Large pixels along the underpass

In the refurbished railway station (not yet finished) there is an interesting new pixel display in one main underpass. One wall is covered with a display. It is about 10 pixel (probably about 4 meters) high and several hundred pixels long (have not counted/measured them). It changes colors and shows writing (so far not really exciting).

How cool would it be if there is a freely accessible programmable web-service to control these pixel? I would guess people could create all sorts of interesting content… Perhaps people would start to bargain to get their 5 minutes of virtual graffiti shown…

Our Publications at Pervasive – Public Displays, Car Adverts, and Tactile Output for Navigation

Our group was involved in 3 papers that are published at Pervasive 2009 in Nara.

The first contribution is a study on public display that was presented by Jörg Müller from Münster. The paper explores display blindness that can be observed in the real world (similarly to banner blindness) and concludes that the extent to which people look at displays is very much correlated to the users expectation of the content of a display in a certain location [1].

The second short paper is a survey on car advertising and has been conducted in the context of the master thesis of Christoph Evers. The central question is about the design space of dynamic advertising on cars and how the users perceive such a technology [2].

Dagmar presented a paper on vibra-tactile output integrated in the steering wheel for navigation systems in cars. The studies explored how multi-modal presentation of information impact driving performance and what modalities are preferred by users. The general conclusion is that combining visual information with vibra-tactile output is the best option and that people prefer multi-modal output over a single modality [3].

[1] Jörg Müller, Dennis Wilmsmann, Juliane Exeler, Markus Buzeck, Albrecht Schmidt, Tim Jay, Antonio Krüger. Display Blindness: The Effect of Expectations on Attention towards Digital Signage. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 1-8.

[2] Florian Alt, Christoph Evers, Albrecht Schmidt. User’s view on Context-Aware Car Advertisement. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 9-16.

[3] Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Eva Hornecker, Yvonne Rogers, Albrecht Schmidt. Enhancing Navigation Information with tactile Output Embedded into the Steering Wheel. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 42-58.

Workshop on Pervasive Computing in Advertising

We got a good set of submission for our workshop and had about 20 participants who joined us in Nara to discuss how pervasive computing will shape advertising in the future. The papers and a selection of talks is online on the workshop website:

One question that was central to our discussion was: what is advertising and how is it different from information. It became quickly clear that there is a lot of information that has an influence on behavior and in particular shopping decisions and some of it is considered advertising but much is not. Hence it seems really interesting to imagine a world where advertising is replaced by information. One could image that replacing advertising by information (e.g. as it happens already in some domains such a hotel recommendations) would change the whole approach for creating product or providing services.

We have presented in the workshop our work on contextual mobile displays. The idea is that in the future we could have mobile displays (that replace current printed items, like bumper stickers, bags with printed logos, and t-shirts with prints) could become active and could act as contextual displays. Have a look at the paper for more details [1].

[1] Florian Alt, Albrecht Schmidt, Christoph Evers. Mobile Contextual display system. Pervasive Advertising Workshop at Pervasive 2009. (contact Florian Alt for a copy of the paper)

Meeting on public display networks

Sunday night I travelled to Lugano for a meeting public display networks. I figured out that going there by night train is the best option – leaving midnight in Karlsruhe and arriving at 6am there. As I planned to sleep all the time my assumption was that the felt travel time would be zero. Made my plan without the rail company… the train was 2 hours late and I walked up and down for 2 hours in Karlsruhe at the track – and interestingly the problem would have been less annoying if public displays would provide the relevant information … The most annoying thing was passengers had no information if or when the train will come and no one could tell (neither was anyone at the station nor was anyone taking calls at the hotline).
The public display – really nice state of the art hardware – showed for 1 hour nothing and that it showed that the train is one hour late (was already more than 1 hour after the scheduled time) and finally the train arrived 2 hours late (the display still showing 1 hour delay). How hard can it be to provide this information? It seems with current approaches it is too hard…

On my way back I could observe a further example of short comings with content on public display. In the bus office they had a really nice 40-50 inch screen showing teletext of the departure. The problem was it was the teletext for the evening as the staff has to manually switch the pages. Here too it is very clear the information is available but current delivery systems are not well integrated.

In summary it is really a pity how poorly the public display infrastructures are used. It seems there are a lot of advances in the hardware but little on the content delivery, software and system side.

We presented MirrorBoard at Mensch und Computer 2008 in Lübeck

Last winter term I was teaching a class on Unconventional User Interfaces at the University of Linz as part of the MSc in Pervasive Computing. As part of the exercises the students had to do a project and write a paper on the topic in a group. This required to do a full round in the development (from idea creation to study).

Florian König and his group had an exciting idea for a novel form of advertisement. The user is mirrored in the advert and becomes a part of it. They implemented an interactive poster for a travel agent (users become part of the holyday scene) and tested it in-situ. The paper was accepted at the German HCI conference (Mensch und Computer) and Florian presented it today very well [1].

In the questions there was much discussion about privacy and user acceptance. We discussed whether or not such a installation would be legal in Germany (people mentioned the Datenschutzgesetz §6).

[1] Johannes Schönböck, Florian König, Gabriele Kotsis, Dominik Gruber, Emre Zaim, Albrecht Schmidt. MirrorBoard – An Interactive Billboard. Mensch und Computer 2008. Lübeck. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2008, p 207-216.

Context-Aware adverts, google patent search

This evening I went to Münster to meet with Antonio Krüger and Lucia Terrenghi (who is now with Vodafone), who was visiting there. Advertisement is a hot topic and it was interesting that we shared an interesting observation “If the advert/information is the least boring thing to look at people will read it ;-)”. Each of us having their favorite anecdotal evidence: my favorites are people reading the same map everyday at their U-station and the advertising flyers in the Munich S-Train. For context-aware advertisement this is the major challenge to find the time/location where people are bored and happy to see an advert 😉

We currently have an ongoing master thesis that looks into this topic – context-aware advertising with cars. There are several interesting examples that this concept could work: e.g. Taxis that show location based ads (you can hire your area where your ad is shown, see [1], [2]). We think it gets really interesting if there are many cars that form a in-town canvas you can paint on. On the way back we checked out the screen adverts (include in the public phones) Jörg Müller works on – even with a navigation feature.

Looking for some more on the topic I realized that Google Patent search works quite well by now:

What can we learn from legacy-free washbasins?

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 as there is not plug)… nevertheless most setups have washbasin.

Back to computing – what does it tell us? Looking at the operating systems I use, the applications and devices I see a lot of washbasin! Functionality that is never used but makes maintenance pretty expensive is a part of most of them. Looking at architecture as well as user interfaces the above example can motive to look at non-standard solutions…

Dagmar Kern presented two WIP at CHI

Dagmar presented two work in progress papers at the poster session at CHI. One paper is a master thesis of Hema [1] and assess how we can personalize environments with coding preference into the Bluetooth friendly name. Here we were particularly interested into the acceptance in Germany and India. The second paper [2] was joint work with Nigel’s group from Lancaster. Here we look at targeted poster advertising and how preference information should be stored.

[1] Mahato, H., Kern, D., Holleis, P., and Schmidt, A. 2008. Implicit personalization of public environments using bluetooth. In CHI ’08 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 – 10, 2008). CHI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 3093-3098. DOI=

[2] Kern, D., Harding, M., Storz, O., Davis, N., and Schmidt, A. 2008. Shaping how advertisers see me: user views on implicit and explicit profile capture. In CHI ’08 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 – 10, 2008). CHI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 3363-3368. DOI=

Interactive window displays – we have better ideas

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 there is somebody interested in really cool stuff for a shop window (attention grabbing, eye catchers, interactive content, etc.) – talk to me. We are happy to discuss a project proposal 😉

Implicit Personalization – Online Questionnaire

We currently run a survey on “Implicit Personalization of Public Environments” as part of a master thesis. The thesis looks at the technical realization of this approach based on Bluetooth and mobile devices with a focus on creating an acceptable solution with regard to users’ privacy. If you are interested in the topic and can spare 5 minutes have a look at our questionnaire on implicit personalization, there is a German version of the survey, too.

The questionnaire is set up on a server ( that offers free hosting for scientific/non-profit surveys.

Bluetooth marketing in the wild

Arriving in Zurich I was quite surprised by the masses of people in the train station. We picked the weekend of the Street Parade for our visit 😉 makes you really think about your own age…

In the railway station they had digital giveaways – you just had to switch your Bluetooth on.

Wall-Sized Printed Adverts with Integrated Screen

At Zurich Airport Orange and Nokia are running a large printed advert. At a first glance it looks just as a printed large scale poster. The TV screen in one poster and the projected writing on top of another poster are seamlessly integrated. The media design of the overall installation is appealing.

The active screen (could be a 50 inch plasma TV) is the screen of the mobile phone and shows the navigation application. In contrast to most other installations, where screens and printed posters are used, this appears right and it catches people’s attention.

There is work from Scott Klemmer’s group at Stanford that looks the relationship between the printed displays and projection/displays for various applications. The Gigaprints project was shown as a video at Ubicomp 2006.

What is the Digital Equivalent of a Park in a City?

The visit to the eCulture Factory showed me again that bringing new media into the real public space creates new and very valuable insights, even though it is difficult and costly. Such installations can give a glimpse of what future public space will be. When thinking of the design space for media in public spaces one can image to create completely different and new experiences. Contextuality and awareness seem key design criteria.

Transforming public space using digital technology offers a lot of chances. However it seems that currently a lot of people think about this mainly with regard to new forms of advertising (obviously us included). But after seeing the installations in Bremen I think there is a great chance to improve the quality of life in a place with digital technologies. We probably should think more along the non-short-term-business-lines in this domain.

Thinking of quality of life… who wants to live in a city without a park or at least some green patches? No one – really. Perhaps it is time to invent the digital equivalent of a park for public spaces of the future. I think I have to do some reading to understand the traditional motivation behind parks…