Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Lab started: Developing Interactive Mobile Applications

Our Lab course on "Developing Interactive Mobile Applications" started today with 11 students (the limit was 8 - but 3 more is OK as we got some additional phones from Nokia).

Shortly after lunch everyone had there first application written and deployed to the phone. In the afternoon we looked into sending an SMS from JAVA using the messaging API.... And this is fairly easy.

For more details on the course see:

Seeing the possibilities of JAVA ME and how quick people get applications running made me wonder how long it takes till we have massive mal-ware, viruses and spam on the phone. Secutity on phones may be one of the upcomming challenges.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Thoughts on Wearable Computing and Communication

This morning we took some time to walk along Nevsky Prospekt, crossing Anichkov Bridge all the way to the Hermitage and to the river Neva (which was nearly completely frozen). The streets were very busy with people.

… but nearly nobody spoke on the mobile phone. It does not need much brain to figure out why – after just taking a few photos with my phone I had really cold fingers and quickly put my gloves on again! Remembering a summer day last year in Rome – were nearly everyone spoke on the phone – I wondered what phone terminal it would require to transform the scene in St. Petersburg.

After this, many ideas that we recently discussed on wearable computing and communication made much more sense (at least a lot more that skiing and snowboarding scenarios). A headset in a fashionable scarf, a pair of gloves with camera and display, and controls included in a jacket appeared at once very reasonable. Creating an interactive experience – especially controlling the communication and the applications is an interesting challenge (perhaps an interesting student project?).

Educational Fair in St. Petersburg

Together with Alexandra Reitelmann I am in St. Petersburg (Russia) to advertise our study programs at the B-IT and University of Bonn ( In particular we talk to potential students about the master programs in Media Informatics and Life Science Informatics. The educational fair is held in the centre of St. Petersburg at the Russian Museum of Ethnography, which is a truly magnificent building. Overall I was surprised by the city, the buildings, the shops and the quality of the hotel.

The discussions with potential students and in some cases with their parents were interesting. It showed that there is a demand for high quality education and that Germany is an attractive place to study. Given the background of many people we talked to it could be interesting to look into the potential of a conversion master in media informatics, where people with different degrees (e.g. psychology, business studies, math, or engineering) can enter. In comparison to other countries education seems to be a bargain in Germany.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2008 in Bonn

The second international conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction (TEI’08) will be in Bonn, Germany. Together with Hans Gellersen from Lancaster University I will chair the conference in 2008. I am absolutely delighted that Elise van den Hoven from Eindhoven University of Technology and Ali Mazalek from Georgia Institute of Technology will co-chair the program. The conference will be held in the B-IT-Center in February or March 2008 – we will soon put more information on

Some thoughts to keep in mind for 2008… In the discussion it was suggested that we capture the conference next year on video and put the online or stream them. Furthermore several people argue for workshops as part of the conference. To have papers of different length, which may be presented in different forms (talks, exhibitions, demos, posters) but which are all equal in the proceedings was generally welcome. It was suggested that videos should feature in the submission to the program in one way or another. To make it easier for participants to have demos but also see other demos it was suggested to have student volunteers to help. The publication in the ACM digital library was seen by most people I spoke to as an important plus of the conference.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Affectionate Computing

Thecla Schiphorst introduced us in her talk “PillowTalk: Can We Afford Intimacy? to the concept of Affectionate-Computing.
The central question is really how can we create intimacy in communication an interaction with and through technology? The prototype showed networked soft objects, that include sensors that recognize tactile qualities and gesture interaction. There are more details in her paper published at TEI’07.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Nicolas Villar & Wolfang Spießl present at TEI’07

Wolfgang (one of the students I supervise at the LMU Munich) was last year for an internship at Lancaster University. Together with Nicolas (one of my former colleagues) he build a system that integrates VoodooIO with Macromedia Flash.

The paper is available at

Keynote at TEI’07 by Tom Rodden

Tom presented (in socks) a very inspiring keynote at TEI'07. He questioned if the notion of seamless integration of technology based on several examples from the Equator Project (

A central lesson from his talk for me is to look more closely how to design interactive systems so that people can exploit the technical weakness of system creatively. We will always have to deal with sensors systems, context-recognition, and learning algorithms that are not 100% perfect. I find it interesting to see this rather as a resource for design than a problem. The experience Tom reported from CYSMN ( show nicely how people make use of GPS inaccuracies in a game.

A further point to keep in mind is that when triggering events based on context you may get boundary effects that can break the user experience. Tom gave an example of children finding virtual animals based on location. The effect was that they stopped when the saw an animal on their device – and this was at the boundary of the trigger area. This led to cases where the animal appeared and disappeared on the device and the children were puzzled about this effect. Hence one should really be careful how to put triggers – and I would expect that this is generally applicable to context-awareness not just to location-aware application.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


We got the message that our workshop proposal at the German Informatik2007 Conference is accepted. Together with colleagues from the University of Bonn and from the AutoID-Labs in Zurich I will organize a workshop on context-aware and ubiquitous computing applications in logistics. With the workshop we hope to get together interesting people who look into smart transport and logistics solutions.

The Workshop webpage is online at: and papers are due at 29.04.07. I am really looking forward to seeing the submissions.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Nigel visiting, discussion on transportation

Nigel Davies from Lancaster University in the UK is visiting our group at Fraunhofer and b-it. It was really good to have some time - basically most of the day - to discuss interesting research questions and new direction in pervasive computing.

We discovered that we recently have both looked more into issues related to transport and tracking. I learned about possibilities for developing apps for the TomTom navigation system(which is running linux) and the trakm8 in-car-unit. We had a look at Michael Müller's (master student I supervise in Munich) video of the smart transport container (more details on this at CeBIT).

Both of us are really interested how personal transportation is going to change and how computer science will make its contributions to that? The discussion on motives and motivations for choosing a particular mode of transport, what are the perceived values of certain transport modalities, and how can we influence them made me really think of implications of pervasive computing that are to come.

It is remarkable that as "cars" become more programmable interesting research projects start at many different institutions looking into automotive computing on an application level with an aim for new user experience and additional services/functionalities.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Web 2.0 for any page and site in the WWW

Florian Alt started his master thesis with us. He use the UsaProy ( - a concept and software we (mainly Richard Atterer and Monika Wnuk) developed previously at LMU Munich - to create a new system that allows the annotation of web pages.

We think it is an interesting challenges to create a system that allows users to annotate any web page and make these annotations available to others.

With the concept we envision to bring Web 2.0 to any page and site in the WWW. Interactivity and community features are provided independently of the content provider and authors.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2007

Just a little more than week before the Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2007 starts in Baton Rouge (

The program looks really exciting - a mixture of computer science, HCI, design, and art. I would expect that the conference sparks a lot of new ideas. Brygg Ullmer did the cover for the proceedings and it looks really cool.

Having seen the program of TEI'07 we have decided to put in a proposal to run the conference next year in Bonn. Hope we get it...

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Enrico Rukzio finished his PhD

Enrico Rukzio ( is the first of my PhD-Students who worked in the Embedded Interaction Research Group ( to finish. He defended successfully his dissertation at LMU ( Congratulations!!!

He is now an accademic fellow and lecturer at Lancaster University in the UK.