Thursday, 28 May 2009

Statistical Data on phone usage and ICT

Ever wanted to cite the number of "Mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitance" in Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, …., United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia or Zimbabwe? Or the spending on mobile telephony or the computer penetration in these countries? Then the website I just came across may be interesting for you too:

Here are the direct links to documents containing data:
Some of the figures seem really high to me - but I have not looked into detail. They have also publish a handbook on how to measuring ICT access and uses:
MANUAL for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals

Interessting tool to find flights…

Looking for a way to get from Essen (leaving not before 18:00) to Newcastle (arriving before 10:00 the next day) and going back from Newcastle (leaving not before 17:00) to Zürich (arriving before 10:00 the next day) Chis pointed me to a website that is very helpful for such tasks… (at least with the flying part of it):

I wonder how hard it is to build a similar tool that takes further modes of transport (e.g. train and rental car) into account...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Morten Fjeld visiting

On his way from Eindhoven to Zurich Morten Fjeld was visiting our group. It was great to catch up and talk about a number of exciting research projects and ideas. Some years ago one of my students from Munich did his final project with Morten working on haptic communication ideas, see [1]. Last year at TEI Morten had a paper on a related project - also using actuated sliders, see [2].

In his presentation Morten gave an overview of the research he does and we found a joint interest in capacitive sensing. Raphael Wimmer did his final project in Munich on capacitive sensing for embedded interaction which was published in Percom 2007, see [3]. Raphael has continued the work for more details and the open source hardware and software see Morten has a cool paper (combing a keyboard and capacitive sensing) at Interact 2009 - so check the program when it is out.

We talked about interaction and optical tracking and that reminded me that we wanted to see how useful the touchless SDK ( could be for final projects and exercise. Matthias Kranz had used it successfully with students in Linz in the unconventional user interfaces class.

[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] Gabriel, R., Sandsjö, J., Shahrokni, A., and Fjeld, M. 2008. BounceSlider: actuated sliders for music performance and composition. In Proceedings of the 2nd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Bonn, Germany, February 18 - 20, 2008). TEI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 127-130. DOI=

[3] Wimmer, R., Kranz, M., Boring, S., and Schmidt, A. 2007. A Capacitive Sensing Toolkit for Pervasive Activity Detection and Recognition. In Proceedings of the Fifth IEEE international Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (March 19 - 23, 2007). PERCOM. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, 171-180. DOI=

Thursday, 14 May 2009

SEGA World - relaxing after the conference :-)

On the way back from the PC-dinner we needed to get an update on another aspect of Japanese technologies and so we went into SEGA World in Nara.

Many of the games are very similar to other toys around the world - shooter, sports games and racing games. Each time you use games in such a setting one is reminded of the power a physical controls and the concept of tangible interaction...

The photo maker however was very different from what I have seen before. Technically it is interesting and well engineered: you make photos in a well lit area, it removes the background, and then you can choose background, borders, frames etc. Marc's Japanese helped us to get our pictures out of the machine - with more time an more Japanese reading skill we could have manipulated our pictures some more. It was interesting that the machine offered two options for output: paper and transfer to your mobile phone.

PS: remember not to play basketball against James and not to race against Antonio ;-)

Rubber-like stretchable display

Jörg just sent me a link on a rubber-like stretchable display that is published in Nature Material. There is a previous press release with some photos [2]. This is a significant step towards new nteractive devices, such as the one suggested in the GUMMI project [3].

[1] Stretchable active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display using printable elastic conductors, Tsuyoshi Sekitani et al., Nature Materials, doi: 10.1038/nmat2459


[3] Schwesig, C., Poupyrev, I., and Mori, E. 2004. Gummi: a bendable computer. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Vienna, Austria, April 24 - 29, 2004). CHI '04. ACM, New York, NY, 263-270. DOI=

Some Interesting Papers and random Photos from Pervasive 2009

Pervasive 2009 had a really exciting program and provided a good overview of current research in pervasive and ubiquitous computing. Have a look at the proceedings of the pervasive 2009 conference. The Noh theater in Nara was a very special and enjoyable venue and it was organized perfectly - as one would expect when travelling to Japan.

The idea of having short and long papers together in the main track worked very well in my view. The number of demos and posters was much higher than in the years before - and that was great and very inspiring. Have a look at the photos for some of the posters and demos.
The program consisted of 20 full papers (18 pages) and 7 notes (8 pages) which were selected in a peer review process out of 147 submissions (113 full papers, 34 notes) which is a acceptance rate of 18%.

John Krumm presented his paper Realistic driving tips for location privacy - again having a good idea making the presentation interesting beyond its content (having review snippets in the footer of the slides - including a fake review). The paper explores the difficulties that arise when creating fake GPS tracks. He motivated that the probabilities need to be taken into account (e.g. you are usually on a road). I liked the approach and the paper is worthwhile to read. I think it could be interesting to compare the approach is not create the tracks but just share them between users (e.g. other people can use parts of my track as fake track and in return I get some tracks that I can use as fake tracks).

If you phone knows where you are you can use this information to control your heating system. This was the basic idea of the research presented by Stephen Intille. They explored using GPS location of the users to automate control of the heating / air condition control in a house. It seems there is quite some potential for saving energy with technology typically used in the US (one temperature control for the whole house). In Europe where heating systems typically offer finer control (e.g. room level) the potential is probably larger.

James Scott presented a paper that showed how you can use force gestures to interact with a device. In contrast to previous research (e.g. GUMMI) the approach works with a ridged device and could be used with current screen technologies.

What do you need to figure out who is holding and using the remote control? This question is addressed in the paper "Inferring Identity Using Accelerometers in Television Remote Controls" that was presented by Jeff Hightower. They looked at how well button press sequences and accelerometer data give you information about which person is using the device.

Geo-fencing: confining Wi-Fi Coverage to Physical Boundaries is an example of how to create technological solutions to fit a user's conceptual model of the world. As people have experience with the physical world and they have mechanisms to negotiate and use space and hence linking technologies that have typically other characteristics (e.g. wireless radio coverage) to the known concept is really interesting.

Situvis, a tool for visualizing sensor data, was presented by Adrian Clear from Aaron's group in Dublin. The software, papers and a video is available at: The basic idea is to have a parallel coordinate visualization of the different sensor information and to provide interaction mechanisms with the data.

Nathan Eagle presented the paper "Methodologies for continuous cellular tower data analysis". He talked about the opportunities that arise when we have massive amounts of information from users - e.g. tracks from 200 million mobile phone user. It really is interesting that based on such methods we may get completely new insights into human behavior and social processes.

If you have seen a further interesting paper in the conference (and there are surely some) that I have missed feel free to give a link to them in the comments to this post.

Tutorials at Pervasive, HCI Library

I did a tutorial on Mobile Human Computer interaction at Pervasive 2009. The tutorial tried to give an overview of challenges of mobile HCI and was partly based on last year's tutorial day at MobileHCI2008 in Amsterdam. For the slides from last year have a look at:

Listening to Marc Langheinrich's tutorial on privacy I remembered that that I still have the photos of his HCI library - and to not forget them I upload them. Marc highlighted the risk of data analysis with the AOL Stalker example (some comments about the AOL Stalker). His overall tutorial is always good to hear and has many inspring issues - even so I am not agreeing with all the conclusions ;-)

For me seeing the books my collegues use on a certain topic still works better than the amazon recommendations I get ;-) perhaps people (or we?) should work harder on using social network based product recommendation systems…

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Our Publications at Pervasive - Public Displays, Car Adverts, and Tactile Output for Navigation

Our group was involved in 3 papers that are published at Pervasive 2009 in Nara.

The first contribution is a study on public display that was presented by Jörg Müller from Münster. The paper explores display blindness that can be observed in the real world (similarly to banner blindness) and concludes that the extent to which people look at displays is very much correlated to the users expectation of the content of a display in a certain location [1].

The second short paper is a survey on car advertising and has been conducted in the context of the master thesis of Christoph Evers. The central question is about the design space of dynamic advertising on cars and how the users perceive such a technology [2].

Dagmar presented a paper on vibra-tactile output integrated in the steering wheel for navigation systems in cars. The studies explored how multi-modal presentation of information impact driving performance and what modalities are preferred by users. The general conclusion is that combining visual information with vibra-tactile output is the best option and that people prefer multi-modal output over a single modality [3].

[1] Jörg Müller, Dennis Wilmsmann, Juliane Exeler, Markus Buzeck, Albrecht Schmidt, Tim Jay, Antonio Krüger. Display Blindness: The Effect of Expectations on Attention towards Digital Signage. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 1-8.

[2] Florian Alt, Christoph Evers, Albrecht Schmidt. User's view on Context-Aware Car Advertisement. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 9-16.

[3] Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Eva Hornecker, Yvonne Rogers, Albrecht Schmidt. Enhancing Navigation Information with tactile Output Embedded into the Steering Wheel. 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing 2009. Nara, Japan. Springer LNCS 5538, pp 42-58.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Keynote at Pervasive 2009 - Toshio Iwai

Toshio Iwai gave the keynote at Pervasive 2009 on expanding media art. He introduced us to the basics of moving images and films. The examples were fun and I think I will copy some for my introductory class on user interfaces for explaining the visual system (afterimages with a black-and-white negative image; the concept of combining images on two sides of a disk; the idea of moving images by using a flip book).

In his introduction he also went back to explain what he learned as a child and I found this very interesting and encouraging to expose smaller children more to technology than we usually tend to do (especially in Germany I think we do not give children much chance to explore technologies while they are in kindergarten and primary school). Hope to go with Vivien to the space center in Florida in few weeks :-)

Following up from the basic visual effects he showed some really funny life video effects. He introduced a delay to some parts (lines) in the picture when displaying which led to ghostly movements. Everything that is not moving appears in its real shape and everything that is in motion will be deformed.

In the final part of his talk he argued that the Theremin is the only electronic instrument that has been newly invented in the 20th century. For him an instrument has to have unique interaction, unique shape, and unique sound. Additional for the interaction it is essential that the interaction can be perceived by the audience (you can see how one plays a violin but not how one makes digital music with a laptop computer). Based on this he show a new musical instrument he developed that is inspired by a music box. The instrument is the TENORI-ON [1]. It has a surface with 16x16 switches (that include an LED) and 16x16 LEDs on the back. It has a unique interaction, its shape and sound is unique and it supports visibility of interaction as the sound is combined with light pattern. The basic idea is that the horizontal direction is the time line and the vertical the pitch (similar to a music box).

[1] Yu Nishibori, Toshio Iwai. TENORI-ON. Proceedings of the 2006 International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME06), Paris, France.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Workshop on Pervasive Computing in Advertising

We got a good set of submission for our workshop and had about 20 participants who joined us in Nara to discuss how pervasive computing will shape advertising in the future. The papers and a selection of talks is online on the workshop website:

One question that was central to our discussion was: what is advertising and how is it different from information. It became quickly clear that there is a lot of information that has an influence on behavior and in particular shopping decisions and some of it is considered advertising but much is not. Hence it seems really interesting to imagine a world where advertising is replaced by information. One could image that replacing advertising by information (e.g. as it happens already in some domains such a hotel recommendations) would change the whole approach for creating product or providing services.

We have presented in the workshop our work on contextual mobile displays. The idea is that in the future we could have mobile displays (that replace current printed items, like bumper stickers, bags with printed logos, and t-shirts with prints) could become active and could act as contextual displays. Have a look at the paper for more details [1].

[1] Florian Alt, Albrecht Schmidt, Christoph Evers. Mobile Contextual display system. Pervasive Advertising Workshop at Pervasive 2009. (contact Florian Alt for a copy of the paper)

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Japan - sightseeing (an less phone usage than expected)

To get cheaper flights we took a flight on Thursday/Friday to fly from Europe to Japan (never really understood the pricing model of flights). So we had two days off before the actual conference and many colleagues (who also took cheap flights) were also there. We went to do some sightseeing in Nara and Kyoto - which was great.

In Kyoto we got personal guides - students from a University in Kyoto - who offered to show us run and use this to practice their English. It was great for us as we got many insights we would have missed by ourselves and it was great to talk to some locals. Hopefully they enjoyed their time with us, too. In the evening we learned once more that the Japanese people are very social; we met the Nara Air Rescue team in a restaurant - and this was proof :-).

One thing that surprised me greatly was that very few people in Nara and Kyoto used their phone in public. On the train nearly nobody spoke on the phone, watch mobile TV or browsed the web. This is obviously very different from Tokyo. Overall Nara and Kyoto are very enjoyable and calming places. I hope to have at some point the time to spend more time in Japan (… when is my next sabbatical? ;-)

For more photos see:

PS: an some people find a disco in the street...