Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Keynote by Pertti Huuskonen: Ten Views to Context Awareness

Pertti Huuskonen from Nokia presented his keynote at Percom in Mannheim. I worked with Pertti in 1999 on a European Project TEA - creating context-aware phones [1].

After telling us about CERN and some achievements in physics he raised the issue that an essential skill of humans is that they are context-aware. Basically culture is context-awareness - learning how to appropriately behave in life is essential to be accepted. We do this by looking at other people and by learning how how they act and how others react. "Knowing how to behave" we become fit for social life and this questions the notion of intuitive use as it seems that most of it is learned or copied from others.

He gave a nice overview of how we can context-awareness is useful. One very simple example he showed is that people typically create context at the start of a phone call.

One example of a future to come may be ubiquitous spam - where context may be the enabler but also the enabler for blogging adverts. He also showed the potential of context in the large, see Nokoscope. His keynote was refreshing - and as clearly visible he has a good sense of humor ;-)

[1] Schmidt, A., Aidoo, K. A., Takaluoma, A., Tuomela, U., Laerhoven, K. V., and Velde, W. V. 1999. Advanced Interaction in Context. In Proceedings 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, 89-101.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Opening of Percom, Keynote by Kurt Rothermel

About 300 people are at Percom 2010, which is held in the palace in Mannheim - and amazing location! The conference had 233 submission and is truly international (1/3 of the papers come from Europe, 1/3 from America, and 1/3 from Asia/pacific) and highly competitive (acceptance rate of about 12%).

Kurt Rothermel from the University of Stuttgart presented the opening Keynote on Large-scale Context Management. He presented a set of interesting example from Nexus (Collaborative Research Center 627, Spatial World Models for Mobile Context-Aware Applications) that showed the challenge in large scale systems. The size of the problem is can be easily seen when considering that half the population of the planet is using a mobile device and hence needs to be located… Now imagine everyone is contributing sensor data at a rate of one update per minute… For more details on their work see their 2009 percom paper [1]. In his talk he gave also some references to other interesting research platforms in this space: SensorWeb/SensorMap by Microsoft [2] and SensorPlanet by Nokia [3].

[1] Lange, R., Cipriani, N., Geiger, L., Grossmann, M., Weinschrott, H., Brodt, A., Wieland, M., Rizou, S., and Rothermel, K. 2009. Making the World Wide Space happen: New challenges for the Nexus context platform. In Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE international Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (March 09 - 13, 2009). PERCOM. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, 1-4. DOI=

[2] Kansal, A., Nath, S., Liu, J., and Zhao, F. 2007. SenseWeb: An Infrastructure for Shared Sensing. IEEE MultiMedia 14, 4 (Oct. 2007), 8-13. DOI=

[3] Abdelzaher, T., Anokwa, Y., Boda, P., Burke, J., Estrin, D., Guibas, L., Kansal, A., Madden, S., and Reich, J. 2007. Mobiscopes for Human Spaces. IEEE Pervasive Computing 6, 2 (Apr. 2007), 20-29. DOI=

Monday, 29 March 2010

NSF/EU workshop in Mannheim

Mohan Kumar and Marco Conti organized an EU/NSF workshop on Future Directions in Pervasive Computing and Social Networking for Emerging Applications. They managed to get together an interesting set of people and the discussion in the break out session were very enjoyable and I got a number of ideas what really are the challenges to come.

There are the position statements on the web page and at some point the identified grand challenges will be available.

PS: blackboards are still highly effective ;-)

Saturday, 27 March 2010

CFP: 2nd Int. Conf. on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications

The call for the 2nd International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications is online - see - AutomotiveUI'10.

The conference will be in Pittsburgh on 11-12 Nov 2010.

Do not miss the submission deadline: 02 July 2010.

The call includes a wide range of topics, including:
  • new concepts for in-car user interfaces
  • multi-modal in-car user interfaces
  • in-car speech user interfaces
  • text input and output while driving
  • multimedia interfaces and in-car entertainment
  • evaluation of in-car user interfaces
  • methods and tools for automotive user interface research
  • development tools and methods for automotive user interfaces
  • automotive user interface frameworks and toolkits
  • detecting and estimating user intentions
  • detecting user distraction and estimating cognitive load
  • user interfaces for assistive functionality
  • biometrics and physiological sensors as a user interface component
  • using sensors and context for interactive experiences in the car
  • user interfaces for information access while driving
  • user interfaces for navigation systems
  • applications and user interfaces for inter-vehicle communication
  • in-car gaming
We enjoyed last years conference in Essen :-) There are several posts online in my blog and we had a conference report in IEEE Pervasive Magazine [1]. Last years proceedings are online in the ACM DL and on the 2009 conference website.

The full call for papers is online at:

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Wolfgang Spiessl, Dagmar Kern, "Driving Automotive User Interface Research," IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 85-88, Jan.-Mar. 2010, doi:10.1109/MPRV.2010.3.

Poker surface on youtube - 5000 hits in a day :-)

A video describing the poker surface is available in youtube. It is an implementation of a poker game on a combination of a multi-touch table and mobile phones, for details see [1].

It is amazing how quickly it is picked up. It gained about 5000 views in a single day and it is already features in,, and on But as the comments on show the real poker players are hard to impress...

This really makes me think how research, publishing, and public perception of research is changing - rapidly…

[1] Shirazi, A. S., Döring, T., Parvahan, P., Ahrens, B., and Schmidt, A. 2009. Poker surface: combining a multi-touch table and mobile phones in interactive card games. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-2. DOI=

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Heiko Drewes defended his PhD - Congratulations! (No. 4)

Heiko worked the last 6 years towards his PhD. He did a lot of things during this time - and even though not everything was on his PhD topic - I think the time was well spent, e.g. some visually interesting things came out [1].

The core of his PhD was on eye gaze as an additional modality for human computer interaction and it is worthwhile to read the thesis (which will be available in a few weeks) - till than you can have a look at the following papers. [2] describes a system that positions the mouse pointer on touching the mouse to the location on the screen where look at; [3] introduces the concept of gaze gestures - gestures done with the eyes. There is an interesting alt.chi paper coming on Fitts' law (don't start Heiko on this ;-).

In the evening Raphael showed me his interactive surface prototype [4] - it is really big :-). He is also co-organizing a course on Sketching with Hardware.

[1] Heiko Drewes. Yara - Yet Another Random Art.

[2] Drewes, H. and Schmidt, A. 2009. The MAGIC Touch: Combining MAGIC-Pointing with a Touch-Sensitive Mouse. In Proceedings of the 12th IFIP TC 13 international Conference on Human-Computer interaction: Part II (Uppsala, Sweden, August 24 - 28, 2009). Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 5727. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 415-428. DOI=

[3] Heiko Drewes, Albrecht Schmidt. 2007. Interacting with the Computer using Gaze Gestures. In Proceedings of the 11th IFIP TC13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2007, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-74794-9, DOI=

[4] Raphael Wimmer, Florian Schulz, Fabian Hennecke, Sebastian Boring, Heinrich Hussmann. Curve: Blending Horizontal and Vertical Interactive Surfaces. Adjunct Proceedings of the 4th IEEE Workshop on Tabletops and Interactive Surfaces (IEEE Tabletop 2009), Banff, Canada, Nov. 2009

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

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.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

German Workshop on Tangible Interaction

Friday and Saturday we hosted the GI working groups on tangible interaction (GI Arbeitskreis Be-greifbare Interaction in gemischten Wirklichkeiten) for the second inventor's workshop. We were positively surprised that more than 30 people took part. We started with a set of nice demos from our students and then Nicolas Villar presented an invited talk.

The concept of the workshop was to create ideas by looking more closely at different materials that may be used for interaction and by assessing novel interaction technologies. On Friday afternoon we had several tables with material (e.g. smart materials, conductive fabric, magnetic materials, etc.) and technologies (e.g. VoodooIO, EduWear kit, Physiological sensing based on the Nexus system). We bought a set of materials from MUTR Teaching Materials. In groups the participants create many design ideas by imagining a certain technology to be used in a specific context.

The social event was at the in Essen - if you visit Essen this is a "must see". The concept is unique!

On Saturday we started with an exercise to investigate the qualities of tangible UIs in comparison to traditional GUIs. For this we looked at different games (e.g. Space invaders, Super Mario, Sims, Halo) and though how we would make them more tangible and what pros and cons are there for the tangible and GUI version. In this context we also discussed the approach of exertion interfaces [1].

The rest of the morning was spent working on more concrete ideas for the concepts created on Friday afternoon - with remarkable results - see the Wiki for details.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Invited Talk by Nicolas Villar

Nicolas visited us in Essen to give the opening talk of our German meeting on tangible interaction. In his talk he first showed some examples of the hardware and sensors group at Microsoft research in Cambridge, most notably the SenseCam (which we learned is licensed and will be soon commercially available).

In the main part of the talk Nicolas presented a modular embedded architecture that allows developers to create custom made digital systems with fairly little effort. By integrating physical development (3D printing), functional blocks and software development the approach aims at empowering developers to create entirely new devices. His examples were impressive, e.g. creating a fully functional game console in a few hours.

Assuming that electronics become really small and cheap and that displays can be directly printed I can see that this approach makes a lot of sense - the question is just how long will it take before we rather use a (nowadays) powerful ARM processor, instead of a logic circuit with 10 gates. I would imagine that from a economic perspective it will less than 20 years before this makes sense.

We talked about energy harvesting and hier is a link to a potential interesting component: LTC3108.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Cloud Computing Reading List

I recently got more often used about cloud computing and what my take on it is. So far I have not had time to write up my view but I can share at least my reading list on the topic:

Hayes, B. 2008. Cloud computing. Commun. ACM 51, 7 (Jul. 2008), 9-11. DOI=

Vaquero, L. M., Rodero-Merino, L., Caceres, J., and Lindner, M. 2008. A break in the clouds: towards a cloud definition. SIGCOMM Comput. Commun. Rev. 39, 1 (Dec. 2008), 50-55. DOI=

John Viega, "Cloud Computing and the Common Man," Computer, vol. 42, no. 8, pp. 106-108, Aug. 2009, doi:10.1109/MC.2009.252

Lin, G., Fu, D., Zhu, J., and Dasmalchi, G. 2009. Cloud Computing: IT as a Service. IT Professional 11, 2 (Mar. 2009), 10-13. DOI=

Voas, J. and Zhang, J. 2009. Cloud Computing: New Wine or Just a New Bottle?. IT Professional 11, 2 (Mar. 2009), 15-17. DOI=

Grossman, R. L. 2009. The Case for Cloud Computing. IT Professional 11, 2 (Mar. 2009), 23-27. DOI=

Weinhardt, C., Anandasivam, A., Blau, B., and Stößer, J. 2009. Business Models in the Service World. IT Professional 11, 2 (Mar. 2009), 28-33. DOI=

Michael Armbrust, Armando Fox, Rean Griffith, Anthony D. Joseph, Randy Katz, Andy Konwinski, Gunho Lee, David Patterson, Ariel Rabkin, Ion Stoica, and Matei Zaharia
Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing. 2009. UC Berkeley Reliable Adaptive Distributed Systems Laboratory.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sensor modules for acceleration, gyro, and magnetic field

I came across 2 Sensor module recently released by ST Microelectronics:
There will be in the future probably very few mobile devices without such sensors. When we worked on the project TEA in 1999 it seemed far away… What can you do with sensors on the mobile? There are a few papers to read: using them for context awareness [1], for interaction [2], [3], and for creating smart devices [4].

Last week in Finland I met Antii Takaluoma (one of the co-authors of [1]) and he works now for - I saw impressive Linux hardware - I expect cool stuff to come :-)

[1] Schmidt, A., Aidoo, K. A., Takaluoma, A., Tuomela, U., Laerhoven, K. V., and Velde, W. V. 1999. Advanced Interaction in Context. In Proceedings 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, 89-101.

[2] Hinckley, K., Pierce, J., Sinclair, M., and Horvitz, E. 2000. Sensing techniques for mobile interaction. In Proceedings of the 13th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (San Diego, California, United States, November 06 - 08, 2000). UIST '00. ACM, New York, NY, 91-100. DOI=

[3] Albrecht Schmidt. Implicit human computer interaction through context. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 4(2):191-199, June 2000

[4] A. Schmidt and K. Van Laerhoven. How to Build Smart Appliances?, IEEE Personal Communications, p.66 - 71, (2001)