Thursday, 29 January 2009

Interesting interaction devices

Looking at interesting and novel interaction devices that would be challenging for students to classify (e.g. in the table suggested by Card et al 1991 [1]) I can across some pretty unusual device. Probably not really useful for an exam but perhaps next year for discussion in class…

Ever wanted to rearrange the keys on your keyboard? ErgoDex DX1 is a set of 25 keys that can be arranged on a surface to create a specific input device. It would be cool if the device could also sense which key is where – would make re-arranging part of the interaction process. In some sense it is similar to Nic Villar's Voodoo I/O [2].

Wearable computing is not dead – here is some proof ;-) JennyLC Chowdhury presents intimate controllers – basically touch sensitive underwear (a bra and briefs). Have a look at the web page or the video on youtube.

What are keyboards of the future? Each key is a display? Or is the whole keyboard a screen? I think there is too much focus on the visual und to less on the haptic – perhaps it could be interesting to have keys that change shape and where the tactile properties can be programmed… 

[1] Card, S. K., Mackinlay, J. D., and Robertson, G. G. 1991. A morphological analysis of the design space of input devices. ACM Trans. Inf. Syst. 9, 2 (Apr. 1991), 99-122. DOI= 

[2] VILLAR, N., GILLEADE, K. M., RAMDUNYELLIS, D., and GELLERSEN, H. 2007. The VoodooIO gaming kit: a real-time adaptable gaming controller. Comput. Entertain. 5, 3 (Jul. 2007), 7. DOI=

Friday, 23 January 2009

Ranking Conferences and Journals - A Down-Under perspective

As many of us I am skeptical of rankings (as long as I was not involved in making them ;-) Nevertheless sometimes they are interesting and helpful in assessing where to publish or what better not to read...

This morning we discussed where to publish some interesting work related to web technology (a follow-up of the UsaProx) and for the discussion such a list may have been helpful. 

A colleague from Munich sent me the link to an Australian conference ranking and obviously they also have ranked Journals, too. They use A+, A, B, L, and C as tiers.

... and as we always knew you cannot be wrong when publishing in Pervasive, Percom, Ubicomp, and CHI :-)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Technology Review with a Focus on User Interfaces

The February 2009 edition of technology review (German version) has its focus on new user interfaces and titles "Streicheln erwünscht" (translates to stroking/caressing/fondling welcome). It has a set of articles talking about new way of interacting multimodality, including tangible user interfaces and tactile communication. In the article "Feel me, touch me" by Gordon Bolduan on page 74 a photo of Dagmar's prototype of tactile steering wheel is depicted. The full paper on the study will be published at Pervasive in May 2009 (so you have to be patient to get the details - or come and visit our lab ;-)

In the blog entry of technology review  introducing the current issue there is a nice anecdote mentioned about a literature search on haptic/tactile remote communication (while I was still in Munich) - the final version of the seminar paper (now not X-rated anymore) is "Neue Formen der entfernten Kommunikation" by Martin Schrittenloher. He continued in his MSc Project on the topic and worked with Morten Fjeld  on sliders that give remote feedback, see [1].

Another topic closely related is to new forms of communication are exertion interfaces (we looked at the 2002/2003 work Florian 'Floyd' Mueller in the UIE lecture yesterday - even with the Nintendo Wii around the work is highly inspiring and impressive, see [2]). The communication example given in Breakout for Two is showing the potential of including the whole body in communication tasks. Watching the video  is really to recommend :-)

[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] Mueller, F., Agamanolis, S., and Picard, R. 2003. Exertion interfaces: sports over a distance for social bonding and fun. InProceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, April 05 - 10, 2003). CHI '03. ACM, New York, NY, 561-568. DOI=  

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Why can I not rotate my windows on my Vista Desktop?

In the User Interface Engineering lecture we discussed today input devices, especially to interact with 3D environments. In 3D environments having 6 degrees of freedom (3 directions in translation and 3 options for rotation) appears very natural. Looking back at 2D user interfaces with this in mind one has to ask why are we happy (an now for more than 25 years) with translation (in 2D) only and more specifically why is it not possible to rotate my application windows in Vista (or perhaps it is and I just dont know it). At first this questions seems like a joke but if you think more of it there could be interesting implication (perhaps with a little more thinking
 than this sketch ;-)

Obviously people have implemented desktops with more than 2D and here is the link to the video on project looking glass - discussed in the lecture. (if you are bored with the sun sales story just move to 2:20):

It seems you can have it on Ubuntu, too:

Desktop Video Conference - Setup time 5 Seconds

Earlier I had a tele-conference with Christian Becker and Gregor Schiele (we still try to write a book ;-) and I tryed for the video. And to my great suprise it work instandly and well and the conference setup took about 5 seconds - open website, chose a name for the conference, distribute the link over skype. And as one can see video adds another quality to the conversation :-)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Rating your professor, teacher, doctor, or fellow students?

This morning I was coming back from Munich* on the train I got a phone call from a journalist from Radio Essen ( As their studio is very close to the railways station in Essen I went there spontaneously before going back to University. 

We talked a little about web services for students to rate their profs (e.g. The numbers of ratings most professors have received so far is extremely small (in comparison to the number of students we teach) and hence you get interesting effects that are far from representative or in many cases even meaningful. Last term I registered my course and we sent proactively a mail to all students who complete the course with the request to rate the lectures. This seems to be a good way to generate a positive selection :-)

There are many of these services out - rating teachers, doctors, shops, etc. Thinking a little more about the whole concept of rating others one could image many interesting services - all of them creating a clear benefit (for someone) and a massive reduced privacy for others. 

To make it more specific I offer you one idea: Rate your fellow students' professonal capabilities and academic performance. Students have typically a very good insight into the real qualities of their peers (e.g. technical skills, social compatibility, creativity, mental resilience, ability to cope with workload, diligence, honesty etc.). Having this information combined with the official degree (and the transcript the university offers) a potential employer would get a really interesting picture… We discussed this with students last term an the reactions were quite diverse - as one can image.>

Obviously such a service would create a lot of criticism (which lowers the cost of marketing) and one would have to carefully think in which countries it would be legal to run it. An interesting question would also be what verification one would employ to ensure that the ratings are real - or perhaps we would not need to care? Interested in the topic - perhaps we should get 5 people together implemented in a week and get rich ;-) 

The direction of such rating systems are taking is very clear - and it seems that they will come in many areas of our life. Perhaps there is some real research in it… how will these technology change the way we live together?

* travelling from Munich (leaving at 22:30) and arriving in Essen in the morning (or Darmstadt) works fairly well and if you stay in a hotel in Stuttgart ;-) - it is surprisingly a real alternative to a night train or an early morning flight…

Monday, 19 January 2009

No 3 ;-) Paul defends his PhD - Congratulations!

Paul Holleis defended today his PhD thesis on "Integrating Usability Models into Pervasive Application Development" in Munich - My No.3. He worked together with Matthias on the DFG project “Embedded Interaction”. Paul is now with Docomo Eurolabs in Munich. 

The set of publication Paul produced is impressive - you probably don't have time to read all of them ;-) but at least take a look at the following ones: an extension to KLM for mobile phones [1], an integrated development environment that includes usability models [2], and a explorative study in wearable computing [3]. 

In Germany we have a tradition to make a hat for the candidate. Paul's hat has items on it that insiders can interpret, including a world map with bikes, miniature TEI'07 proceedings, Birkenstock shoes, a key with a label "Amsterdam", a display, a phone, a yoyo, a control unit for vibration motors, 4 flags of town, and some context-aware plug-and-play hardware (and obviously batteries).

[1] Holleis, P., Otto, F., Hussmann, H., and Schmidt, A. 2007. Keystroke-level model for advanced mobile phone interaction. InProceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (San Jose, California, USA, April 28 - May 03, 2007). CHI '07. ACM, New York, NY, 1505-1514. DOI=

[2] P. Holleis, A. Schmidt: MakeIt: Integrate User Interaction Times in the Design Process of Mobile Applications. 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing (Pervasive'08), Sydney, Australia, May 2008

[3] Holleis, P., Schmidt, A., Paasovaara, S., Puikkonen, A., and Häkkilä, J. 2008. Evaluating capacitive touch input on clothes. InProceedings of the 10th international Conference on Human Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services(Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 02 - 05, 2008). MobileHCI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 81-90. DOI=

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Mechanical Computing, Beauty of Calculating Machines

Instead of covering the history of calculating machines in the DSD lecture, we took the train and went to the Arithmeum in Bonn to the see the artefacts live and to play with some of them.

We started with early means for counting and record keeping. The tokens and early writings did not use numbers as abstract concepts, rather as representatives of concrete objects – this is very inspiring, especially from a tangible interaction point of view. The knots, as used in south America, show impressively how the tools for calculation have to fit the context people live in. Interestingly all these artefacts highliht how the ability to calculate and store information is related to the ability to do trade – quite a good motivation for the setup we have in Essen business studies and computer science within one faculty.

I was again impressed by the ingenuity by the early inventers of calculating tools and machines. There is an interesting separation between calculating tools and machines – the first ones require the user to take care of the carry and the second do it by themselves. We tried out replicas of Napier’s calculating tool and Schickard’s calculating machine.

The beauty and the mechanical precision required of those early machines is impressive. These prototypes (most of them took years and massive funds to be built complete) can teach us something for research today. These inventors had visions and the will to get it implemented, even without a clear application or business model in mind. They were excited by the creating of systems than can do things, machines could not do before. From the professions of the inventors (e.g. Philipp Matthäus Hahn was a clergyman)  it becomes apparent that at these times some considered religion and calculation as closely related - which to mondern understanding is very very alien.

Seeing the Hollerith machine that was used for the US census more than 100 years ago can teach you a lot about data processing. Punch cards, electrical reading and electrical counters (using mainly relays) were the basis for this technology. Looking at the labels on the counters showed that the US has a long tradition in collecting data that is after some time is not seen as political correct ;-)

Having learned binary calculations during the DSD course it was nice to see a machine that did binary additions, using small steel balls and gravity. On each place (1,2,4,8, …) there is space for one ball. If a second one comes to this place one moves up to the next place (carry) and one is discarded. This is implemented with very simple mechanics and the working prototype (recently build) is based on designs of Schickard (but he never built - if I am correct).

Moving on with binary systems and finally to silicon, we got to see the Busicom 141 - a desk calculator that uses the Intel 4004. It is impressive to see that this is not even 40 years ago – starting with 2300 transistors and 180kHz. 

you can find the full set of photos at:

CfP Workshop on Pervasive Advertising

We organize at this year's Pervasive computing conference in Nara, Japan a workshop on Pervasive Advertising -

We expect that there is a lot of interesting research going on in the area and it is clearly a controversial topic. Being an optimist - I see the new options that arise. In particular a future with less annoying advertisements is one hope :-)

But many people are focusing on the risks that arise - an interesting positing with some criticism of our workshop objective can be found at the near future laboratory  I do not share their views :-)

To me the idea that if you do not research it, it does not happen seems not a very viable option. I still think with research we can shape the future!

I am already looking forward to the submission and to the workshop. You have a contribution? Deadline is Feb, 11 2008.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hans is visiting, generating new ideas for projects

Hans was for a meeting in Stuttgart and he stayed another day to discuss project ideas with me - won't tell them here ;-).

Nevertheless there are always small new things to discover, too. Hans showed Vivien the Ocarina application for the iPhone - it is quite amazing how little it takes to create an interesting application - and that is very different from a traditional musical instrument. Especially the interweaving of playing yourself with the worldwide community is extremely well done. 

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Light themes - cool idea but with usability flaws

Over new year we went for a short skiing trip to Bödele in Austria. It is a small ski resort but great for learning to ski (and this is what Vivien did :-)

We stayed in Dornbirn (not far from Lake Constance) in at Hotel Krone and had a really nice room - and it had a remarkable light installation. 

There were several lights (like you have them typical in a hotel room), then there were many switches, and finally there was a full page manual how to use the light - welcome to ambient intelligence! Instead of switching on and off individual lights one can chose a predefined light theme, e.g. a setting for working on the desk, a setting for watching TV, a setting for reading, etc. All lights are switched and dimed to fit this situation (or at least as the designer thinks it would fit the situation).

The basic idea of having light themes is quite interesting but when being in the hotel room with 3 people it gets really difficult to set the lights. Even after a lot of trying out I could not manage to set the lights so that I can work on the desk (desk lamp on), Petra can read in bed (reading light at on bed on), and Vivien can sleep (her bedside lamp off). 

Nevertheless one should not underestimate the entertainment of previously simple tasks - We spend have the evening exploring potential settings, rhythms, and speeds of the colored wellness light ;-)

PS: (1) There is a good natural science museum in Dornbirn - inatura and (2) 3D projections are still not convincing...

PPS: using a GPS tracking device to record your skiing activity (including speed) is cool!