2 day faculty meeting in Essen

The last 2 day we had a meeting – with all faculty of the ICB – discussing the future challenges of work at universities in the context of our current situation. For me the this time was very well spent as I got to know many of my colleagues better and it was incredible to see the potential (from a scientific perspective as well as looking at the people) we have in our organization.

To me it is always amazing how much of a difference it makes to have a professional external moderator running such workshops (and we were very lucky with Klaus Schneider Ott from focus-team). Even though many of the psychological games are well known to many of us – they still work well and move discussion forward and help in creating common ground and even increase trust. He lectured us (after much of the discussion has happened) on basics of communication (e.g. transactional analysis) and again not novel they lead to serious reflection and progress.
PS: Do you know how to continue the row in the image below? What is the next sign? …
If you think of M-Omega-8 you are wrong – but still it is really easy 😉

Workshops at Informatik 2008 in Munich, e-ink prediction

Yesterday there was a workshop on Mobile and Embedded Interaction as part of Informatik2008 in Munich. The talks and discussions were very interesting. Lucia and Thomas raised interesting issues on a new notion of personal computing, where the mobile device becomes the center of a personal computing infrastructure. This idea has been around for some time (e.g. Roy Wants Personal Server [1]) but the new ideas and the feasibility with current hardware makes it really an exciting topic. On the general topic there are many open questions, as visible on the slide.

After the workshop, when swapping business cards, we started the discussion when in the future we will have business cards (in larger quantities, to give away) that have active display elements (e.g. eInk) included. Everyone gave a predictions in how many years we will have it (Lucia Terrenghi:never; Raimund Dachselt:7; Thomas Lang: business card will disappear; Albrecht Schmidt:9; Heiko Drewes:10; Florian Echtler:5; Michael Rohs:5; Paul Holleis:5). Lets get back in 5 years and see… In September 2008 the Esquire Magazine featured an e-ink cover page – have not seen it myself:-( but there is a video: http://www.esquire.com/the-side/video/e-ink-cover-video

Today we organized a workshop on Software, Services and Platforms for new infrastructures in telecommunication. We had a set of really interesting talks. As I did my PhD on context-awareness I was quite impressed by work on context oriented programming and the advances over the last years in this domain (good starting point on the topic with some publications [2]).

At the end of the workshop I gave the following scenario as an impulse for discussion: image there are 10 million facebook users that contniouly stream the video of what they see into the net, e.g. using eagle-i. The discussion raise many technical as well as social challenges!

[1] Want, R., Pering, T., Danneels, G., Kumar, M., Sundar, M., and Light, J. 2002. The Personal Server: Changing the Way We Think about Ubiquitous Computing. In Proceedings of the 4th international Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Göteborg, Sweden, September 29 – October 01, 2002). G. Borriello and L. E. Holmquist, Eds. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 2498. Springer-Verlag, London, 194-209.

[2] http://www.swa.hpi.uni-potsdam.de/cop/

PS: there are few photos as someone in the workshop today objected to be on the net…

Workshop on Automobile User Interfaces

For the second time we ran this year a workshop on automobile user interfaces and interactive applications in the car at the German HCI conference: http://automotive.ubisys.org/

In the first session we discussed the use of tactile output and haptics in automotive user interfaces. It appears that there is significant interest in this area at the moment. In particular using haptics as an additional modality creates a lot of opportunities for new interfaces. We had a short discussion about two directions in haptic output: naturalistic haptic output (e.g. line assist that feels like going over the side of the road) vs. generic haptic output (e.g. giving a vibration cue when to turn).

 I think the first domain could make an interesting project – how does it naturally feel to drive too fast, to turn the wrong way, to be too close to the car in front of you, etc…

In a further session we discussed framework and concepts for in-car user interfaces. The discussion on the use of context with the interface was very diverse. Some people argued it should be only used in non-critical/optional parts of the UI (e.g. entertainment) as one is not 100% sure if the recognized context is right. Others argue that context may provide a central advantage, especially in safety critical systems, as it gives the opportunity to react faster. 

In the end it comes always down to the question: to what extent do we want to have the human in the loop… But looking at Wolfgang’s overview slide it is impressive how much functionality depends already now on context…

In the third session we discussed tools and methods for developing and evaluating user interfaces in the car context. Dagmar presented our first version of CARS (a simple driving simulator for evaluation of UIs) and discussed findings from initial studies [1]. The simulator is based on the JMonkey Game engine and available open source on our website [2].

There were several interesting ideas on what topics are really hot in automotive UIs, ranging from interfaces for information gather in Car-2-Car / Car-2-Envrionment communication to micro-entertainment while driving.

[1] Dagmar Kern, Marco Müller, Stefan Schneegaß, Lukasz Wolejko-Wolejszo, Albrecht Schmidt. CARS – Configurable Automotive Research Simulator. Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Applications – AUIIA 08. Workshop at Mensch und Computer 2008 Lübeck 2008

[2] https://www.pcuie.uni-due.de/projectwiki/index.php/CARS

PS: In a taxi in Amsterdam the driver had a DVD running while driving – and I am sure this is not a form of entertainment that works well (it is neither fun to watch, nor is it save or legal).

HCI Doctoral Consortium at VTT Oulu

Jonna Hakkila (Nokia), Jani Mantyjarvi (Nokia & VTT), and I discussed last year how we can improve the doctoral studies of our students and we decided to organize a small workshop to discuss PhD topics.

As Jonna is currently on maternity leave and officially not working we ran the workshop at VTT in Oulu.

The topics varied widely from basic user experience to user interface related security. There was very interesting work the participants did and published. I have selected the following 2 as reading suggestions: [1] by Elina Vartiainen and [2] by Anne Kaikkonen.

We hope we gave some advise – can resist to repeat the most important thing to remember:

  • a PhD thesis is not require to solve all problems in a domain
  • doing a PhD is yet another exam – not more and not less
  • finding/inventing/unterstanding something that makes a real difference to even a small part of the world is a great achievement (an not common in most PhD research)
  • do not start with thinking hard – start with doing your research

A good discussion on doing a PhD in computer science by Jakob Bardram can be found at [3].

[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). CHI ’06. ACM, New York, NY, 35-44. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1124772.1124779

[2] Lehikoinen, J. T. and Kaikkonen, A. 2006. PePe field study: constructing meanings for locations in the context of mobile presence. In Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Helsinki, Finland, September 12 – 15, 2006). MobileHCI ’06, vol. 159. ACM, New York, NY, 53-60. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1152215.1152228

[3] http://www.itu.dk/people/bardram/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.ArtPhD

CfP: Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Applications – AUIIA 08

After last year’s successful workshop on automotive user interfaces we are planning to run another one this year. We – Susanne Boll (Uni Oldenburg), Wolfgang Spießl (BMW), Matthias Kranz (DLR) and Albrecht Schmidt – are really looking forward to many interesting submissions and a cool workshop program. The theme gains a the moment some momentum, which was very visible at the Special Interest Group meeting at CHI2008.

More information on the workshop and a call for paper is available at: http://automotive.ubisys.org/

Workshop on Smart Homes at Pervasive 2008

Today we had our Pervasive at home workshop – as part of Pervasive 2008 in Sydney. We had 7 talks and a number of discussions on various topics related to smart homes. Issues ranged from long term experience with smart home deployments (Lasse Kaila et al.), development cycle (Aaron Quigley et al.), to end-user development (Joëlle Coutaz). For the full workshop proceedings see [1].

One trend that can be observed is that researchers move beyond the living lab. In the discussion it became apparent that living labs can start research efforts in this area and function as focus point for researchers with different interests (e.g. technology and user-centred). However it was largely agreed that this can only be a first step and that deployments in actual home settings are becoming more essential to make an impact.

On central problem in smart home research is to develop future devices and services – where prototyping is based on current technologies and where we extrapolate from currently observed user behavior. We had some discussion how this can be done most effectively and what value observational techniques add to technology research and vice versa.

We discussed potential options for future smart home deployments and I suggested creating a hotel where people can experience future living and agree at the same time to give away their data for research purpose. Knowing what theme-hotels are around this idea is not as strange as it sounds 😉 perhaps we have to talk to some companies and propose this idea…

More of the workshop discussion is captured at: http://pervasivehome.pbwiki.com/

There are two interesting references that came up in discussions that I like to share. First the smart home at Duke University (http://www.smarthome.duke.edu/), which is dorm that is a live-in laboratory at Duke University – and it seems it is more expensive that the regular dorm. The second is an ambient interactive device, Joelle Coutaz discussed in the context of her presentation on a new approach to end-user programming and end-user development. The Nabaztag (http://www.nabaztag.com/) is a networked user interface that includes input and output (e.g. text2speech, moveable ears and LEDs) which can be programmed. I would be curious how well it really works to get people more connected – which relates to some ideas of us on having an easy communication channels.

[1] A.J. Brush, Shwetak Patel, Brian Meyers, Albrecht Schmidt (editors). Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on “Pervasive Computing at Home” held at the 6th international Conference on Pervasive Computing, Sydney, May 19 2008. http://murx.medien.ifi.lmu.de/~albrecht/pdf/pervasive-at-home-ws-proceedings-2008.pdf

Mensch und Computer program committee meeting in Lübeck

Yesterday night I flew to Hamburg and traveled on to Lübeck – a quite nice town in the north of Germany – for the program committee meeting of Mensch und Computer 2008. This morning I got up a little earlier to walk around the city – as it was my first time visiting. The building I could see when walking into town however was oddly familiar, after some moments I recalled that it is the Holstentor which was pictured on the 50DM note (DM = German Mark – the money used in Germany till 2001 before we exchanged it for the Euro ;-).

In the meeting we discussed a large number of submission made to Mensch und Computer 2008. It seems there are quite an interesting number of papers in the program which make the conference worth while. We will also run the second edition of our workshop on Automotive User Interface and Interactive Applications. The automotive workshop we ran 2007 in Weimar was with about 30 participants very successful.

Meeting on Human Centered in Vienna

Ina Wagner, Volker Wulf and Kjeld Schmidt organized a meeting to get together people from all over Europe that work on human centred computing. We had interesting discussions what is specific and distinct European human centred computing and how well it is represented in organizations such as the ACM.

Some years ago there has been significant support in this area of research on a European level – namely I3 and the disappearing computer initiative. Currently many of us feel that the value of user centred research is not supported enough and hence innovation happens somewhere else which can lead to massive disadvantages for European industries. One central issue is that we need more to communicate value of user interface research.

The need for user interface research is undoubtedly accepted. One example is the ISTAG report of 2001 that tried to look into 2010 – a future that is now not too far anymore. Looking at the challenges stated in this report it becomes clear that most of the technical issues are solved but this does has not lead to a breakthrough with regard to the visionary scenarios. But towards the challenge “natural interfaces” we have still a long way to go. If we really want to get closer to those scenarios of ambient intelligence that are human friendly we really have to push on interaction and user interfaces – hopefully decision makers on a European level will get it 😉

New working group on tangible interaction

This morning a new working group on tangible interaction in mixed realities (in German Be-greifbare Interaktion in Gemischten Wirklichkeiten) was established as part of the German Computer Science Society (GI). About 30 people from all over Germany gathered at B-IT in a pre-conference event to TEI’08. The group was interdisciplinary, including computer science, design, psychology, and pedagogic. The diversity of research projects as well as teaching programs in Germany in impressive.

UI matters – usability as the selling point

When driving back from a Workshop with the ART group of Fraunhofer IAIS at Naafs Häuschen I saw some interesting posters. A new car-related portal for selling and buying cars (pkw.de) has an interesting advertising campaign out. The only argument is on an easy to use and quick user interface – nothing else. So far many of them have tried to argue with the largest set of offers, but recently many of the major players (mobile.de and autoscout24.de) have improved their user interfaces.

It seems that a broader awareness for the user interface – basically that you sell based on your user interface – has finally arrived in Germany, too.