Karin Bee has defended her dissertation.

Karin Bee (nee Leichtenstern) has defended her dissertation at the University of Augsburg. In her dissertation she worked on methods and tools to support a user centered design process for mobile applications that use a variety of modalities. There are some papers that describe her work, e.g. [1] and [2]. To me it was particularly interesting that she revisited the experiment done in her master thesis in a smart home in Essex [3] and reproduced some of it in her hybrid evaluation environment.

It is great to see that now most of our students (HiWis and project students) who worked with us in Munich on the Embedded Interaction Project have finished their PhD (there are some who still need to hand in – Florian? Raphael?, Gregor? You have enough papers – finish it 😉

In the afternoon I got to see some demos. Elisabeth André has a great team of students. They work on various topics in human computer interaction, including public display interaction, physiological sensing and emotion detection, and gesture interaction. I am looking forward to a joined workshop of both groups. Elisabeth has an impressive set of publications which is always a good starting point for affective user interface technologies.

[1] Karin Leichtenstern, Elisabeth André,and Matthias Rehm. Tool-Supported User-Centred Prototyping of Mobile Applications. IJHCR. 2011, 1-21.

[2] Karin Leichtenstern and Elisabeth André. 2010. MoPeDT: features and evaluation of a user-centred prototyping tool. In Proceedings of the 2nd ACM SIGCHI symposium on Engineering interactive computing systems (EICS ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 93-102. DOI=10.1145/1822018.1822033 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1822018.1822033

[3] Enrico Rukzio, Karin Leichtenstern, Vic Callaghan, Paul Holleis, Albrecht Schmidt, and Jeannette Chin. 2006. An experimental comparison of physical mobile interaction techniques: touching, pointing and scanning. In Proceedings of the 8th international conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp’06), Paul Dourish and Adrian Friday (Eds.). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 87-104. DOI=10.1007/11853565_6 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/11853565_6

Golden Doctorate – 50 years since Prof. Gunzenhäuser completed his PhD

It is 50 years now that Prof. Rul Gunzenhäuser, my predecessor on human computer interaction and interactive systems at the University of Stuttgart, defended his PhD. Some month back I came across his PhD thesis “Ästhetisches Maß und ästhetische Information“ (aesthetic measure and aesthetic information) [1], supervised by Prof. Max Bense, and I was seriously impressed.

He is one of the few truly interdisciplinary people I know. And in contrast to modern interpretations of interdisciplinary (people from different working together) he is himself interdisciplinary in his own education and work. He studied Math, Physics and Philosophy, worked while he studied in a company making (radio) tubes, completed a teacher training, did his PhD in Philosophy but thematically very close to the then emerging field of computer science and became later a post-doc in the computing center. He taught didactic of mathematics in a teacher training University, was a visiting professor at the State University of New York and finally became in 1973 professor for computer science at the University of Stuttgart staring the department of dialog systems. This unique educational path shaped his research and I would expect his whole person. Seeing this career path I have even more trouble accepting the streamlining of our educational system and find it easier to relate to a renaissance educational ideal.

Yesterday evening we had a small seminar and gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of his PhD. Our colleague Prof. Catrin Misselhorn, a successor on the chair of philosophy held by Max Bense, talked about “Aesthetic as Science?” (with a question mark) and started with the statement that what people did in this area 50 years ago is completely dated, if not largely wrong. I found the analysis very interesting and enlightening as it highlights that scientific results, to be relevant, do not have a non-transient nature. For a mathematician this may be hard to grasp, but for someone in computing and especially in human computer interaction this is a relief. It shows that scientific endeavors have to be relevant in their time but the lasting value may be specifically in the fact, that they go a single step forward. Looking back a human computer interaction a lot of the research in 70ties, 80ties, and 90ties looks now really dated, but we should not be fouled, without this work we would not be in interactive systems where we are now, if this work would not have been done.


Prof. Frieder Nake, one of the pioneers of generative art and a friend and colleague of Prof. Gunzenhäuser, reflected on the early work of computers and aesthetics and on computer generated art. He too argued the original approach is ‘dead’, but the spirit of computer generated art is stronger now than ever, with many new tools available. He described early and heated discussions between philosophers, artists, and people who made computer generated art. One interesting approach to solve the dispute is is that the computer generated art is “artificial art” (künstliche Kunst).

The short take away message from the event is:
If you do research in HCI, do something that is fundamentally new. Question the existing approach and creates new ideas and concepts. Don’t worry if this will last forever, accept that your research will likely be ‘only’ one step along the way. It has to be relevant when it is done, it matters less that it may have little relevance some 20 or 50 years later.

[1] Rul Gunzenhäuser. Ästhetisches Maß und ästhetische Information. 1962.

Congratulations to Frau Doktor Dagmar Kern for a great PhD defense (No. 5)

Dagmar Kern has successfully defended her PhD on “Supporting the Development Process of Multimodal and Natural Automotive User Interfaces” in Essen. External examiner was Antonio Krüger from University of Saarbrücken. Her dissertation will be available online soon. The core contribution of the thesis is the investigation of how to improve a user centered design process for automotive user interfaces. In order to systematically assess user interface designs in cars she developed a design space (inspired by Card et al [5]). In various cases studies she create novel in-car user interfaces and explored experimentally the implications on driver distraction.

Dagmar started working with me as a student of Media Informatics at the LMU Munich in 2005, then jointed my group at Fraunhofer IAIS/BIT in Bonn and move in 2007 with the group to Essen. She was for a short research stay in Saarbrücken and Milton Keynes and was extremely productive over the last years – 18 publications she co-authored are listed in DBLP and here are some highlights of here research:

  • exploration of how to present navigation information (e.g. vibra tactile steering wheel) [1]
  • gazemarks – an approach to aid attention switching between the road and an in car display using eye gaze date [2]
  • a multi-touch steering wheel, that reduced driver distraction [3]
  • a design space for automotive user interfaces [4]

Additionally to the publications one of the side products of here thesis is the CARS open source driving simulator. It is a configurable low cost simulator that can be used to measure driver distraction, e.g. as an alternative to LCT.

Dagmar’s defense brought us back to Essen and it was great to meet many colleagues again. We finally managed to have a group photo taken with nearly all the team (Elba is missing in the Photo).

The doctoral hat may look strange to non-Germans but it has some funny tradition. It is hand crafted by the colleagues and each of the items on the hat tells a story – usually known to the group but in the best case hard to guess for outsiders. Besides others Dagmar’s hat included a scrap heap of cars, a giraffe, a personal vibration device, a yoyo, a railway station building side, and a steering wheel cover.

[1] Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Eva Hornecker, Yvonne Rogers, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2009. Enhancing Navigation Information with Tactile Output Embedded into the Steering Wheel. InProceedings of the 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing (Pervasive ’09). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 42-58. DOI=10.1007/978-3-642-01516-8_5 (free PDF)

[2] Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2010. Gazemarks: gaze-based visual placeholders to ease attention switching. In Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2093-2102. DOI=10.1145/1753326.1753646 (free PDF)

[3] Tanja Döring, Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Max Pfeiffer, Johannes Schöning, Volker Gruhn, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2011. Gestural interaction on the steering wheel: reducing the visual demand. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 483-492. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979010 (free PDF)

[4] Dagmar Kern and Albrecht Schmidt. 2009. Design space for driver-based automotive user interfaces. In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (AutomotiveUI ’09). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 3-10. DOI=10.1145/1620509.1620511 (free PDF)

[5] Stuart K. Card, Jock D. Mackinlay, and George G. Robertson. 1991. A morphological analysis of the design space of input devices. ACM Trans. Inf. Syst. 9, 2 (April 1991), 99-122. DOI=10.1145/123078.128726

Heiko Drewes defended his PhD – Congratulations! (No. 4)

Heiko worked the last 6 years towards his PhD. He did a lot of things during this time – and even though not everything was on his PhD topic – I think the time was well spent, e.g. some visually interesting things came out [1].

The core of his PhD was on eye gaze as an additional modality for human computer interaction and it is worthwhile to read the thesis (which will be available in a few weeks) – till than you can have a look at the following papers. [2] describes a system that positions the mouse pointer on touching the mouse to the location on the screen where look at; [3] introduces the concept of gaze gestures – gestures done with the eyes. There is an interesting alt.chi paper coming on Fitts’ law (don’t start Heiko on this ;-).

In the evening Raphael showed me his interactive surface prototype [4] – it is really big :-). He is also co-organizing a course on Sketching with Hardware.

[1] Heiko Drewes. Yara – Yet Another Random Art.

[2] Drewes, H. and Schmidt, A. 2009. The MAGIC Touch: Combining MAGIC-Pointing with a Touch-Sensitive Mouse. In Proceedings of the 12th IFIP TC 13 international Conference on Human-Computer interaction: Part II (Uppsala, Sweden, August 24 – 28, 2009). Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 5727. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 415-428. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-03658-3_46

[3] Heiko Drewes, Albrecht Schmidt. 2007. Interacting with the Computer using Gaze Gestures. In Proceedings of the 11th IFIP TC13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2007, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-74794-9, DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-74800-7_43

[4] Raphael Wimmer, Florian Schulz, Fabian Hennecke, Sebastian Boring, Heinrich Hussmann. Curve: Blending Horizontal and Vertical Interactive Surfaces. Adjunct Proceedings of the 4th IEEE Workshop on Tabletops and Interactive Surfaces (IEEE Tabletop 2009), Banff, Canada, Nov. 2009

Doctoral Colloquium in Bommerholz

For the second time we organize a doctoral seminar for PhD students in CS from Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg und Essen. The main purpose is to provide networking opportunities beyond the own subject area and to highlight to options for life after the PhD.

This year we had 4 invited speakers highlighting opportunities in academia, industry, and in SMEs:

The main take away message is be open with regard to career choices (bottom line: good students will be good and happy whatever they do after their PhD ;-). However if you are sure that you want to be in the management of a large enterprise than go for a top management consultancy job after your PhD and if you are sure academia in Germany is your only choice than go to one of the top Universities in the US as postdoc. This does not guarantee anything but puts you in the best position…

In the evening the tasks for the teams was to think 100 years ahead! This was inspired by the book “the world in 100 years” [2] and by a talk from Friedemann Mattern [2].

One essential reference on doing a PhD is [3] 🙂

[1] Arthur Brehmer (Herausgeber). Die Welt in 100 Jahren: Mit einer einführenden Essay “Zukunft von gestern” von Georg Ruppelt. Reprint der Auflage von 1910. (2010). ISBN-10: 3487083043.

[2] Friedemann Matter. Die Welt in 100 Jahren – Rückblick auf eine vergangene Zukunft. Kolloquium an der TU Darmstadt. 2006.

[3] PhD Comics. http://www.phdcomics.com

Doctoral colloquium in Tampere

For the second time we organized an international doctoral colloquium on HCI – mainly with students from Germany and Finland. This year it was hosted at the University of Tampere. 10 students in different stages of their PhD presented their work and ideas. The first one was in Oulu.

Besides many scientific and technological topics we discussed the process of doing a PhD. I shared my experience of doing a PhD based on an extened version of Jakob Badram’s fish model as well as with the PI-presentation model.

The fish: basically you start with a topic and it widens over time – till at some point you have to focus – and when you have focused and found the specific contribution you have to widen again a bit to cover the things you need for making it a coherent PhD-thesis. This applies to the technical skill set of the student as well as to the research topic. Pertti added a personal sanity graph – from the beginning when you think of how difficult a PhD is, to the middle were you think you know it all and everyone else in the research community has no clue, to the (hopefully) final stage where you get a objective view on your PhD (where you realize you made a contribution you can be proud of – but it is probably not going to change the whole world). It seemed that most people who have done a PhD in CS can relate to this graph…

PhD Defense of Elina Vartiainen

Finland is one country in Europe were it seems pretty hard to get to in the morning from Germany or Austria. If you have a meeting before 11 am you have to fly the day before.

I was invited to Helsinki to be opponent (together with Kaisa Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila) for the PhD defense of Elina Vartiainen at Helsinki University of Technology. The first time I came across work she was involved in was at CHI 2006 in Montreal. She worked with Virpi Roto on the Minimap web browser [1]. Last year in a doctoral colloquium in Finland we first discussed some of her work and I was excited to read it in more detail for the PhD exam.

Dissertations in practical areas of computer science that are done in company research labs are at the same time limited and exciting. What can be done is often limited by the company needs but on the other hand it offers the great opportunity to get things out large scale and collect experiences from many users (e.g. you may want to check the ImageExchange project, where the studies were also part of Elina’s dissertation).

I like the finnish system of having a long public defense. We discussed about 3 hours with Elina and I enjoyed it 🙂

There are two general but important issues I think I take away from our discussion:

  1. do question the research process including the steps (e.g. hardware first or applications first), the approach (e.g. human need centred vs. design driven) and the setup of the teams (who is needed to get a successful product? Business, law, design, hardware?).
  2. innovation for web services on a global scale comes not from a single company or small set of highly skilled developers. Creating opportunities for a larger number developers (with skills limited skills, e.g. like web development) will be the key to create all the applications people need all over the world. Having a single instance controlling what can be developed does scale.

Guess what was the first web browser on a mobile device I used on a mobile device? It was an Apple Messagepad – and the browser was PocketWeb developed at TecO in Karlsruhe (where I worked from 1998-2001), see [2] and http://www.teco.edu/pocketweb/

[1] Roto, V., Popescu, A., Koivisto, A., and Vartiainen, E. 2006. Minimap: a web page visualization method for mobile phones. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Montréal, Québec, Canada, April 22 – 27, 2006). R. Grinter, T. Rodden, P. Aoki, E. Cutrell, R. Jeffries, and G. Olson, Eds. CHI ’06. ACM, New York, NY, 35-44. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1124772.1124779

[2] Stefan Gessler and Andreas Kotulla. PDAs as mobile WWW browsers. Proceedings of the Second World Wide Web Conference ’94: Mosaic and the Web. Chicago, Illinois, USA, 1994.

Steve Hinske defents his PhD Thesis at ETH Zurich

“Sounds like a fun project” was my first reaction when I read some time back the first paper on Steve‘s work on augmented toys and augmented games. Reading through his thesis and seeing more of his papers it seems there was a lot of hard work, too.

Thinking more about it I was wondering how toys are really going to change in the future and to what extent this is going to happen. Technically a lot is feasible as it is well demonstrated by Steve in his thesis (photo from www.vs.inf.ethz.ch); if you do not have time to read the thesis I recommend to look at two of his papers: [1] and [2]. They give a good overview of the systems he created. In the discussion we could see that there can be very interesting business model involving third party developers for such toys.

… but nevertheless the playing experience is something very special and I would bet the augmented toys will come but the ordinary non-augmented dolls will stay.

PS: The cafeteria at ETH provided another example of my collection “if you need a sign/label – you have got the UI design wrong” – great example how gestalt law would have been so easy and arrows look so bad 😉

[1] Hinske, S. and Langheinrich, M. 2009. W41K: digitally augmenting traditional game environments. In Proceedings of the 3rd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Cambridge, United Kingdom, February 16 – 18, 2009). TEI ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 99-106. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1517664.1517691

[2] Hinske, S., Langheinrich, M., and Lampe, M. 2008. Towards guidelines for designing augmented toy environments. InProceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Designing interactive Systems (Cape Town, South Africa, February 25 – 27, 2008). DIS ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 78-87. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1394445.1394454

Doctoral Seminar in Bommerholz, CS Career and new Ideas

Monday and Tuesday I organized together with Gernot A. Fink a PhD awayday for students in computer science of the Universities Bochum, Dortmund and Duisburg-Essen. With about 30 PhD students and some professors we went to Bommerholz, where the University of Dortmund has a small retreat.

The program included talks about career possibilities after the PhD including talks by:
  • Dr. Heiner Stüttgen, Vice President, NEC Laboratories Europe: “Industrial research – what is a PhD good for?”
  • Dr. Olaf Zwintzscher, CEO, W3L GmbH: “Adventure Spin-off – starting a company after garduation”
  • Dr. Wiltrud Christine Radau, Deutscher Hochschulverband: “career opportunities in universities”
Overall it became very clear that computer science is still the subject to study! The career opportunities are interesting, exciting and very good. Nevertheless there is always a downside to things – whatever way you choose you have to work hard 🙂
We had a further talk “Gutenberg over? The metamorphose scientific publishing” by Herrmann Engesser from Springer-Verlag. He showed in an interesting way how much change has happened in the last 40 years to publishing. The example of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Brockhaus Encyclopedia demonstrates impressively that it is impossible to ignore changes in technology and stay successful in business. Looking at many newspapers one can only wonder when the will realize it.

Over coffee we discussed the added value that is provided by a publisher and by digital libraries like Springer Link, ACM DL or the IEEE Library. And here too there are many more open questions than answers. One clear direction is to look more into scientific communities. One idea that I find quite interesting is to search for publications that are from my scientific community, e.g. “give me all paper that have haptic in the title and that are published by people I am linked to in facebook, xing, and linkedin or by their contacts”. Sounds like an interesting project 🙂

Besides the invited talks we had three poster sessions. In each session 9 students presented their work. We started with 90 seconds presentations and then had discussions over the posters. As we had topics from all areas in Computer science I first expected that this may be pretty boring – but it was surprisingly interesting. I learned a lot about bio-informatics, learning algorithms, data mining, robotics and security over the last two days. Things I would never have read – but getting it explained in the context of a concrete PhD project was fun.
Our evening program was centered on movies. We first showed a number of snippets from movies (including James Bond, Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Minority Report) where cool technology feature. Then the students had 45 minutes to create new ideas of believable technology gadgets for two films, one to plays in 2011 and the other in 2060. The ideas were fun reaching form manipulated insects, to smart dust, to the exploitation of social networks. If you are Steven Spielberg or someone else who plans a movie feel free to call me – we have a lot of ideas 😉

Andreas Riener defends his PhD in Linz

After a stop-over in Stansted/Cambridge at the TEI conference I was today in Linz, Austria, as external for the PhD defense of Andreas Riener. He did his PhD with Alois Ferscha and worked on implicit interaction in the car. The set and size of experiments he did is impressive and he has two central results. (1) using tactile output in the car can really improve the car to driver communication and reduce reaction time. And (2) by sensing the force pattern a body creates on the seat driving relates activities can be detected and to some extend driver identification can be performed. For more details it makes sense to have a look into the thesis 😉 If you mail Andreas he will probably sent you the PDF…
One of the basic assumptions of the work was to use implicit interaction (on input and output) to lower the cognitive load while driving – which is defiantly a valid approach. Recently however we also discussed more the issues that arise when the cognitive load for drivers is to low (e.g. due to assistive systems in the car such as ACC and lane keeping assistance). There is an interesting phenomenon, the Yerkes-Dobson Law (see [1]), that provides the foundation for this. Basically as the car provides more sophisticated functionality and requires less attention of the user the risk increase as the basic activation of the driver is lower. Here I think looking into multimodality to activate the user more quickly in situations where the driver is required to take over responsibility could be interesting – perhaps we find a student interested in this topic.
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerkes-Dodson_law (there is a link to the 1908 publication by Yerkes, & Dodson)