UNH IRES research interns on tour

Group photoStatmitte

Miriam and the UNH IRES research interns from the HCI lab went to Saarbrüken to visit the Saarbrüken University HCI group. The first lab visited was the DFKI Lab (or the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) where they met researcher Dr. Sven Gehring to get a tour. The tour exhibited demonstrations such as the possible future technology of grocery stores, collaborative reading environment on a single screen, augmented system to develop floor plans and similar layouts, and a viable poster voting system. In addition to the demos they were talked through some posters displayed on the various other projects being undertaken at the HCI group in Saarbrüken like mobile projection to facilitate learning guitar, large interactive displays, and even a mobile application to chart rock climbing paths of various difficulties.


The second lab visited was the Cluster of Excellence Multimodal Computing and Interaction (MMCI) lab. This is where doctoral researcher Martin Weigel gave a tour of the lab and went into detail about his project which was in wearable touch sensors that are worn on the skin.

Chloe Eghtebas

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…

Why do we need to teach children binary coding?

I am very much in favor of teaching children more than one number system (e.g. binary additional to the decimal system). To me this gives children a better understanding of the nature of numbers – I know that this seems not to be widely shared 😉

Now I found a further reason why it essential to know binary codes – How else would you decode this best before date on this chocolate bar if you would not know it!

Book chapter on Teaching Beyond the Classroom

Kati Mäkitalo-Siegl, Jan Zottmann, Frederic Kaplan and Frank Fischer organized a workshop that resulted in the book: Classroom of the Future. The book gives a very good overview and is in my view very well suited to run a seminar

We have one chapter in the book that talks about teaching beyond the classroom and outside a typical classroom using pervasive computing technologies [1]. Our chapter includes some of the work on tangible interaction we did in Munich, e.g. [2] and earlier experience where we did a school garden blog (in German only http://www.hcilab.org/albrecht/flachs-web/).

Details about the book and a free preview are available at the publisher’s side. The free preview includes an article on the classroom of the past – which I found quite interesting. If you are interested in our article, drop me a mail and I may find the draft.

[1] Paul Holleis, Albrecht Schmidt, Heiko Drewes, Richard Atterer, Petra Dollinger. Teaching Beyond the Classroom: Pervasive Computing Technologies for the Classroom of the Future. Classroom of the future. SensePublisher 2010, pp 63-85. ISBN:978-9460911026 (book at amazon)

[2] Terrenghi, L., Kranz, M., Holleis, P., and Schmidt, A. 2006. A cube to learn: a tangible user interface for the design of a learning appliance. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 10, 2-3 (Jan. 2006), 153-158. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-005-0025-8

Finishing my term as External Examiner at Trinity College Dublin

Over the last three years I have been regularly to Dublin to act as external examiner for the Ubicomp MSc course. For me this was a good experience to see how serious The School of Computing at Trinity College takes external quality control and how well processes are managed. And besides the administrative part I saw a great many interesting MSc dissertations over the years. Even though the term has come to an end I hope to travel to Dublin in the future too – perhaps on Holiday to see more of the city (which I did not really manage …)

PS: recession seems to have hit Ireland – I have never seen such short queue in Dublin airport – and it is definatly not the selfservice machines that reduced the queue …

Students generate interesting ideas, links to photos

In the final part of the summer school the students worked in groups to create new ideas for displays and their use. We had 5 groups working hard – all creating amazing results for such a short time. Sometimes I wonder how we could better utilize this design exercise as the results were really exciting.

On group looked into the concept of mobile and contextual displays on garments – the idea T-SHARE assesses potential applications, when having networked displays included in T-Shirts (see the group presentation for details). This moves an idea with have investigated over the last year to a new level. I am really thrilled and I think we should really look how to setup a larger project on this topic.

We worked hard 🙂 but in the time between we enjoyed our trip – here are the photos I took (Bahai Garden, climbing with Keith and Antonio, the trip to Jerusalem, School and Beach in Haifa).

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

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.

DIY Segway – to motivate embedded programming?

Elektor magazine features in the current issue a DIY Segway called Elektor Wheelie. The system is build around a ATMEGA32 and has obviously a lot of mechanics. For sensing an ADXL320 (acceleration sensor) and an IDG-300 (gyro) are used. Looks like a fun project – and you have full access to the software (not sure what you really would program differently, perhaps one can tune it to get faster 😉

Perhaps it could be a platform to motive embedded programming – with clear real-time constraints, as it hurts if you fall off… Next term we are teaching digital system design and programming of microcontroller systems – should we get one for the lab? Someone willing to built it?

Making Computer Science Exciting for Children – Kinderuniversität

Petra is teaching at the primary school in Satteldorf. As there is no University close by we decided to have a university afternoon at school. The idea behind this (in German Kinderuniversität) is to get young children excited for scientific topics and show that research is fun. The lecture should make them curious and motivate them to ask fundamental questions.

My lecture was on principles and technologies for communication (in German) and we looked fundamentally at what information is, how it relates to probabilities, how to encode information, and what devices people used and use for communication. For me this was a very exciting experience and also showed that we (as a discipline Computer Science) should probably look more into didactic and how to communicate fundamentals of our subject in school. So far many students associated computer science with using PowerPoint 🙁 but there are interesting starting points, e.g. a German book on algorithms for school children [1].

[1] Vöcking, B.; Alt, H.; Dietzfelbinger, M.; Reischuk, R.; Scheideler, C.; Vollmer, H.; Wagner, D. (Ed.). Taschenbuch der Algorithmen. 2008, ISBN: 978-3-540-76393-2