Media art, VIS Excursion to ZKM in Karlsruhe

This afternoon we (over 40 people from VIS and VISUS at the University of Stuttgart) went to Karlsruhe to visit the ZKM. We got guided tours to the panorama laboratory, the historic video laboratory, to the SoundARt exhibition and some parts of the regular exhibition. Additionally Prof. Gunzenhäuser gave a short introduction to the Zuse Z22 that is in on show there, too.

 The ZKM is a leading center for digital and media art that includes a museum for media art and modern art, several research institutes, and an art and design school. The approach is to bring media artists, works of art, research in media art and teaching in this field close together (within a single large building). The exhibitions include major media art works from the last 40 years.

The panorama laboratory is a 360 degree (minus a door) projection. Even though the resolution of the powerwall at VISUS [1] is higher and the presentation is in 3D, the360 degree 10 Megapixel panorama screen results in an exciting immersion. Without 3D, being surrounded by media creates a feeling of being in the middle of something that happens around you. Vivien described the sensation of movement similar to sitting in a train. The moment another train pulls out of the station you have a hard time to tell who is moving. I think such immersive environment could become very common once we will have digital display wallpaper.

The historic video laboratory is concerned with “rescuing” old artistic video material. We sometimes complain about the variety of video codecs, but looking at the many different formats for tapes and cassettes, this problem has a long tradition. Looking at historic split screen videos that were created using analog technologies one appreciates the virtues of digital video editing… Two are two amazing films by Zbigniew Rybczyński: Nowa Książka (New Book): and and Tango:

The current SoundArt exhibition is worthwhile. There are several indoor and outdoor installations on sounds. In the yard there is a monument built of speakers (in analogy to the oracle of Delphi) that you can call from anywhere (+49 721 81001818) and get 3 minutes of time to talk to whom even is in the vicinity of the installation. Another exhibit sonfied electron magnetic fields from different environments in an installation called the cloud.

[1] Powerwall at VISUS at the Univeristy of Stuttgart (6m by 2.20, 88 million pixel in, 44 million pixel per eye for 3D).

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.

Visiting TU-Berlin and T-Labs

We have a number of student projects that look at novel applications and novel application platforms on mobile phones. As Michael Rohs from T-Labs is also teaching a course on mobile HCI we thought it would be a good opportunity to meet and discuss some application ideas.

I gave a talk in Michael’s lecture discussing the concept of user interfaces beyond the desktop, context as enabling technology, and future applications in mobile, wearable and ubiquitous computing. We had an interesting discussion – and in the end it always comes down to privacy and impact on society. I see this as a very positive development as it shows that the students are not just techies but that they see the bigger picture – and the impact (be it good or bad) they may have with their developments. I mentioned to books that are interesting to read: the transparent society [1] and total recall [2].

In the afternoon we discussed two specific projects. One was an application for informal social while watching TV (based on a set iconic communication elements) that can be used to generate meta data on the program shown. The other is a platform that allows web developers to create distributed mobile applications making use of all the sensors on mobile phones. It is essential a platform an API that provides access to all functions on the phones available in S60 phones over a RESTful API, e.g. you can use a HTTP call to make a photo on someone’s phone. We hope to release some of the software soon.

In the coffee area at T-labs was a printout with the 10+1 innovation principles – could not resist to take a photo 😉 Seems innovation is really trival – just follow the 11 rules and you are there 😉

[1] David Brin. The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom. Basic Books. 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0738201443. Amazon-link. Webpage:

[2] Gordon Bell, Jim Gemmell. Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything. Dutton Adult. 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0525951346. Amazon-link. Webpage:

Seminar on Pervasive Display Networks in Dagstuhl

From the 4th to the 8th of January we (Nigel Davies, Antonio Krüger, Marc Langheinrich, Martin Strohbach, and I) organized a Seminar on Pervasive Display Networks in Dagstuhl. The timining was less not perfect but we go a really good team together.

Working on the topic we identify an interesting set of dimensions to classify public display, collected a large set of scenarios, and compiled a bibliography as well as a reading list. As soon as the material is publicly available I will post it.

The first time I have been to Dagstuhl was in September 2001 (the seminar was on during 9/11) on Ubiquitous Computing ( This previous seminar really helped to create a vibrant community. Perhaps Pervasive Display Networks will grow in a similar way.

Since then I have been many times to Dagstuhl – but this year I was skiing while there for the first time. There is a small “skiing resort” close by: Erbeskopf

PS: if you rent skis it is always good to remember what skis (e.g. color, make, size, etc.) one got 😉
I learned just taking the next pair of skis is sub-optimal…

TPC meetings in Atlanta, Palo Alto and Boston

December was filled with travel – twice to the US and several trips in Europe – and for the first time in two years I did not really get around to write my blog…

I am still wondering what technology we require that could make physical meetings less important. Video conference is getting better and I use it a lot – but it still does not facilitate a discussion between 30 or more people well. Besides the work that is in reviewing I really emjoy that part of my job – I find it really exciting to see so much (somehow) novel work in a very short time.

Academics often complain about a lot of travel – but sometimes we need a reality check. Walking around Atlanta airport and seeing the large number of soldiers I felt that I should not complain about my travels… At the same time I asked myself what we will have first: “remote only” wars or “remote only” critical business meeting.

In the first two weeks of December I had the privilege to be the CHI, Pervasive and PerCom program committee meeting. Having seen more than 100 papers being discussed made the effort in reviewing worthwhile. The overview of the field one gets is amazing. And with the insight view I am looking forward to three very interesting conference programs to come in 2010. By the way Geraldine Fitzpatrick (this years paper co-chair at CHI) has move to the Vienna University of Technology.

Besides the PC meetings there was some time to visit labs. In Palo Alto at Nokia Research we were shown a communication appliance that is designed to facilitate remote interaction and communication around a book. Looks interesting and they promised there will be a paper about this soon.

In Boston I went to the new MediaLab building (and met Leah Buechley and Joe Paradiso) – really exciting – research between boxes. Seeing some a Leah’s work motivated again to look more into wearables. If you are curious too, have a look at Lilypad Arduino [1] and at the 2008 CHI paper [2].

[1] Buechley, L. Lilypad Arduino | build something.

[2] Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., and Crockett, A. The Lilypad Arduino: using computational textiles to investigate engagement, aesthetics, and diversity in computer science education. In CHI ’08: Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (New York, NY, USA, 2008), ACM, pp. 423-432.

MUM 2009 in Cambridge, no technical solution for privacy

The 8th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM 2009) was held in Cambridge, UK. The conference is fairly specific and had an acceptance rate of about 33% – have a look at the table of content for an overview. Florian Michahelles presented our paper on a design space for ubiquitous product recommendation systems [1]. Our work contributes a comprehensive design space that outlines design options for product recommendation systems using mobile and ubiquitous technologies. We think that over the next years mobile recommendation systems have the potential to change the way we shop in the real world. It probably will be normal to have access in-depth information an price comparison while browsing in physical stores. The idea has been around for a while, e.g. the pocket bargain finder presented at the first ubicomp conference [2]. In Germany we see also a reaction of some electronics stores that asked users NOT to use a phone or camera in the shop.

The keynote on Tuesday morning was by Martin Rieser on the Art of Mobility. He blogs on this topic on
The examples he presented in his keynote concentrated on locative and pervasive media. He characterized locative media as media that by social interaction that is linked to a specific place. He raised the awareness that mapping is very important for our perception of the world, using several different subjective maps – I particular liked the map encoding travel times to London . A further interesting examples was a project by Christian Nold: Bio mapping – emotional mapping of journeys. QR or other bar code markers on cloth (large and on the outside) have a potential … I see this now.

In the afternoon was panel on “Security and Privacy: Is it only a matter of time before a massive loss of personal data or identity theft happens on a smart mobile platform?” with David Cleevely, Tim Kindberg, and Derek McAuley. I found the discussion very inspiring but in the end I doubt more and more that technical solutions will solve the problem. I think it is essential to consider the technological, social and legal framework in which we live. If I would need to live in a house that provides absolute safety (without a social and legal framework) it would be probably not a very nice place… hence I think here we need really interdisciplinary research in this domain.

[1] von Reischach, F., Michahelles, F., and Schmidt, A. 2009. The design space of ubiquitous product recommendation systems. In Proceedings of the 8th international Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (Cambridge, United Kingdom, November 22 – 25, 2009). MUM ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-10. DOI=

[2] Brody, A. B. and Gottsman, E. J. 1999. Pocket Bargain Finder: A Handheld Device for Augmented Commerce. InProceedings of the 1st international Symposium on Handheld and Ubiquitous Computing (Karlsruhe, Germany, September 27 – 29, 1999). H. Gellersen, Ed. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 1707. Springer-Verlag, London, 44-51.

Keynote by Frits Grotenhuis at AMI-2009

In the opening keynote of AMI 2009 Frits Grotenhuis (who stepped in for Emil Aarts) looked back at the last 10 years ambient intelligence. In his talk he showed a number of examples of devices that Philips created in this time, including iCat, the Entertaible, Ambilight, and medical devices. He discussed briefly the forces in such developments between market-pull and technology-push and it became evident that many products in this domain are more technology push than market-pull.

I liked the reference back to the Electronic Poem at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, which must have been at that time an amazing large scale installation (creating “surround sound” with more than 200 speakers).

The update of the vision (title of the keynote was Ambient Intelligence 2.0: Towards Synergetic Prosperity) suggests a model where the human is in the center and the surrounded by the Mind (well being), Community (participation), Body (health), and Environment (responsibility). I found this did not offer many new insights as by now the human centered approach is widely accepted. Looking at the examples it seems that the vision is very much centering on the “rich” world’s problem… perhaps it is really hard to update a vision.

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 …

Summer party at the chair of ergonomics in Munich

On Friday afternoon I was at the summer party of the chair of ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich. Klaus Bengler, who took over the chair earlier this year and became professor, had in his talk 3 interesting points to take away:

  1. to assess more how much does bad ergonomics costs us (from health to missed sales)
  2. to quantify the value of ergonomics in real money in order to make it comparable with other factors in product design
  3. to include ergonomics as an integral part of the development process

From my Computer Science/HCI perspective I think (2) would be top of the list – as we have good approaches to (3) but need (2) to push it and as (1) is part of (2)… It would be great to have an argument based on economics. E.g. adding tactile feedback will costs x € and it will increase the value of the product by y € – if x>y do it – else don’t … still no idea how one would do this – but would be great if possible!

The researchers and students had prepared a large number of demos – mainly centered on ergonomics in the car, sports ergonomics, and mobile eye-tracking. Hard to pick a favorite but I liked the joystick control for steering a car a lot (there will be a paper on this at the automotive UI conference).

DFG Emmy Noether Meeting in Potsdam, Art, Ceilings

Meeting with other researchers that run or have run Emmy Noether research groups is very different from normal conferences and meetings. The participants are across all disciplines – from art history to zoology 😉 The meeting focuses mainly on strategic, political, personal, administrative and organizational issues when starting a research career. This year we had child care organized during the meeting and Vivien came with me to Potsdam.

On Saturday night I learned that we (our galaxy) will eventually collide with the Andromeda Galaxy (but after our sun is out fuel – so I do not worry too much). Vivien found this fascinating, too. Learning more about astrophysics (looks defiantly more complicated than the things I usually do) teaches me to worry less about the immediate usefulness and direct utility of research results – also in our domain.

I am fascinated how different research can be and at the same time how similar the enthusiasm is people have for their research. By now – being one of the old guys – I co-organized two workshops. One together with Dr. Hellfeier from DHV on how to negotiate for a professorship and one with Stefanie Scheu and Rainer Hirsch-Luipold on teaching and PhD-supervision.

I talked to Riko Jacob (CS at TU Munich) about teaching computer science in school and he showed me a picture of a tangible shortest path calculator (I took a photo of the photo ;-). Perhaps I have at some point time to play with the installation in Munich.

On Sunday morning we took the water taxi – direct from the hotel peer – to the central train station in Potsdam. Christian Scholl from Göttingen (he does Art History) took some time to show us around the castle Sans Souci. After our discussion I wondered if we should consider a joint seminar from computer science/media informatics and art history – in particular ideas related to ambient media, interactive facades, and robotic buildings would benefit from a more historic awareness. There is an interesting PhD thesis on ceiling displays [1] – for a shorter version see [2]. I met Martin Tomitsch at a Ubicomp DC and I was impressed with the idea and its grounding in history.

[1] Tomitsch M. (2008). Interactive Ceiling – Ambient Information Display for Architectural Environments. PhD Thesis, Vienna University of Technology, Austria.

[2] Tomitsch, M., Grechenig, T., Vande Moere, A. & Sheldon, R. (2008). Information Sky: Exploring Ceiling-based Data Representations. International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV08), London, UK, 100-105.