Opening talk at the Social Media for Insurances Symposium

I was invited to Leipzig to talk about social networks and in the context of insurance companies ( The main focus of the talk was to show what people currently do in social networks and to speculate why they do it (and  I used a picture of the seven deadly sins as an illustrations…) Additionally I discussed some prototypes of activity recognition and their potential once integrated into social media.

My talk was entitled “500 Freunde (auf Facebook): Wozu noch eine Versicherung?“ – „500 friends (on Facebook) – Is there still need for insurance?“ and discussed how ubiquitous capture and social media may shape the next community [1]. The slides in are in German.

The event was very interesting and I would expect that there is a great potential out there for insurance companies to tap into. Looking back at the original idea of insurance (e.g. old fire insurance communities) or sharing the risk of hail in farming communities can give interesting inspiration for peer-2-peer insurance models. It will be exciting to see if there a new products and services that come out of the “big players” or if new players will come to the game. To me the central issue to address is how to make insurance products more visible – and I think a user centered design approach could be very interesting…

In the future I would expect that finding the right value mix (privacy, price, safety, etc.) will be essential as we argued for other services in [2]. Some years back we wrote in an article about RFID [3] “privacy is sacred but cheap” and the more services we see the more I am convinced that this is more than a slogan. If you can create a service that is of immediate value to the user I would I expect that privacy will be a lesser concern to most? On the other hand if you reduce privacy without any value in exchange there is always an outcry…

[1] “500 Freunde (auf Facebook): Wozu noch eine Versicherung?“ – Ermöglichen allgegenwärtige Aufzeichnungs-technologien und digitale soziale Netze die nächste Solidargemeinschaft? Slides as PDF (in German)
[2] Albrecht Schmidt, Marc Langheinrich, Kristian Kersting, “Perception beyond the Here and Now,” Computer, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 86-88, Feb. 2011, doi:10.1109/MC.2011.54 (final version at IEEE, free draft version)
[3] Schmidt, A.; Spiekermann, S.; Gershman, A.; Michahelles, F., “Real-World Challenges of Pervasive Computing“, Pervasive Computing, IEEE , vol.5, no.3pp. 91- 93, c3, July-Sept. 2006. 10.1109/MPRV.2006.57

Talk at the University of New Hampshire, Durham

Andrew Kun invited me to give a talk at the Univeristy of New Hampshire in Durham on my way back from CHI. The talk was on “Embedding Interaction – Human Computer Interaction in the Real World”. In the afternoon I got to see interesting projects in the automotive domain as well as an application on a multi-touch table. At CHI we ran a SIG on Automotive User Interfaces [1].

Seeing the implementation of Project54 live was very exciting. I came across the project first at Pervasive 2005 in Munich [2]. This project is an interesting example of how fast research can become deployed on a large scale.

Andrew chairs together with Susanne Boll the 2nd Int. Conf. on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications – check out the call for papers on! (deadline 2nd of July 2010)

PS: if you ever stay in Durham – here is my favorite hotel: Three Chimneys Inn Durham.

[1] Schmidt, A., Dey, A. K., Kun, A. L., and Spiessl, W. 2010. Automotive user interfaces: human computer interaction in the car. In Proceedings of the 28th of the international Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 10 – 15, 2010). CHI EA ’10. ACM, New York, NY, 3177-3180. DOI=

[2] Laslo Turner and Andrew L. Kun, “Evaluating the Project54 speech user interface,” Third International Conference on Pervasive Computing (Adjunct Proceedings), Munich, Germany, May 8-13, 2005

Invited Talk by Nicolas Villar

Nicolas visited us in Essen to give the opening talk of our German meeting on tangible interaction. In his talk he first showed some examples of the hardware and sensors group at Microsoft research in Cambridge, most notably the SenseCam (which we learned is licensed and will be soon commercially available).

In the main part of the talk Nicolas presented a modular embedded architecture that allows developers to create custom made digital systems with fairly little effort. By integrating physical development (3D printing), functional blocks and software development the approach aims at empowering developers to create entirely new devices. His examples were impressive, e.g. creating a fully functional game console in a few hours.

Assuming that electronics become really small and cheap and that displays can be directly printed I can see that this approach makes a lot of sense – the question is just how long will it take before we rather use a (nowadays) powerful ARM processor, instead of a logic circuit with 10 gates. I would imagine that from a economic perspective it will less than 20 years before this makes sense.

We talked about energy harvesting and hier is a link to a potential interesting component: LTC3108.

Talk at demola, Finnish Ubicomp program

Jari Ikonen from the Finnish Ubicomp program contacted me last week – interestingly because I shared on this blog the information that I will be in Tampere – and it worked out that we met.

He showed and explained me the demola approach. I find this concept of teaching, training and innovation very exciting. In short demola offers space for students to work on challenging problems that are real and creates opportunities opportunities. Basically companies offer tasks/project to works on. Teams of students (potentially from different universities and fields) will work together to solve it as part of their studies – but the students also will own the IPR. I think that creates interesting teams in realistic settings and has probably a great potential for creating start-ups. Perhaps we should look at this model closer and see how we could create something similar…

As always when meeting interesting people time was too short… I gave an ad-hoc talk based on previous slides on “Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing and Beyond: Mobile Communication changed the world – what else do we need?” and we had a short but very interesting discussion.

Talk at Java User Group Meeting in Essen, Embedded Development

This month at the Java User Group meeting some groups of the University presented their research. First I considered to talk about JAVA on mobile phones (e.g. the tutorials we do with teachers on JAVA ME or JAVA on Android) but then decided to talk more about the ubicomp vision and about how I think computing will change and is already changing the world 🙂 My talk “Ubiquitous Computing and Beyond – Mobile Communication changed the world – what else do we need?” was aimed at opening a discussion what will be the challenge after mobile computing is becoming main stream.

One of the questions was: what are useful platforms to start for with embedded development? Here are a few suggestions:

Interaction technologies for display environments

I was invited to give a talk on “Embedded interaction with display environments” to discuss human computer interaction and technology issue for creating interactive display systems. The summer school has very diverse program! and I have enjoyed listening to my colleagues as much as presenting myself 🙂

In the talk I have a (more or less random) selection of technologies for making display environments interactive. There are the obvious vision based approaches (see the talk for the references) but I think there are many interesting approaches that are not yet fully explored. – including spatial audio location [1], eye tracking, and physiological sensors. Sebastian Boring create a focus and context input by combing different input technologies [2] – this can be especially interesting when scaling interaction up to larger surfaces. Additionally I think looking at the floor and the ceiling is worthwhile…

Please feel free to add further technologies and approaches for creating interactive displays in the comment.

[1] James Scott, Boris Dragovic: Audio Location: Accurate Low-Cost Location Sensing. Pervasive Computing: Third International Conference, PERVASIVE 2005, Munich, Germany, May 8-13, 2005. Springer LNCS 3468/2005. pp 1-18.

[2] S. Boring, O. Hilliges, A. Butz. A Wall-sized Focus plus Context Display. In Proceedings of the Fifth Annual IEEE Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom), New York, NY, USA, Mar. 2007

Visit to NEC labs in Heidelberg

In the afternoon I gave a talk at NEC labs in Heidelberg on ubiquitous display networks. Over the last year we developed and number of ideas and prototypes of interactive public display systems. We run a lab class (Fallstudien) on pervasive computing technologies and advertising together with colleagues from marketing. In another class (Projektseminar) we investigated how to facilitate interaction between interactive surfaces (e.g. multi touch table) and mobile devices. One of the prototypes will be shown as poster at mobile HCI 2009 in Bonn. In some thesis projects we introduced the notion of mobile contextual displays and their potential applications in advertising, see [1] and [2].

Seeing the work at NEC and based on the discussion I really think there is a great of potential for ubiquitous display networks – at the same time there are many challenges – including privacy that allways ensures discussion 😉 It would be great to have another bachelor or master thesis to address some of them – perhaps jointly with people from NEC. To understand the information needs in a particular display environment (at the University of Duisburg-Essen) we currently run a survey to better understand requirements. If you read German you are welcome to participate in the survey.

Predicting the future usually features in my talks – and interestingly I go a recommendation from Miquel Martin for a book that takes its own angle on that: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (the stack of book gets slowly to large – time for holidays).

[1] Florian Alt, Albrecht Schmidt, Christoph Evers: Mobile Contextual Displays. Pervasive Advertising Workshop @ Pervasive 2009. Nara, Japan 2009.

[2] Florian Alt, Christoph Evers, Albrecht Schmidt: Users’ View on Car Advertisements. In: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Pervasive Computing, Pervasive’09. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg Nara, Japan 2009.

App store of a car manufacturer? Or the future of cars as application platform.

When preparing my talk for the BMW research colloquium I realized once more how much potential there is in the automotive domain (if you looks from am CS perspective). My talk was on the interaction of the driver with the car and the environment and I was assessing the potential of the car as a platform for interactive applications (slides in PDF). Thinking of the car as a mobile terminal that offers transportation is quite exciting…

I showed some of our recent project in the automotive domain:

  • enhance communication in the car; basically studying the effect of a video link between driver and passenger on the driving performance and on the communication
  • handwritten text input; where would you put the input and the output? Input on the steering wheel and visual feedback in the dashboard is a good guess – see [1] for more details.
  • How can you make it easier to interrupt tasks while driving – we have some ideas for minimizing the cost of interruptions for the driver on secondary tasks and explored it with a navigation task.
  • Multimodal interaction and in particular tactile output are interesting – we looked at how to present navigation information using a set of vibra tactile actuators. We will publish more details on this at Pervasive 2009 in a few weeks.

Towards the end of my talk I invited the audience to speculate with me on future scenarios. The starting point was: Imagine you store all the information that goes over the bus systems in the car permanently and you transmit it wireless over the network to a backend storage. Then image 10% of the users are willing to share this information publicly. That is really opening a whole new world of applications. Thinking this a bit further one question is how will the application store of a car manufacturer look in the future? What can you buy online (e.g. fuel efficiency? More power in the engine? A new layout for your dashboard? …). Seems like an interesting thesis topic.

[1] Kern, D., Schmidt, A., Arnsmann, J., Appelmann, T., Pararasasegaran, N., and Piepiera, B. 2009. Writing to your car: handwritten text input while driving. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 – 09, 2009). CHI EA ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 4705-4710. DOI=

The next big thing – let’s look into the future

At Nokia Research Center in Tampere I gave a talk with the title “Computing Beyond Ubicomp – Mobile Communication changed the world – what else do we need?“. My main argument is that the next big thing is a device that allows us to predict the future – on a system as well as on a personal level. This is obviously very tricking as we have a free will and hence the future is not completely predictable – but extrapolating from the technologies we see now it seems not farfetched to create a device that enables predictions of the future in various contexts.

My argument goes as follows: the following points are technologically feasible in the near future:

  1. each car, bus, train, truck, …, object is tracked in real-time
  2. each person is tracked (location, activity, …, food intake, eye-gaze) in real-time
  3. environmental conditions are continuously sensed – globally and locally sensed
  4. with have a complete (3D) model of our world (e.g. buildings, street surface, …)

Having this information we can use data mining, learning, statistics, and models (e.g. a physics engine) to predict the future. If you wonder if I forget to thing about privacy – I did not (but it takes longer to explain – in short: the set of people who have a benefit or who do not care is large enough).

Considering this it becomes very clear that in medium term there is a great potential in having control over the access terminal to the virtual world, e.g. a phone… just thing how rich your profile in facebook/xing/linkedin can be if it takes all the information you implicitly generate on the phone into account.

Illusions 2.0, Talk at the Museum Ludwig in Köln

In Cologne in the Museum Ludwig I gave in the afternoon a talk on “Illusions 2.0 – embedded interactive media” at the Forum Mediendesign. The talk focused on the new qualities of magical experiences we will be able to create with pervasive computing technologies in the future and linked this to Alan Kay’s notion of user illusion and metaphors. I looked at trends that are ingredience for creating Illusions 2.0 – in particular ubiquitous communication and display, constant tracking and logging, and the decrease of value of traditional content (text, audio, video, software, tv, statistical data). I highlighted one development that have already happened and has impacted our lives with the following statement. The question “If I only would know when the others come and where they are now…” was common to people born before 1970 but is completely alien to people born after 2000. Mobile communication has changed this and tracking will add more change over the next years.

Based on some examples from recent popular fiction (Harry Potter) I showed that things that we have considered magical are becoming rapidly community products (e.g. marauders map). Spinning this idea forward I asked how far are we with regard to other human dreams such as looking into the future or never forgetting anything we have seen or heard. And the answer in short is: we are close 😉 for more see the slides of my talk on Illusion 2.0. There is an upcoming paper we wrote for IEEE Multimedia Magazine on this topic – will tell as soon as it is published 😉

In the morning I had some time for sightseeing and Vivien and I went to the chocolate museum. The museum is brilliant and I learned how the hollow chocolate santas are made 🙂 In the top floor they have a table top projection for a quiz – it is very well done (as the whole museum) but the technology did not work on the table close to the window. As we know from our experience if you have sun light your camera-projector systems may have trouble 😉
PS: it was interesting that the whole organization was done by students as a course in project management – and they did it really well.