Breakfast reading: tabgible UIs, brands, and user centred design

The current issue interactions (http://interactions.acm.org) features some interesting articles – at least scanning through it and reading some of them prolonged my breakfast today considerably 😉

The cover story gives an already in its title a very interesting definition of tangible interaction (Tangible Interaction = Form + Computing) [1]. Their view is very much from a design perspective, but provides a good introduction to the topic.

The article by Jay Chaeyong Yi on a success story from Korea is a very good case study of how to apply UI research [2]. It shows (1) a comprehensive example of user driven research and (2) the value and importance it contributes to a product/service. Even though the article describes a project from 2005 I find the topic of messaging on phone still exciting and the example of IM vs. SMS can still tell a lot. Personally I am really interested in where messaging on the phone goes – perhaps there is some time next week in Tampere to discuss this.

Not central on user interfaces but still quite interesting is the article on operationalizing brands with Web 2.0 technologies [3]. The example of eBags.com shows interestingly what is currently possible. Thinking and imagine a bit further and considering the opportunities that arise from the web/internet of things (e.g. where you know from the bag how it is used and can communicate this) some real change will be ahead. And some companies are slowly getting to the point of bringing first products that go into this direction (Ali pointed me to http://greengoose.com).

After setting up some IKEA furniture with my daughter (model BENNO as bookshelf for paper backs and not for CD/DVDs) I found Don Norman’s article where he discusses the issue consuming vs. producing or spectator vs. creator quite interesting [4].

[1] Baskinger, M. and Gross, M. 2010. Tangible interaction = form + computing. interactions 17, 1 (Jan. 2010), 6-11. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1649475.1649477

[2] Yi, J. C. 2010. User-research-driven mobile user interface innovation: a success story from Seoul. interactions 17, 1 (Jan. 2010), 48-51. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1649475.1649487

[3] Yohn, D. L. 2010. Operationalizing brands with new technologies. interactions 17, 1 (Jan. 2010), 24-27. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1649475.1649481

[4] Norman, D. A. 2010. The transmedia design challenge: technology that is pleasurable and satisfying. interactions 17, 1 (Jan. 2010), 12-15. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1649475.1649478

Ubiquitous Computing – Ever wondered if we are there yet?

Given the technologies around us I sometimes wonder how close we are to a vision of ubiquitous computing. In this month IEEE Computer Invisible Computing column I had the pleasure to ask this question and share my view on it.

The short answer is: many technologies are ubiquitous but there is a lot more to come. In particular we see that many technologies (public displays, people centric sensing, and personal memory devices) are just around the corner and that they may have a large impact on how we perceive computing. For the long answer have a look at my article: ubiquitous computing – are we there yet? [1]. I have taken over responsibility for the invisible computing column from Bill Schilit who introduced the Invisible Computing column in 2003 [2].

Some years ago in 2006 Yvonne Rogers presented her view on how Ubicomp is going forward [3] contrasting it to Weiser’s Vision of calm computing. In her paper she introduces an alternative agenda that argue that we should engage people by ubicomp technologies rather than to make life easy, convenient and calm. Yvonne’s paper is an interesting starting point for getting students into this topic.

[1] Schmidt, A. 2010. Ubiquitous Computing: Are We There Yet? Computer 43, 2 (Feb. 2010), 95-97. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MC.2010.54

[2] Schilit, B. N. 2003. Mega-Utilities Drive Invisible Technologies. Computer 36, 2 (Feb. 2003), 97-99. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MC.2003.1178056

[3] Yvonne Rogers: Moving on from Weiser’s Vision of Calm Computing: Engaging UbiComp Experiences. Ubicomp 2006: 404-421

Books – Christmas break reading

While travelling I came across two very different books. On one of the airports I came through I came across Superfreakonimics by Levitt and Dubner [1] I had also read their earlier book (Freakonomics) as well as The Undercover Economist from Tim Harford – so I got this one. It is funny to read and I enjoyed most of it. The Geo-Engineering statements in the book received quite some critism on the net. So don’t by it for its discussion on climate ;-). Reading the books it seems one gets a good explanation of certain things in the world (and economics) – not sure if this is really true, but it is great fun to read nevertheless. I particular like the argument why emancipation leads to a lower quality of teaching in schools 🙂

A very different book (also with regard to the price; its more on a library budget than a casual airport buy), but not less interesting, is “Awareness systems” by Panos Markopolous, Boris de Royter and Wendy Mackay [2]. So far I have had only a quick look at the book but this could be the basis for a seminar in a term to come.

[1] Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner. Superfreakonomics. 2009. http://freakonomicsbook.com/ ISBN 978-0-7139-9991-4

[2] Markopoulos, Panos; De Ruyter, Boris; Mackay, Wendy (Eds.). Awareness Systems. Advances in Theory, Methodology and Design. 2009, ISBN: 978-1-84882-476-8

PS: I came across another book that takes an extreme – but still to some extent interesting – perspective on the German society. The book is called “Die verblödete Republik” (the republic that went gaga). In some parts I was reminded of the movie “wag the dog” – but the book is much more serious about it – providing a lot of references…

From the Internet of Things to the Web of Things

The central role of ICT becomes very visible when it does not work. Sometimes for the good as I was late arriving at Düsseldorf airport but the Airberlin check-in system was down for a few minutes – just enough that I was still in time 🙂

In the evening I met Prof. Lorenz Hilty, who gave a talk in the afternoon at ETH Zurich. I missed the talk but after the interesting and though provoking dinner conversation I decided I should finally really read his book [1] – perhaps over Christmas. Meeting with Friedemann Mattern and Hans Gellersen was very inspiring and I hope we get a change to have future joint projects.

Looking out over Zürich we talked about the transformation from the internet of things to the world wide web of things. The use of prototcol seems a little technical detail, but in my eye it may have a major impact. The WWW of things is creating a world of networked artefacts (much like the internet of things) but is completely based on Web protocols (e.g. http, RESTful web services). By working with web protocols the objects can easily become part of the web and interact with web-platforms and applications on the www (e.g. facebook, twitter, etc.). I expect by having a WWW of things we enable many more developers to create new and exciting applications on top of the internet of things. There are many challenging research questions. I am particularly interested in how will a good platform look like that empowers web programmers to create and distribute applications on the Web of things. I think we should run a workshop on this in the near future!

[1] Information Technology and Sustainability: Essays on the Relationship between Information Technology and Sustainable Development. Lorenz M. Hilty. 2008.

The computer mouse – next generation?

In my lecture on user interface engineering I start out with a short history of human computer interaction. I like to discuss ideas and inventions in the context of the people who did it, besides others I take about Vannevar Bush and his vision of information processing [1], Ivan Sutherland’s sketchpad [2], Doug Engelbart’s CSCW demo (including the mouse) [3], and Alan Kay’s vision of the Dynabook [4].

One aspect of looking at the history is to better understand the future of interaction with computers. One typical question I ask in class is “what is the ultimate user interface” and typical answers are “direct interface to my brain – the computer will do what I think” and “mouse and keyboard” – both answers showing some insight…

As the mouse is still a very import input device (and probably for some time to come) there is a recent paper that I find really interesting. It looks at how the mouse could be enhanced – Nicolas Villar and his colleagues put really a lot of ideas together [5]. The paper is worthwhile to read – but if you don’t have time at least watch it on youtube.

[1] Vannevar Bush, As we may think, Atlantic monthly, July 1945.
[2] Ivan Sutherland, “Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System” Technical Report No. 296, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology via Defense Technical Information Center January 1963. (PDF, youtube).
[3] Douglas Engelbart, the demo 1968. (Overview, youtube)
[4] John Lees. The World In Your Own Notebook (Alan Kay’s Dynabook project at Xerox PARC). The Best of Creative Computing. Volume 3 (1980)
[5] Villar, N., Izadi, S., Rosenfeld, D., Benko, H., Helmes, J., Westhues, J., Hodges, S., Ofek, E., Butler, A., Cao, X., and Chen, B. 2009. Mouse 2.0: multi-touch meets the mouse. In Proceedings of the 22nd Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Victoria, BC, Canada, October 04 – 07, 2009). UIST ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 33-42. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1622176.1622184

Engineering Thrill – Why is a fairground fun?

On the weekend I went with Vivien to a fairground at the Volksfest in Crailsheim (smaller Version of the Oktoberfest). Vivien is now old enough for some of the attractions – giving me an excuse to try them out 🙂 The forces on the body are pretty exciting when you feel them for the first time or after 20 years again…

It is amazing how much (mechanical) engineering is in these attractions, even though many are still the same as when I was a child (about 30 years ago). It seems that computer science plays a very minor role (besides controlling the mechanics). Virtual reality does not feature at all. What people are attracted to is physical (e.g. a fraction of a second of zero G, great heights, and a life boxing fight).

When I was in Lancaster working in the Equator project I worked with Brendan Walker – and he is the world’s only thrill engineer. He is an aeronautical engineer (Imperial College, London) and Industrial Design Engineer (Royal College of Art, London) by training and had a research grant to investigate how thrill works and how to create thrill. Some of his results are published in a booklet [1] and the work is continued in the Thrilllaboratory [2]. Earlier this year he gave an interview to that gives an intro of his work – a quick and fun read. There are some youtube videos of his work, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v1M59Aaa2A

[1] Brendan Walker. The Taxonomy of Thrill and Thrilling Designs: Chromo11 (Volumes One and Two). Aerial Publishing (Jan 2005)

[2] http://www.thrilllaboratory.com/

Best papers at MobileHCI 2009

At the evening event of MobileHCI2009 the best paper awards were presented. The best short paper was “User expectations and user experience with different modalities in a mobile phone controlled home entertainment system” [1]. There were two full papers that got a best paper award: “Sweep-Shake: finding digital resources in physical environments” [2] and “PhotoMap: using spontaneously taken images of public maps for pedestrian navigation tasks on mobile devices” [3]. We often look at best papers of a conference to better understand what makes a good paper for this community. All of the 3 papers above are really well done and worthwhile to read.

PhotoMap [3] is a simple but very cool idea. Many of you have probably taken photos of public maps with your mobile phone (e.g. at a park, city map) and PhotoMap explores how to link them to realtime location data from the GPS on the device. The goal is that you can move around in the real space and you have a dot marking where you are on the taken photo. The implementation however seems not completely simple… There is a youtube movie on PhotoMap (there would be more movies from the evening event – but I do not link them here – the photo above gives you an idea…)

Since last year there is also a history best paper award (most influential paper from 10 years ago). Being at the beginning of a new field sometimes pays of… I got this award for the paper on implicit interaction [4] I presented in Edinburgh at MobileHCI 1999.

[1] Turunen, M., Melto, A., Hella, J., Heimonen, T., Hakulinen, J., Mäkinen, E., Laivo, T., and Soronen, H. 2009. User expectations and user experience with different modalities in a mobile phone controlled home entertainment system. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 – 18, 2009). MobileHCI ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-4. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1613858.1613898

[2] Robinson, S., Eslambolchilar, P., and Jones, M. 2009. Sweep-Shake: finding digital resources in physical environments. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 – 18, 2009). MobileHCI ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-10. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1613858.1613874

[3] Schöning, J., Krüger, A., Cheverst, K., Rohs, M., Löchtefeld, M., and Taher, F. 2009. PhotoMap: using spontaneously taken images of public maps for pedestrian navigation tasks on mobile devices. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 – 18, 2009). MobileHCI ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-10. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1613858.1613876

[4] Albrecht Schmidt. Implicit human computer interaction through context. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing Journal, Springer Verlag London, ISSN:1617-4909, Volume 4, Numbers 2-3 / Juni 2000. DOI:10.1007/BF01324126, pp. 191-199 (initial version presented at MobileHCI1999). http://www.springerlink.com/content/u3q14156h6r648h8/

It is better to look beautiful… Aesthetics and HCI

During the summerschool in Haifa Prof. Noam Tractinsky from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev gave a presentation about Aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction. It was good to meet him in person and get some more insight in his work – as I refer to it typically in my HCI class.


In short his finding can be summarized by: What is Beautiful is Usable [1], [2]. In his talk he had some interesting example – you can look at a web page for one second only and you will figure out if it is a good design or not. There has been previous work in Japan [3] similar results – suggesting that this may be universial. Methodical I think the research approaches are not straightforward and may be disputed in parts – but the basic findings are very intuitive and should be taken more into account.

[1] Tractinsky, N. 1997. Aesthetics and apparent usability: empirically assessing cultural and methodological issues. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 22 – 27, 1997). S. Pemberton, Ed. CHI ’97. ACM, New York, NY, 115-122. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/258549.258626

[2] Tractinsky, N., Shoval-Katz A. and Ikar, D. (2000) What is Beautiful is Usable. Interacting with Computers, 13(2): 127-145.

[3] Kurosu, M. and Kashimura, K. 1995. Apparent usability vs. inherent usability: experimental analysis on the determinants of the apparent usability. In Conference Companion on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Denver, Colorado, United States, May 07 – 11, 1995). I. Katz, R. Mack, and L. Marks, Eds. CHI ’95. ACM, New York, NY, 292-293. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/223355.223680

Meeting Prof. Brian Randell, book recommendations

Yesterday after my talk I met briefly Prof. Brian Randell from the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University. Today we had a chat over a coffee and it is really interesting to think more about dependability implications of ubicomp technologies.

Besides many other points I got a set of interesting pointers to books:

Reading material for summer school.

Tsvi Kuflik and Antonio Krüger organize from August 30th – September 3rd a German-Israeli Minerva School for Ubiquitous Display Environments: Intelligent Group Interaction, Foundations and Implementation of Pervasive Multimodal Interfaces. I will teach a session on: “Embedded interaction with display environments” and here is the list of recommended readings for the participants – if you are short on time only read the first one and glance over the other two.

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= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1358628.1358813 (if you do not have access to ACM here is a copy on the web)

Schmidt, A.; van Laerhoven, K. 2001. How to build smart appliances? Personal Communications, IEEE. Volume 8, Issue 4, Aug 2001:66 – 71. DOI: 10.1109/98.944006. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=944006 (if you do not have access to IEEE here is a copy on the web)

Villar N.; Schmidt A.; Kortuem G.; Gellersen H.-W. 2003. Interacting with proactive public displays. Computers and Graphics, Elsevier. Volume 27, Number 6, December 2003 , pp. 849-857(9). Draft Version “Interacting with proactive community displays” online available.

Recommended Reading – why would I read about math during my holidays?

If you study computer science in Germany you get a fair bit of math to do – especially in the first year. It is not liked by all students… Nevertheless I have a reading recommendation that has to do with mathematics. I came across the book some month ago in a railway station bookshop – and I immediately liked it 😉

Der Mathematikverführer by Christoph Drösser. Sample Chapter (in German). Solutions to the stories in the book. Link to the page at Amazon.

The concept of the book is funny (at least I think so) as it put math together with real world questions. And these questions (that are defiantly not really relevant for the survival of mankind) make the book appealing. E.g. how many molecules of Goethe’s last breath are you breathing in? Or how far should you empty a bier can before you put it in the sand to minimize the risk of the can tipping over? Or what is the optimal distance to walk behind another person to optimize for visibility of leg length (this may be regarded sexist in the US, it’s OK in most parts of Europe)? The travelling sales man problem is also included in the book, wrapped as travelling politician.

The math does not really go beyond high school level but I have learned and revised some math while reading. I learned some interesting facts about the distribution of numbers (Benford’s law) – so do not cheat when you do studies or surveys – I will figure it out…

The book is in German – I have not seen an English version of the book…

ebook, tangibe programming, iPhones bring back wired telephony

Having used the Sony PRS-505 now for a few weeks (mainly to read dissertations and project reports) I have quickly gotten used to carrying less weight. The user interface requires some learning – as the screen is pretty slow pressing a button does not give immediate feedback and that feels strange – more than expected. I wonder if there are studies on traditional interacton with electronic paper? Another issue: it seems to depend on the crew whether or not it is OK to read from an eBook during the entire flight (including take-off and landing)…

While reading a thesis I was reminded of an interesting paper on tangible programming [1] from a special issue of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing we did in 2004. The paper situates the topic historically and gives an interesting introduction.

In recent meetings as well as in airports around the world one can observe a trend: wired telephony! Whereas people with traditional mobile phone walk up and down and talk on the phone iPhone users often sit wired up to the next power plug an phone… seems apple has re-invented wired telephony 😉 and other brands will soon follow (make sure to reserve a seat with a power connection).

[1] McNerney, T. S. 2004. From turtles to Tangible Programming Bricks: explorations in physical language design. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 8, 5 (Sep. 2004), 326-337. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-004-0295-6

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  

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.

Two basic references for interaction byond the desktop

Following the workshop I got a few questions on what the important papers are that one should read to start on the topic. There are many (e.g. search in google schoolar for tangible interaction, physical interaction, etc and you will see) and there conference dedicated to it (e.g. the tangible and embedded interaction TEI – next week in cambridge).

But if I have to pick two here is my joice:

[1] Ishii, H. 2008. Tangible bits: beyond pixels. In Proceedings of the 2nd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Bonn, Germany, February 18 – 20, 2008). TEI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, xv-xxv. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1347390.1347392

[2] Jacob, R. J., Girouard, A., Hirshfield, L. M., Horn, M. S., Shaer, O., Solovey, E. T., and Zigelbaum, J. 2008. Reality-based interaction: a framework for post-WIMP interfaces. 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, 201-210. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1357054.1357089

My Random Papers Selection from Ubicomp 2008

Over the last days there were a number of interesting papers presented and so it is not easy to pick a selection… Here is my random paper selection from Ubicomp 2008 that link to our work (the conference papers link into the ubicomp 2008 proceedings in the ACM DL, our references are below):

Don Patterson presented a survey on using IM. One of the finding surprised me: people seem to ignore “busy” settings. In some work we did in 2000 on mobile availability and sharing context users indicated that they would respect this or at least explain when interrupt someone who is busy [1,2] – perhaps it is a cultural difference or people have changed. It may be interesting to run a similar study in Germany.

Woodman and Harle from Cambridge presented a pedestrian localization system for large indoor environments. Using a XSens device they combine dead reckoning with knowledge gained from a 2.5D map. In the experiment they seem to get similar results as with a active bat system – by only putting the device on the user (which is for large buildings much cheaper than putting up infrastructure).
Andreas Bulling presented work where he explored the use EOG goggles for context awareness and interaction. The EOG approach is complementary to video based systems. The use of gesturest for context-awarenes follows a similar idea as our work on eye gestures [3]. We had an interesting discussion about further ideas and perhaps there is chance in the future to directly compare the approaches and work together.
In one paper “on using existing time-use study data for ubiquitous computing applications” links to interesting public data sets were given (e.g the US time-use survey). The time-use surevey data covers the US and gives detailed data on how people use their data.
University of Salzburg presented initial work on an augmented shopping system that builds on the idea of implicit interaction [4]. In the note they report a study where they used 2 cameras to observe a shopping area and they calculated the “busy spots” in the area. Additional they used sales data to get best selling products. Everything was displayed on a public screen; and an interesting result was that it seems people where not really interesting in other shoppers behavior… (in contrast to what we observe in e-commerce systems).
Researchers from Hitachi presented a new idea for browsing and navigating content based on the metaphor of using a book. In is based on the concept to have a bendable surface. In complements interestingly previous work in this domain called Gummi presented in CHI 2004 by Schwesig et al.
[1] Schmidt, A., Takaluoma, A., and Mäntyjärvi, J. 2000. Context-Aware Telephony Over WAP. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 4, 4 (Jan. 2000), 225-229. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s007790070008
[2] Albrecht Schmidt, Tanjev Stuhr, Hans Gellersen. Context-Phonebook – Extending Mobile Phone Applications with Context. Proceedings of Third Mobile HCI Workshop, September 2001, Lille, France.
[3] Heiko Drewes, Albrecht Schmidt. Interacting with the Computer using Gaze Gestures. Proceedings of INTERACT 2007.
[4] Albrecht Schmidt. Implicit Human Computer Interaction Through Context. Personal Technologies, Vol 4(2), June 2000

Doctoral colloquium at Ubicomp 2008

In the doctoral colloquium at Ubicomp 2008 we saw an interesting mix of topics including work on context-awareness, interaction in smart space, home infrastructures and urban environments. Overall there is again the observation that in ubicomp topics are very broad (at least in the beginning) and that it is not easy to narrow it down.

As Ali works on tactile feedback it was very interesting to see the presentation of Kevin Li on eyes-free interaction. He has an upcoming paper at UIST 2008 which is worthwhile to check out [1]. It was interesting some of the questions that relate to “easily learnable” or “intuitive” related to the discussion we had 2 weeks ago at the automotive UI workshop – what are tactile stimuli that are natural and we associate meaning with them without explanations or learning?
There are many more papers to read if you are interested in tactile communication and output, here are two suggestions [2] and [3].
[1]. Li, K. A., Baudisch, P., Griswold, W.G., Hollan, J.D. Tapping and rubbing: exploring new dimensions of tactile feedback with voice coil motors. To appear in Proc. UIST’08.

[2] Chang, A. and O’Modhrain, S., Jacob, R., Gunther, E., and Ishii, H. ComTouch: design of a vibrotactile communication device. Proc. Of DIS’02, pp. 312-320.

[3] Malcolm Hall, Eve Hoggan, Stephen A. Brewster: T-Bars: towards tactile user interfaces for mobile touchscreens. Mobile HCI 2008: 411-414

PS: Just one remark on the term “framework” (a favorite word to use in dissertation and paper titles) – it is not a clear term and expectations are very different, hence it make sense to think twice before using it 😉

Some random papers from Mobile HCI 2008

During mobile HCI I came across many interesting things (that is why one goes to conferences 😉 here is a selection of papers to look at – if you have more time it is worthwhile to look at the whole proceedings of mobile HCI 2008 in the ACM DL.

Gauntlet: a wearable interface for ubiquitous gaming – exploring a new gaming UI for gestures.

Mobile phones as artifacts children use in their games are discussed. Shows again how creative children are 😉

An Investigation into round touch screen Wristwatch interaction – interesting topic and good example how to do a small study. Ideas to create a tactile rim, e.g. 2 parts moving to have different tactile cues, were brought up in the discussion.

Programming with children – taking programming it into the environment away from the computer, relates to Tangible User Interfaces

Projector phone: a study of using mobile phones with integrated projector for interaction with maps

Interaction based on Speech seems possible – even in noisy environment – the paper reports interesting preliminary results in the context of a fishing boot. Interesting in-situ tests (e.g. platform in a wave tank)

Wearable computing user interfaces. Where should we put the controls and what functions do uses expect?

Learning-oriented vehicle navigation systems: a preliminary investigation in a driving simulator

Enrico Rukzio followed up the work from Munich pushing the idea of touch interaction with NFC devices further.

Color matching using a mobile phone. The idea is to use a color chart, take a photo of face with a color chart, sent by mms to server, server process look up color match, reply by sms; no software installation only using MMS, SMS. Application in cosmetics are discussed.

Using Second Life to demonstrate a concept automobile heads up display (A-HUD)

Visitors to our Lab

Christofer Lueg (he is professor at the School of Computing & Information Systems at the University of Tasmania) and Trevor Pering (he is a senior researcher at Intel Research in Seattle) visited our lab this week. The timing is not perfect but at I am not the only interesting person in the lab 😉

Together with Roy Want and others Trevor published some time ago an article in the IEEE Pervasive Magazine that is still worthwhile to read “Disappearning Hardware” [1]. It shows clearly the trend that in the near future it will be feasible to include processing and wireless communication into any manufactured product and outlines resulting challenges. One of those challenges which we look into in our lab is how to interact with such systems… Also in a 2002 paper Christopher raised some very fundamental questions how far we will get with intelligent devices [2].

[1] Want, R., Borriello, G., Pering, T., and Farkas, K. I. 2002. Disappearing Hardware. IEEE Pervasive Computing 1, 1 (Jan. 2002), 36-47. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MPRV.2002.993143

[2] Lueg, C. 2002. On the Gap between Vision and Feasibility. In Proceedings of the First international Conference on Pervasive Computing (August 26 – 28, 2002). Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 2414. Springer-Verlag, London, 45-57.

Keynote at Pervasive 2008: Mark Billinghurst

Mark Billinghurst presented an interesting history of augmented reality and he showed clearly that camera phones are the platform to look out for. He reminded us that currently the 3D performance of mobile phones is similar to the most powerful 3D graphics cards show 15 years ago at SIGGRAPH. Looking back at Steven Feiner’s backpack [1] – the first augmented reality system I saw – can tell us that we should not be afraid to create prototypes that may be a bit clumsy if they allow us to create a certain user experience and for exploring technology challenges.

In an example video Mark showed how they have integrated sensor information (using particle computers) into an augmented reality application. Especially for sensor-network applications this seems to create interesting user interface options.

One reference on to robust outdoor tracking done at Cambridge University [2] outlines interestingly how combining different methods (in this case GPS, inertial, computer vision and models) can move location techniques forward. This example shows that high precision tracking on mobile devices may not be far in the future. For our application led research this is motivating and should push us to be more daring with what we assume from future location systems.

Mark argue to look more for the value of experience – the idea is basically that selling a user experience is of higher value than selling a service or a technology. This view is at the moment quite common – we have seen this argument a lot at CHI2008, too. What I liked with Mark’s argument very much is that he sees it in a layered approach! Experience is at the top of a set of layers – but you cannot sell experience without having technology or services and it seems a lot of people forget this. In short – no experience design if you do not have a technology working. This is important to understand. He included an example of interactive advertisement (http://www.reactrix.com/) which is interesting as it relates to some of the work we do on interactive advertisement (there will more as soon as we have published our Mensch und Computer 2008 paper).

His further example on experience was why you value a coffee at Starbucks at 3€ (because of the overall experience) reminded me of a book I recently read – quite a good airline/park read (probably only if you are not an economist) – makes the world a bit understandable [3].
Build enabling technologies and toolkits as means to improve one’s citation count was one of Mark’s recommendations. Looking back at our own work as well as the work of the Pervasive/Ubicomp community there is a lot of room for improvement – but it is really hard to do it …

[1] S. Feiner, B. MacIntyre, T. Höllerer, and T. Webster, A touring machine: Prototyping 3D mobile augmented reality systems for exploring the urban environment. Proc. ISWC ’97 (First IEEE Int. Symp. on Wearable Computers), October 13-14, 1997, Cambridge, MA. Also in Personal Technologies, 1(4), 1997, pp. 208-217, http://www1.cs.columbia.edu/graphics/publications/iswc97.pdf, http://www1.cs.columbia.edu/graphics/projects/mars/touring.html

[2] Reitmayr, G., and Drummond, T. 2006. Going out: Robust model-based tracking for outdoor augmented reality. In Proceedings of IEEE ISMAR’06, 109–118.http://mi.eng.cam.ac.uk/~gr281/docs/ReitmayrIsmar06GoingOut.pdf, http://mi.eng.cam.ac.uk/~gr281/outdoortracking.html

[3] Book: Tim Harford. The Undercover Economist. 2007. (German Version: Ökonomics: Warum die Reichen reich sind und die Armen arm und Sie nie einen günstigen Gebrauchtwagen bekommen. 2006.)

TEI08 Proceedings in the ACM DL online, mandatory reading

The proceedings of the 2nd international conference on Tangible and embedded interaction are online in the ACM digital library. Still not in the search index and with a few corrections to do…

Hiroshi Ishii contributed a paper on “Tangible bits: beyond pixels” – the first paper in the proceedings [1] and a great overview and introduction to the topic. If you are a student to start on tangible interaction or if you have students that start this paper is a mandatory reading!

[1] Ishii, H. 2008. Tangible bits: beyond pixels. In Proceedings of the 2nd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Bonn, Germany, February 18 – 20, 2008). TEI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, xv-xxv. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1347390.1347392

In Search of Excellence

At the Fraunhofer retreat in Westerburg we had very interesting discussions on research and research strategies in computer science. The span of excellent research in computer science is enormous ranging from theoretical work (e.g. math style proofs), to engineering type work (e.g. systems), to experimental and empirical work (e.g. studies). This makes it really challenging to find a common notion of “excellent research”. This reminds me of an interesting book which I started to read (recommended to me at the retreat): In Search of Excellence: Lessons from Americas Best Run Companies by Robert H Waterman et al. – so far it is really interesting to read. However everything in management seems really straightforward on paper – but in my experience in the real world it always comes down to people.