Pervasive 2007 in Toronto

The internatonal conference on pervasive computing in Toronto had an exiting program.

The keynote was by Adam Greenfield on “Everyware: Some Social and Ethical Implications of Ubiquitous Computing” – matching a number of issues we discussed the day before at the doctoral colloquium. The talk was enjoyable even though I think some of the statements made, in particular with regard to opting out and informing the users (e.g. logos) are over-simplified. Furthermore the fact that our society and its values are changing was very little reflected, e.g. privacy is not a constant.

The best paper (by Rene Mayerhofer and Hans Gellersen) “Shake well before use: Authentication based on accelerometer data” was my favourite, too. A further very interesting paper was “Inference Attacks on Location Tracksby John Krumm. Two papers from ETH Zürich were also quite interesting: “Operating Appliances with Mobile Phones – Strengths and Limits of a Universal Interaction Deviceby Christof Roduner et al. showed surprising results for the use of phones as remote control (in short – more usable than one thinks). And “Objects Calling Home: Locating Objects Using Mobile Phones” by Christian Frank et al. showed that phones have a great utility as sensors (in this case to find lost objects.)

We presented a in the video proceedings the smart transport container and a novel supply chain scenario (cutting out all intermediaries and enabling producer to customer transactions).

The tutorial day was excellent – I think the set of tutorials presented can give a good frame for preparing a course or lecture on pervasive computing.

Pervasive 2008 will be in Australia!

Our Presentations at CHI’07 in San Jose

At this years CHI the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems we presented 3 contributions: a full paper, a CHI-note, and a work in progress paper. Have a look at them!

Holleis, P., Otto, F., Hussmann, H., and Schmidt, A. 2007. Keystroke-level model for advanced mobile phone interaction. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (San Jose, California, USA, April 28 – May 03, 2007). CHI ’07. ACM Press, New York, NY, 1505-1514. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1240624.1240851

Atterer, R. and Schmidt, A. 2007. Tracking the interaction of users with AJAX applications for usability testing. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (San Jose, California, USA, April 28 – May 03, 2007). CHI ’07. ACM Press, New York, NY, 1347-1350. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1240624.1240828

Holleis, P., Kern, D., and Schmidt, A. 2007. Integrating user performance time models in the design of tangible UIs. In CHI ’07 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (San Jose, CA, USA, April 28 – May 03, 2007). CHI ’07. ACM Press, New York, NY, 2423-2428. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1240866.1241018

Panel on Users as Producers at Schloss Birlinghoven

In the castle on campus Ute Schütz and Michael Krapp from IAIS and SCAI organize a public panel discussion on citizen journalism and Web 2.0 trends. The discussion looked at the topic from several angles including technology, content, and communication. I had the honour to be on the panel with Wolfgang Back, Frank Patalong, Moritz „mo.“ Sauer and Thomas Tikwinski.

On issue was how much blogs are (mis)used to transport information or to do advertising. The web seems to be to many people a very believable medium. This reminded me of an article I read some time ago on story-telling o n the web (Miller, J. 2005. Storytelling evolves on the web: case study: EXOCOG and the future of storytelling. interactions 12, 1 (Jan. 2005), 30-47. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1041280.1041281). I think something along this lines would an interesting project with students.

The questions what is going to change in the near future on the WWW brought many trend statements out, but for me it is amazing that most of the infrastructure and technology we need to make this happen is out there. One comment which I think is really true is that it is more an more about content and communication again. As Thomas said before the panel – most of the great things that are called Web 2.0 have been in the original proposal for the WWW (e.g. annotations by everyone or users as editors) – but now technology is finally there that people can use it.

Girls’ day at Fraunhofer in Birlinghoven

In Germany there are still too few girls and women interested in studying technical subjects – it may have different reasons but I think trying to convince young girls that technology is really exciting is a good way of addressing the problem.

We had this morning 7 girls visiting our lab. Matching our current teaching at B-IT (and using the test implementation Dagmar made 😉 we offered the topic “The computer knows where I am – how does this work”. First we played a mini geocaching game where they had to find a bag of jelly babies behind the castle.

After they had some experience with GPS and an electronic map we explained how it works and even parse together a NMEA-0183 sentence. We also discussed some application ideas, e.g. kids monitoring with GPS. The discussion, in particular the privacy issues that came up, were quite interesting.

I can really see that for some projects running focus groups with kids could be fun for them and a great value for the projects.

Panel on Sensor Networks – Applications are the Key

Debora Estrin made an interesting statement. The “early challenges” (the thousands or millions of randomly scattered sensor notes) do not have much applicability outside the battlefield. The new challenges are heterogeneity (specific sensors with specific capabilities) and interactivity (basically sense-making is a process where humans are involved). She made the point that the logical consequence is that dealing with data is the essential issue and statistics have an increasing role. Furthermore these new research directions make a stromg call for application driven research. With these very insightful comments she criticised a lot of the current work in sensor networks. Especially the observation that there is no such thing as a “general sensor” – it points out that concrete applications are required to make meaningful contributions, even to basic research in sensor networks research.

Best Demo Award at Percom 2007

Gregor got for our Perci prototype (Supporting Mobile Service Usage through Physical Mobile Interaction) the best demo award. So it paid off that he spend a night configuring the data services on the phones for the US networks 😉 It is amazing that it is still quite an effort to configure data services for a new provider.

Talks and Demos at PerCom 2007 in White Plains, NY

This year we (my previous group from LMU Munich) have a significant presence at PerCom. Form the 20 full papers the Embedded Interaction Research Group (www.hcilab.org) has 3, and additionally 1 of the 7 concise papers is from us. With a total of 207 submissions and an acceptance rate of around 10% this is quite an achievement for the team – and a good high point for the project before moving it to University of Bonn.

Gregor(y) Broll had the demo developed in the Perci-Project yesterday. Lucia Terrenghi and I had our talks today. And Gregor Broll, Sebastian Boring, and Raphael Wimmer have their talks tomorrow. Overall the conference has quite a diverse and interesting program, which seem to be more technical and network oriented than Ubicomp or Pervasive. The publications will be online available at the IEEE digital library or on our new publication webpage.

What can you do with a Wii controller? Use tape and connect a toothbrush and program a nice UI (fish tank) in Flash. Quite an interesting demo from Waseda University in Japan – at least the person who did the demo had really clean teeth in the evening.


PerTec Workshop in NY, Ripping off the Antenna

At PerCom 2007 (www.percom.org) Florian Michahelles (Auto-ID labs, ETH Zurich), Frédéric Thiesse (University of St. Gallen), John R. Williams (MIT Cambridge) and I are running the the PerTec workshop (www.autoidlabs.org/events/pertec2007). There is quite some interest in the topic and the range of topics is from technical to user interface and security.

In contrast to the workshop 1 year ago at Pervasive 2006 it seems that item level RFID-tagging is undisputed and that the only discussion point is when it is coming – in 6 month or 10 years. There is also still some discussion about what types of products are the first ones that are tagged – is it pharmaceuticals or cloth?

There was an interesting contribution by Paul Moskowitz from IBM, the clipped tag. It is a tag where you can physically rip off some part the antenna to reduce the read range from several meters to centimetres (see the pictures). It is really interesting that people can do a very clear and visible action to change the characteristics of a tag. The only questions that remains for me – will people trust that this really rips of the antenna? Probably yes…

The topics we discussed included security, privacy, location and RFID, end user issues, and connection of sensors to RFID, we hope to write it up in an overview article.

In the break out groups one discussion centered on the question what would we need to enable end-users to create novel applications using RFID? Further results of the discussion will be available on the workshop webpage soon.

The overall theme that emerged again and again is impact of real world constraints in RFID systems. Questions like: Can you achieve anonymity with a certain protocol? Can not be answered without knowing how it is used in the real world. Especially having recently learned a lot about data-mining (being at Fraunhofer IAIS) for me the questions of exploiting data collected in RFID systems looks really challenging.

Wearable Computing – Is it here?

10 years after I have got seen first see the crazy idea of wearable computing it appears that the technology is now really pushing into the marked. Even though one could argue whether or not this is really wearable computing (but this argument is as old as the idea of wearable computing). The last thing I would have expected 10 years ago was Bavarian Lederhosen with a built in user interface for an mp3-player. But nevertheless many challenges are still the same (integration with the aesthetics and fashion statement, durability and wash-ability, connectivity between computer and garment, integrated user interfaces) and some are nicely solved (http://www.smarttextiles.net/).

After Falke presented some years ago a sensor/ECG-t-shirt there was another one at CeBIT this year. It is not on the marked yet and it did not yet look fully convincing (you need to button in the electrodes). In our lab class on programming mobile systems we could use such a t-shirt. Currently we use stick on electrodes from http://www.alivetec.com/ which work really good but for the scenarios in mind having a t-shirt would be nicer.

In my recent entry on St. Petersburg I wondered about a communication glove. There was one on display – it includes only the essential (basically a speaker and a microphone) – but it enforced my opinion that creating a communication glove would be an interesting project. There were also hats with included speaker and microphones.

I was told that garments that keep warm – with active heating – are a hot topic 😉 Not fully convinced, but if projected consequently into the future it could change the way we dress completely. Want to show off you body at -20°C? Just power up the heating in your underwear a bit more and walk outdoors in your favourite summer dress without a coat. Not sure if this is the way we should push, I rather take my warm coat and save some energy. Apropos saving energy – there were interesting laptop bags with solar panels on the outside for harvesting energy.

Fraunhofer at CeBIT

“Deutschland – Land der Ideeen” – Germany land of ideas was really visible at the Fraunhofer exhibitions at CeBIT. For me having just recently joined Fraunhofer Gesellschaft I was amazed on the many research areas covered and the quality of the exhibits. Next generation MP3, interaction in public spaced, smart transport solutions, robots, micro-electronics, sensors – it is not really feasible to make a list… Our institute (IAIS) showed several exiting exhibits (see http://www.iais.fraunhofer.de/ for details).