Silvia Miksch talking about time oriented visual analytics

It seems this term we picked a good slot for the lecture. On Thursday we had Prof. Silvia Miksch from Vienna University of Technology visiting our institute. We took this chance for another guest lecture in my advanced HCI class. Silvia presented a talk with the title “A Matter of Time: Interactive Visual Analytics of Time-Oriented Data and Information”. She first introduced the notion of interactive visual analytics and then systematically showed how time oriented data can be visually presented.

I really liked how Silvia motivated visual analytics and could not resist to adapt it with a Christmas theme. The picture shows three representations (1) numbers, always 3 grouped together, (2) a plot of the numbers where the first is the label and the second and the third are coordinates, and (3) a line connecting the labels in order. Her example was much nicer, but I missed to take a photo. And it is obvious that you do not put it on the same slide… Nevertheless I think even this simple Christmas tree example shows the power of visual analytics. This will go in my slide set for presentations in schools 😉

If you are more interested in the details of the visualization of time oriented data, please have a look at the following book: Visallization of Time-Oriented Data, by Wolfgang Aigner, Silvia Miksch, Heidrun Schumann, and Christian Tominski. Springer, 2011. http://www.timeviz.net [2]. After the talk there was an interested discussion about the relationship and fundamental difference between time and space. I think this is worthwhile further discussion.

Another direction to follow up is tangible (visual) analytics. It would be interesting to assess the contributions to understanding of further modalities when interactively exploring data, e.g. haptics and sound. Some years back Martin Schrittenloher (one of my students in Munich) visited Morten Fjeld for his project thesis and experimented with force feedback sliders [1], … perhaps we should have this as a project topic again! An approach would be to look specifically at the understanding of data when force-feedback is presented on certain dimensions.

References
[1] Jenaro, J., Shahrokni, A., Schrittenloher, and M., Fjeld, M. 2007. One-Dimensional Force Feedback Slider: Digital platform. In Proc. Workshop at the IEEE Virtual Reality 2007 Conference: Mixed Reality User Interfaces: Specification, Authoring, Adaptation (MRUI07), 47-51
[2] Wolfgang Aigner, Silvia Miksch, Heidrun Schumann, and Christian Tominski. Visallization of Time-Oriented Data. Springer, 2011. http://www.timeviz.net

German Workshop on Tangible Interaction

Friday and Saturday we hosted the GI working groups on tangible interaction (GI Arbeitskreis Be-greifbare Interaction in gemischten Wirklichkeiten) for the second inventor’s workshop. We were positively surprised that more than 30 people took part. We started with a set of nice demos from our students and then Nicolas Villar presented an invited talk.

The concept of the workshop was to create ideas by looking more closely at different materials that may be used for interaction and by assessing novel interaction technologies. On Friday afternoon we had several tables with material (e.g. smart materials, conductive fabric, magnetic materials, etc.) and technologies (e.g. VoodooIO, EduWear kit, Physiological sensing based on the Nexus system). We bought a set of materials from MUTR Teaching Materials. In groups the participants create many design ideas by imagining a certain technology to be used in a specific context.

The social event was at the unperfekthaus.de in Essen – if you visit Essen this is a “must see”. The concept is unique!

On Saturday we started with an exercise to investigate the qualities of tangible UIs in comparison to traditional GUIs. For this we looked at different games (e.g. Space invaders, Super Mario, Sims, Halo) and though how we would make them more tangible and what pros and cons are there for the tangible and GUI version. In this context we also discussed the approach of exertion interfaces [1].

The rest of the morning was spent working on more concrete ideas for the concepts created on Friday afternoon – with remarkable results – see the Wiki for details.

[1] http://exertioninterfaces.com/

Tangible, Embedded, and Reality-Based Interaction

Together with Antonio’s group we looked at new forms of interaction beyond the desktop. The journal paper Tangible, Embedded, and Reality-Based Interaction [1] gives overview and examples of recent trends in human computer interaction and is a good starting point to learn about these topics.

Abstract: Tangible, embedded, and reality-based interaction are among novel concepts of interaction design that will change our usage of computers and be part of our daily life in coming years. In this article, we present an overview of the research area of tangible, embedded, and reality-based interaction as an area of media informatics. Potentials and challenges are demonstrated with four selected case studies from our research work.

[1] Tanja Döring, Antonio Krüger, Albrecht Schmidt, Johannes Schöning: Tangible, Embedded, and Reality-Based Interaction. it – Information Technology 51 (2009) 6 , S. 319-324. (pdf)
http://www.it-information-technology.de/

Online Shop for Smart Materials and More

We are in Newcastle for a Workshop working on a new idea for tangible UIs that can be easily customized. The basic idea is to senparate functional parts of the system (electronics etc.) from the shell/tangible components of a devices. By this we hope to support innovation in a sustainable way. The skin of the appliance is printed (in 3D).

Nic Villar came up from Cambridge and he showed us some interesting materials… and obviously there is a shop (materials.
http://www.mutr.co.uk/) to get those… Look in the section for smart materials – there are probably many ideas hidden for now interface technologies – not only for tangible UIs.

We discussed how Polymorph could be used in tangible UIs – I think the challenge is to electronically control the material… obviously we played with the material to get ideas 🙂

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

Morten Fjeld visiting

On his way from Eindhoven to Zurich Morten Fjeld was visiting our group. It was great to catch up and talk about a number of exciting research projects and ideas. Some years ago one of my students from Munich did his final project with Morten working on haptic communication ideas, see [1]. Last year at TEI Morten had a paper on a related project – also using actuated sliders, see [2].

In his presentation Morten gave an overview of the research he does and we found a joint interest in capacitive sensing. Raphael Wimmer did his final project in Munich on capacitive sensing for embedded interaction which was published in Percom 2007, see [3]. Raphael has continued the work for more details and the open source hardware and software see http://capsense.org. Morten has a cool paper (combing a keyboard and capacitive sensing) at Interact 2009 – so check the program when it is out.

We talked about interaction and optical tracking and that reminded me that we wanted to see how useful the touchless SDK (http://www.codeplex.com/touchless) could be for final projects and exercise. Matthias Kranz had used it successfully with students in Linz in the unconventional user interfaces class.

[1] Jenaro, J., Shahrokni, A., Schrittenloher, and M., Fjeld, M. 2007. One-Dimensional Force Feedback Slider: Digital platform. In Proc. Workshop at the IEEE Virtual Reality 2007 Conference: Mixed Reality User Interfaces: Specification, Authoring, Adaptation (MRUI07), 47-51

[2] Gabriel, R., Sandsjö, J., Shahrokni, A., and Fjeld, M. 2008. BounceSlider: actuated sliders for music performance and composition. In Proceedings of the 2nd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Bonn, Germany, February 18 – 20, 2008). TEI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 127-130. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1347390.1347418

[3] Wimmer, R., Kranz, M., Boring, S., and Schmidt, A. 2007. A Capacitive Sensing Toolkit for Pervasive Activity Detection and Recognition. In Proceedings of the Fifth IEEE international Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (March 19 – 23, 2007). PERCOM. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, 171-180. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/PERCOM.2007.1

Offline Tangible User Interface

When shopping for a sofa I used an interesting tangible user interface – magnetic stickers. For each of the sofas systems the customer can create their own configuration using these magnetic stickers on a background (everything in a scale 1:50).

After the user is happy with the configuration the shop assistant makes a xerox copy (I said I do not need a black and white copy I make my own color copy with the phone) and calculates the price and writes up an order. The interaction with the pieces is very good and also great as a shared interface – much nicer than comparable systems that are screen based. I could imaging with a bit of effort one could create a phone application that scans the customer design, calculates the prices, and provides a rendered image of the configuration – with the chosen color (in our case green ;-). Could be an interesting student project…

Demo day at TEI in Cambridge

What is a simple and cheap way to get from Saarbrücken to Linz? It’s not really obvious, but going via Stansted/Cambridge makes sense – especially when there is the conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction (www.tei-conf.org) and Raynair offers 10€ flight (not sure about sustainability though). Sustainability, from a different perspective was also at the center of the Monday Keynote by Tom Igeo which I missed.

Nicolas and Sharam did a great job and the choice to do a full day of demos worked out great. The large set of interactive demos presented captures and communicates a lot of the spirit of the community. To get an overview of the demos one has to read through the proceedings (will post a link as soon as they are online in the ACM-DL) as there are too many to discuss them here.
Nevertheless here is my random pick:
One big topic is tangible interaction on surfaces. Several examples showed how interactive surfaces can be combined with physical artifacts to make interaction more graspable. Jan Borcher’s group showed a table with passive controls that are recognized when placed on the table and they provide tangible means for interaction (e.g. keyboard keys, knobs, etc.). An interesting effect is that the labeling of the controls can be done dynamically.
Microsoft research showed an impressive novel table top display that allows two images to be projected – on the interactive surface and one on the objects above [1]. It was presented at large year’s UIST but I have tried it out now for the first time – and it is a stunning effect. Have a look at the paper (and before you read the details make a guess how it is implemented – at the demo most people guessed wrong 😉
Embedding sensing into artifacts to create a digital representation has always been a topic in tangible – even back to the early work of Hiroshi Ishii on Triangles [2]. One interesting example in this year’s demo was a set of cardboard pieces that are held together by hinges. Each hinge is technically realized as a potentiometer and by measuring the potion the structure can be determined. It is really interesting to think this further.
Conferences like TEI let you inevitably think about the feasibility of programmable matter – and there is ongoing work in this in the robotics community. The idea is to create micro-robots that can create arbitrary shapes – for a starting point see the work at CMU on Claytronics.
[1] Izadi, S., Hodges, S., Taylor, S., Rosenfeld, D., Villar, N., Butler, A., and Westhues, J. 2008. Going beyond the display: a surface technology with an electronically switchable diffuser. In Proceedings of the 21st Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Monterey, CA, USA, October 19 – 22, 2008). UIST ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 269-278. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1449715.1449760
[2] Gorbet, M. G., Orth, M., and Ishii, H. 1998. Triangles: tangible interface for manipulation and exploration of digital information topography. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Los Angeles, California, United States, April 18 – 23, 1998). C. Karat, A. Lund, J. Coutaz, and J. Karat, Eds. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., New York, NY, 49-56. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/274644.274652