institute IAO opened today a new interaction lab in Stuttgart under the topic interaction with all senses. Prof. Spath, director of the Fraunhofer IAO, made a strong argument for new user interfaces. In his talk he discussed adaptive cruse control in cars as an example for user interface challenges.

My talk on “implicit interaction – smart living in smart environments” argues for a sensible mix of user centred design and technology driven innovation. As one example I used the Sensor-Knife which Matthias Kranz implemented.

Prof. Jürgen Ziegler, a colleague at the University of Duisburg-Essen who was previously at IAO, showed in his talk a short video of a “galvanic vestibular stimulation” GVS explored by NTT (SIGGRAPH 2005 Demo) to highlight trends and indicate at the same time ethical problems that can arise when we interfere with human senses.

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.