Friday 2 December 2011

Auto-UI 2012 in the US, looking for hosts for 2013

The next and 4rd international conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Vehicular Applications (AutoUI 2012) will be in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the USA. The dates for the conference are 17-19 of October 2012. The first day for workshops and tutorials and 2 days for the main conference. Portsmouth is about an 1 hour drive from Boston and the timing is great (fall foliage – the photos of the colorful forests looked good ;-)

The steering committee ( is inviting proposals for Auto-UI 2013 from the community of researchers in the field. The conference was 2009 in Essen (Germany), 2010 in Pittsburgh (USA), 2011 in Salzburg (Austria), and it will be in 2012 in Portsmouth (USA). Keeping this cycle between Europe and North America 2013 should be in Europe.

Paper and demo in Salzburg at Auto-UI-2011

At the automotive user interface conference in Salzburg we presented some of our research. Salzburg is a really nice place and Manfred and his team did a great job organizing the conference!

Based on the Bachelor Thesis of Stefan Schneegaß and some follow-up work we published a full paper [1] that describes a KLM-Model for the car and a prototyping tools that makes use of the model. In the model we look at the specific needs in the car, model rotary controllers, and cater for the limited attention while driving. The prototyping tool provides means to quickly estimate interaction times. It supports visual prototyping using images of the UI and tangible prototyping using Nic Villar´s VoodooIO. Looking forward to having Stefan on our team full-time :-)

We additionally had a demo on a recently completed thesis by Michael Kienast. Here we looked at how speech and gestures can be combined for controlling functions, such as mirror adjustments or windscreen wipers, in the car. This multimodal approach combines the strength of gestural interaction and speech interaction [2].

The evening event of the conference was at Festung Hohensalzburg - with a magnificent view over the twon!

[1] Stefan Schneegaß, Bastian Pfleging, Dagmar Kern, Albrecht Schmidt. Support for modeling interaction with in-vehicle interfaces. (PDF) Proceedings of 3rd international conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Vehicular Applications 2011 ( Salzburg. 30.11-2.12.2011

[2] Bastian Pfleging, Michael Kienast, Albrecht Schmidt. DEMO: A Multimodal Interaction Style Combining Speech and Touch Interaction in Automotive Environments. Adjunct proceedings of 3rd international conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Vehicular Applications 2011 ( Salzburg. 30.11-2.12.2011

Thursday 1 December 2011

Bryan Reimer: Opening keynote at Auto-UI 2011 in Salzburg

Bryan started his keynote talk the automotive user interface conference ( in Salzburg with reminding us that having controversial discussions about the HMI in the car is not new. Quoting a newspaper article from the 1930s on the introduction of the radio in the car and its impact on the driver he picked an interesting example, that can be seen as the root of many issues we have now with infotainment systems in the car.
The central question he raised is: how to create user interface that fit human users? He made an important point: humans are not “designed” to drive at high speed in complex environments; perception has evolved for walking and running in natural environment. Additionally to the basic limitations of human cognition, there is a great variety of capabilities of drivers, their skills and cognitive ability (e.g. influence of age). A implication of the global change is demographics is that the average capabilities of a drivers will be reduced – basically as many older people will be drivers…

Over the last 100 years cars have changes significantly! Looking more closely Bryan argues that much of the chance happened in the last 10 years. There has been little change from the 1950s to the 1990s with regard to the car user interface.
It is apparent that secondary tasks are becoming more important to the user. Users will interact more while driving because the can. It is however not obvious that they are capable of it.

Even given these developments it is apparent that driving has become safer. Passive safety has been improved massively and this made driving much safer. There seems to be a drawback to this as well, as people may take greater risks as they feel safer. The next step is really to avoid accidence in the first place. Bryan argues that the interaction between driver, environment, and vehicles is very important in that. He suggests that we should make more of an effort to create systems that fit the drivers.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law helps to understand how to design systems that keep peoples attention in the optimal performance. He made an important point: there are certain issues that cannot be solved, e.g. if someone is tired we can do only very little – the driver will need to rest. We should make sure that we take these things into account when designing systems.

Visual distraction is an obvious factor and much discussed in the papers at the conference – but Bryan argued that “eyes on the road” is not equal to “mind on the road”. I think this is really a very important point. Ensuring that people keep their eyes on the road, seeing things is not enough. The big resulting question is how to keep or get people focused on the street and environment. It seems there is some more research to do…

The variety of interfaces and interaction metaphors build into cars opens more choices but at the same time creates problems, as people need to learn and understand them. A simple question such as: How do you switch the car off? may be hard to answer (Bryan had the example of a car with a push button starter, where you cannot remove the key). I think there are simple questions that can be learned from industry and production machines… add an emergency stop button and make it mandatory ;-)

If you are interested more about Bryan’s work look at his webpage or his page at the MIT agelab or one of his recent publications [1] in the IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine’s special issue on automotive computing, see [2] for an introduction to the special issue.

Sorry for the poor quality photos ... back row and an iPhone...

[1] Joseph F. Coughlin, Bryan Reimer, and Bruce Mehler. 2011. Monitoring, Managing, and Motivating Driver Safety and Well-Being. IEEE Pervasive Computing 10, 3 (July 2011), 14-21. DOI=10.1109/MPRV.2011.54

[2] Albrecht Schmidt, Joseph Paradiso, and Brian Noble. 2011. Automotive Pervasive Computing. IEEE Pervasive Computing 10, 3 (July 2011), 12-13. DOI=10.1109/MPRV.2011.45

Automotive UI in Salzburg

Manfred Tscheligi opend the Automotive UI conference in Salzburg. The conference is now in its 3rd year after 2009 in Essen and 2010 in Pittsburgh. The conference is growing – there were well over 130 people registered :-)

The proceedings of the conference series are online available at

3rd Auto-UI Proceedings 2011 (soon in the ACM DL)
2nd Auto-UI Proceedings 2010 (ACM DL)
1st Auto-UI Proceedings 2009 (ACM DL)

Thursday 24 November 2011

Guests in my multimodal interaction class

Today I had brought 3 more professors with me to teach the class on multimodal interaction (I learned from Hans). As we have the pd-net project meeting Nigel Davies, Marc Langheirich, and Rui Jose were in Stuttgart and ‘volunteered’ to give a talk.

Nigel talked about the work in Lancaster on the use of mobile computing technology to support sustainable travel. He explained the experiments they conducted for collecting and sharing travel related information. In the 6th Sense Transport project they look beyond looking at understanding the current context into predictions and eventually ‘time travel’ ;-)

Marc presented a one hour version of his tutorial on privacy introducing the terminology and explaining the many facets this topic has. We discussed the ‘NTHNTF’ argument (Nothing To Hide Nothing To Fear) and Marc used an example of to show the weaknesses of this argument. Marc suggested some reading if you want to dive into the topic, see [1,2,3,4].

Rui focused in his lecture on pervasive public displays. He gave an overview of typical architectures for digital signage systems and the resulting limitation. The pd-net approach aims at creating an open platform that allows many different applications and use cased. He showed once concept of using virtual pin-badges to trigger content and to express interest in a certain topic.

There is more information on the pd-net project on

[1] David Brin. The Transparent Society. Perseus Publishing, 1999.
[2] Simson Garfinkel: Database Nation – The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century. O’Reilly, 2001.
[3] Lawrence Lessig: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Basic Books, 2006.
[4] Waldo, Lin, Millett (eds.): Engaging Privacy and Information Technologygy in a Digital Age. National Academies Press, 2007.

Call for Papers: Symposium on Pervasive Display Networks

Rui José and Elaine Huang are chairing an international symposium on pervasive displays in Portugal. The conference will be held June 4-5 2012 in Porto. The submission deadline for full papers is January 16th, 2012.

With our research in the PD-net project we encounter many interesting research questions and met with many other researchers interested in the topic. It seems that the many real deployments of electronic displays is fueling ideas and makes it obvious that research is required to understand the properties of this new upcoming media. The call states: “As digital displays become pervasive, they become increasingly relevant in many areas, including advertising, art, sociology, engineering, computer science, interaction design, and entertainment.

We hope with this symposium we will bring together researchers and practitioners as well as users to share research results and generate new ideas.

Submissions that report on cutting-edge research in the broad spectrum of pervasive digital displays are invited, ranging from large interactive walls to personal projection, from tablets and mobile phone screens to 3-D displays and tabletops. Topics include:
  • Novel technologies
  • Architecture
  • Applications
  • Domains and formative studies studies
  • Evaluations and deployments
  • Interfaces and interaction techniques
  • Content design
Have a look at the webpage and the call for paper at

Monday 21 November 2011

Hippy, purple hair, piercing, ..., facebook? How to rebell

Inspired by some discussion on the implication of information sharing at AMI2011 I wanted to put this up for discussion here...

If you read newspapers you find a lot of people have major concerns about how young people are using social networks, and especially facebook. I believe many of them are well meaning when the speculate about the lasting damage young people do to themselves if the post too much too openly. Some of the concerns I share but I think there is another dimension to it, too.

Being young (e.g. teenager) is not about being sensible, reasonable, rational - it is about exploring the world and rebelling. Probably most of us looked for way to provoke reactions from parents and society in this phase of live. Some examples to remember... Hippies and sex in 70’s, green, blue, red and orange hair in the 80’s, in then in 90’s it was piercing. Now what can the young people do today? Granny had a skirt that was really short; parents had piercings in places where you don't want to think about…. It is easy - sharing a picture on facebook where you wear to little or nothing - and you get all the reactions. Especially you will get the same reaction that has been around for many decades (and your parent and grandparents got, too): if you do this no one will ever give you a job ;-)

I don't want to deny the risks of sharing information online, but I think we should analyze things a bit more deeply ...

Friday 18 November 2011

Closing Keynote at AMI2011, Beyond Ubicomp – Computing is Changing the Way we Live

On Friday afternoon I had the privilege to present the closing keynote at AMI2011 in Amsterdam with the title ‘Beyond Ubicomp – Computing is Changing the Way we Live’. The conference featured research in Ambient Intelligence ranging from networking and system architecture to interfaces and ethnography. It brought an interesting set of people together and it was good to see many students and young researchers presenting their work.

In my closing keynote at talked about my experience of the last 13 years in this field and about a vision of the future. My vision is based on a basic technology assessment - basically looking what technologies will (in my view) definitely come over the next 20 years and looking at the implications of this. I stared out with a short reference to Mark Weiser's now 20 year old article [1]. The upcoming issue of IEEE Pervasive Magazine will have a in-depth analysis of the last 20 years since Weiser' article - we have also an article in there on how interaction evolved.

The vision part of the talk looked "Perception beyond there here and now" [2] from 3 different angles:
  • Paradigm Shift in Communication
    Here I argue that the default communication in the future will be public communication and only if something is secret we will try to use non public channel. First indicators of this are a switch from email to twitter and facebook. I used a cake baking example to highlight the positive points of this shift.
  • Steep Increase in media capture
    The second angle is just observing and extrapolating the increase in capture of media information. If you go already now on youtube you will information about many things (backing a cake, repairing a bike, etc.). The implication of this increase in media capture will be virtually unlimited access to experience other people share
  • Transformation of experienced perception
    The final angle is that this creates a new way of perceiving the world. We will extent perception beyond the here and now and this is bringing a completely new way of creating and accessing information. I used the example of enquiring about buying an international train ticket at the station in Amsterdam. If you can look there through other people’s eyes the question becomes trivial.
My overall argument is that we are in for a major transformation of our knowledge and information culture. I would expect that this shift is as radical as the shift from an oral tradition to the written societies - but the transition will be much quicker and in the context of a globalized and competitive world.

The main conclusion from this is: Ethics and values are the central design material of this century.

Looking at twitter it seems it got across to some in the audience ;-) If your are interested, too have a look at the slides from the keynote.

[1] Mark Weiser. The computer for the 21st century. Scientific American, Vol. 265, No. 3. (1991)
[2] Albrecht Schmidt, Marc Langheinrich, and Kritian Kersting. 2011. Perception beyond the Here and Now. Computer 44, 2 (February 2011), 86-88. DOI=10.1109/MC.2011.54

Opening Keynote at AMI 2011: Margaret Morris

Margaret (Margi) Morris presented the opening keynote at the 2011 conference on ambient intelligence in Amsterdam (AMI2011) with the title “Left to our own devices”.

Margaret brought up an interesting point on motivation: Showing people what they lose is a stronger motivator than the prospective of gain. She made the point in order to implement this the depicted loss has to be very specific. She showed a facebook applicationWith a little help from my friends”, where this basic concept is applied.   I had recently seen a bill board adverting campaign for safe driving on motorways in Germany using this approach (basically showing the risk of loss of family).

In the talk several examples of devices and applications were presented. To learn more about her work I recommend the following two papers: at tool to improve emotional self-awareness [1] and an investing in social networks and their utility to promote health [2].

Another point that made me think was the question of how we design interventions. One conceptual example was about an obesity campaign. The official UK campaign starts out with the statement that obesity is a problem for 9 million kids. Her alternative is to provide instead of the information a specific hint about an opportunity for action for an individual (e.g. telling the kid when it leaves school in the afternoon: now is probably a good time to play soccer with your friends, as 16 of them like to play soccer). An open research question that relates to this seems to me to investigate the impact of information about the norm, e.g. how will it affect my behavior if I know that 70% of my friends think driving too fast is OK vs. if I know that only 20% find it acceptable. I think this could be further explored in the context of social networks to create interesting persuasive technologies.

There has been an interesting discussion after the talk. Norbert Streitz questioned if it is a good idea to ask people to engage more with digital devices (e.g. self monitoring one’s mood). The question is hinting that the engagement with the digital device keeps us from interaction in the “real” world. I think this separation is disappearing fast – making a phone call, listening to MP3, chatting with friends on facebook is for many of us real, we live in a world that is augmented by technology and the boundaries are bluring...

[1] Morris ME, Kathawala Q, Leen TK, Gorenstein EE, Guilak F, Labhard M, Deleeuw W. Mobile Therapy: Case Study Evaluations of a Cell Phone Application for Emotional Self-Awareness. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2010;12(2):e10. URL:

[2] Margaret E. Morris. 2005. Social Networks as Health Feedback Displays. IEEE Internet Computing 9, 5 (September 2005), 29-37. DOI=10.1109/MIC.2005.109

Opening at AMI2011: Emile Aarts

Today the conference on ambient intelligence 2011 (AMI2011) has started in Amsterdam. Emile Aarts reflected on what Ambient Intelligence is and was.

He looked back of some of the concepts that were well received in the research community but did not make it to the market (e.g. iCat). He made a very important point on how to involve users in the research: Don’t ask the customer –look at what he is doing. (he attributed it to someone from but it has been around for a while, e.g. in Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox 2001). Even if this is well known I think it was great to remind us again! It is still the most important points in user centered research that is often completely missed!

He suggested that the most important topic in ambient intelligence is lighting. It seems very simple but he had some very interesting example (e.g. a hospital or an airport) where light has a measureable impact on people’s experience.

For some more impressions of his talk, see the random slide selection below.

Friday 11 November 2011

Human Computer Confluence consultation in Brussels

FET Procative is running consultation meetings for research calls in 2013. Today (Nov, 11 2011) the meeting is on Human Computer Confluence. This term is interesting and I like the vision, but in general I have an issue with such new terms; It seems this is an European approch to allow a lot of people to be experts... if we would use an established term (e.g. Human Computer Interaction, Cognitive Science, or Artificial Intelligence) it would be easy to see who has expertise in this domain and who does something else or who is not in science at all ;-)

My approach would be to identify the established scientific fields that matter to the research we envision (such as human computer confluence) and find the experts in these fields and give them incentives to collaborate. My best experience in interdisciplinary research is with people who are undisputed experts in one field and work to together with others who are experts in their field. I don't believe in getting together "experts" on a new topic which does not yet exist. As one cannot tell if they are or not (and many are not)...

This meeting on Human Computer Influence seems OK as there are at least a number of experts in established fields who are interested in this new field, hence it is fun to listen to some of the visions.

My vision is based around the idea of "Perception beyond the here and now" [1]. I argue that the transition that can be expected in capture and perception technology is massive. I think the change we are heading for is as fundamental as the transition from oral cultures to written cultures. Having access to all experiences people have ever had are seems to me extremely exciting and at the same time extremely scary.

One central issue I feel strongly about is to give incentives to do high risk and high gain research. So far FET has not been good at allowing risk. None of the 100 projects of the last 5 years explicitly failed. It is clear that not all of them were highly successful - I would expect that typically project, even though the proposals are high risks, they do not carry out the high risk research. Typically the research that is actually done is standard research where researchers are sure that they get enough out to be OK in the review. There is not incentive to do high risk while carrying out the project. I strongly argue that we create incentives to not penalize high risk research while carrying out the research.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Marc Langheinrich, and Kritian Kersting. 2011. Perception beyond the Here and Now. Computer 44, 2 (February 2011), 86-88. DOI=10.1109/MC.2011.54

Thursday 20 October 2011

ESSPRITS 2011 workshop, keynote

I was invited to present a keynote at the joint German-Canadian workshop on embedded systems, signal processing, and IT security (ESSPRITS 2011). The workshop is interdisciplinary and technically focused on embedded systems.

My talk was entitled “Challenges in a World of Ubiquitous Computing” and it looked at how the world changed over the last 20 years as ubiquitous computing has become reality. Computing technologies have become an integral part of our life and they shape more and more how we perceive the world and how we interact with each other. The talk highlights some technology trends that enable a new generation of computing systems. It presents a new vision suggesting new forms of perception and interaction without temporal and spatial boundaries.

During the lectures it was great to get a feel of what research is happening on a signal processing level. With regard to security I got the feeling that we need in the future a closer cooperation between people doing cryptography and those doing user interfaces. It seems it is currently still at the level that HCI people understand little about the algorithms, methods and concerns in IT-security and that people in security optimize for security that can be proved, but may not fit humans (and may not really increase security in the real world).

Friday 5 August 2011

Complex circles, decision-making, expectations, plausible deniability

Google+ circles are on a conceptual basis well argued (e.g. the much talked about real world analogy) but it seems they do not to well for many of us. I though I share my limited observations in a blog post (if I would have done a real study I would publish it in a top conference ;-)

To me deciding  what circles I need and where to put people in these circles is pretty hard – ok I am in academia and this is not a typical environment (separation of work, hobby, friends...). Which of my co-workers are friends; do I differentiate between students in a course and the ones who do a thesis with me. Who belongs to “family” or do I need 5 or more categories to describe my family? It seems the number of circles is growing equally fast than the number of friends. Its probably just me who can not discriminate between different parts of live.

The implications of the many circles is that I have to make many more decisions than on facebook. If I accept an invitation it is a yes/no/not now decision in facebook (about 300-500ms plus the time to click ;-) … much longer with circles. When I post it is again time for making decisions – whom to include and who not to include.

The main issue with circles is for me the responsibility in sharing. In theory this is the great advantage – but in real live I think it is not (it is just a way of keeping old way of communication alive for some more time - if I want to address specific people I can use email ;-). As the others know that I have the choice to limit sharing to circles the expectation is that I manage this well. With whom should I share my unhappiness about a too long faculty meeting – thinking in circles – probably no one (or only the people waiting for me). Who should know that I have read an interesting article about planting bamboo – again in circles – probably only my wife because she asked me about it.

In summary this privilege (or the responsibility) to be able to specify whom we share information with make the posts much more predictable. I share with the HCI community the calls for papers, links to surveys we need participants, and the great papers we published, I share with the family the nice photo from our weekend hike, and I share with my students a link to a great article in the pervasive magazine they should read. Given my option to share to groups, sharing a photo of my daughter and me building a pneumatic lift with my students and colleagues would be inappropriate. However I argue that to share beyond circles – sharing things we would usually not share with this group – is what makes my facebook stream so much more exciting that the google+ stream. The comments of the people who I would not have included in a circle based addressing are the once which are often most interesting. From an information theoretical point of view the facebook stream has more entropy and carries massively more information as it is less predictable.

… and in facebook we (still) have an excuse (sort of plausible deniability) as there is no real responsibility for the sender to limit the receivers – it just a binary responsibility of is it OK to share or not.

Monday 11 July 2011

cfp: IEEE Special Issue on Interaction Beyond the Keyboard

IEEE Computer will have a special issue on "Interaction beyond the Keyboard" ... and till Nov 1st 2011 you still have a chance to submit :-)

--- from the call ( ---
Final submissions due: 1 November 2011
Publication date: April 2012

IEEE Computer seeks submissions for an April 2012 special issue on interaction beyond the keyboard.

Interaction with computers has become an integral part of daily life for most people. When making a phone call, listening to music, taking a photo, getting money from an ATM, or driving a car, we operate computer systems with complex functionalities. As technologies progress, the proliferation of computing technologies increases, and simple user interfaces and ease of use are becoming key success factors for a wide range of products.

Although the keyboard and mouse are still the dominant user interfaces in home and office environments, with the massive increase in mobile device usage and the many new interaction technologies available, the way we interact with computers is becoming richer and more diverse. Touch-enabled surfaces, natural gestures, implicit interaction, and tangible user interfaces mark some of these trends.

The overall goal of interaction beyond the keyboard is to create natural and intuitive forms of human-computer interaction that make it easier for people to achieve their goals while using computers as tools.

For this special issue, we seek original research that describes groundbreaking new devices, methods, and approaches to human-computer interaction in a world of ubiquitous computer use. In particular, we're looking for exciting work that is concerned with the following topics:
  • interactive surfaces and tabletop computing;
  • mobile computing user interfaces and interaction while on the go;
  • tangible interaction and graspable user interfaces;
  • embedded user interfaces and embodied interaction;
  • natural interaction and gestures; and
  • user interfaces based on physiological sensors and actuators.
Articles should be understandable to a broad audience of computing science and engineering professionals. The writing should be practical and original, avoiding a focus on theory, mathematics, jargon, and abstract concepts. All manuscripts are subject to peer-review on both technical merit and relevance to Computer's readership. Accepted papers will be professionally edited for content and style.


please see:

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Percom 2012 - call for papers

Percom2012 - Call for papers as PDF or as text-file.


PerCom 2012
IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications
March 19 - 23, 2012, Lugano, Switzerland


IEEE PerCom, now in its 10th edition, has established itself as the premier annual scholarly venue in the areas of pervasive computing and communications. Pervasive computing and communications has evolved into an active area of research and development, due to the tremendous advances in a broad spectrum of technologies and topics including wireless networking, mobile and distributed computing, sensor systems, RFID technology, and the ubiquitous mobile phone.

PerCom 2012 will be held in Lugano, an international city and the crossroads and melting pot of European culture. PerCom 2012 will provide a leading edge, scholarly forum for researchers, engineers, and students alike to share their state-of-the art research and developmental work in the broad areas of pervasive computing and communications. The conference will feature a diverse mixture of interactive forums: core technical sessions of high quality cutting-edge research articles; targeted workshops on exciting topics; live demonstrations of pervasive computing in action; insightful keynote speeches; panel discussions from domain experts; and posters of budding ideas. Research contributions are solicited in all areas pertinent to pervasive computing and communications, including:

- Innovative pervasive computing applications
- Context modeling and reasoning
- Programming paradigms for pervasive systems
- Software evolution and maintenance in pervasive systems
- Middleware services and agent technologies
- Adaptive, autonomic and context-aware computing
- Mobile/Wireless computing systems and services in pervasive computing
- Energy-efficient and green pervasive computing
- Communication architectures for pervasive computing
- Ad hoc networks for pervasive communications
- Pervasive opportunistic communications and applications
- Enabling technologies for pervasive systems (e.g., wireless BAN, PAN)
- Positioning and tracking technologies
- Sensors and RFIDs in pervasive systems
- Multimodal sensing and context for pervasive applications
- Pervasive sensing, perception and semantic interpretation
- Smart devices and intelligent environments
- Trust, security and privacy issues in pervasive systems
- User interface, interaction, and persuasion
- Pervasive computing aspect of social network software
- Virtual immersive communications
- Wearable computers
- Standards and interfaces for pervasive computing environments
- Social and economic models for pervasive systems

Workshops and affiliated events:

Many workshops will be held in conjunction with the main conference. Workshop papers will be included and indexed in the IEEE digital libraries (Xplore), showing their affiliation with IEEE PerCom. As in the past, PerCom 2012 will also feature a PhD Forum, Demonstrations and a Work-in-Progress Session. Please see the website for details on current and past PerCom conferences.

Important Dates
Paper Registration: Sep 23, 2011
Paper Submission: Sep 26, 2011
Author Notification: Dec 20, 2011
Camera-ready Due: Jan 27, 2012

Submission Guidelines
Submitted papers must be unpublished and not considered elsewhere for publication. They must show significant relevance to pervasive computing and networking. Only electronic submissions in PDF format will be considered. Papers must be 9 pages or less, including references, figures and tables (at least 10pt font, 2-column format). The IEEE LaTeX and Microsoft Word templates, as well as formatting instructions, can be found at the conference web site. Submissions will undergo a rigorous review process handled by the Technical Program Committee. The best paper will receive the prestigious Mark Weiser Best Paper Award. Top selected papers will be considered for a special issue of the Elsevier journal of Pervasive and Mobile Computing (PMC)

For additional information, see for details on current and past PerCom conferences, or contact the PerCom 2012 organizing committee at

Organizing Committee

General Co-Chairs
Silvia Giordano, SUPSI, CH
Marc Langheinrich, Univ. of Lugano, CH

Program Chair
Albrecht Schmidt, Univ. of Stuttgart, DE

Vice Program Co-Chairs
Jie Liu, Microsoft Research, USA
Georges Roussos, Univ. of London, UK
Alexander Varshavsky, AT&T Labs, USA

Workshops Co-Chairs
Pedro Marron, Univ. Duisburg-Essen, DE
Marius Portmann, Univ. of Queensland, AU

Steering Committee Chair
Marco Conti, IIT-CNR, IT

Friday 1 July 2011

Our Article one Phones as Components of Future Appliances is published in IEEE Pervasive Magazine

In this paper we reflect the opportunities that arise from using consumer devices, such as phones and mp3 players, as components for future devices. With this article also a new department on Innovations in Ubicomp Products has been started. The article “Phones and MP3 Players as the Core Component in Future Appliances” [1] is also available openly in at ComputingNow.

The rational is
  • developing a custom embedded computer is expensive
  • specific devices are not economic for small quantities
  • phones are becoming cheap (in small quantities a phone may be cheaper than buying a touch screen component for an embedded device)
  • development on phones has become easy and many developers are around
  • IO capabilities can be added to these devices (e.g. Project HiJack)
The main question is: why not use the consumer device as a part (potentially partly hidden) as computing platforms in new devices? There are examples but also some difficulties… read the article to get a more in-depth discussion.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt and Dominik Bial. 2011. Phones and MP3 Players as the Core Component in Future Appliances. IEEE Pervasive Computing 10, 2 (April 2011), 8-11. DOI=10.1109/MPRV.2011.31 (also available in ComputingNow, download PDF)

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Summer school in St Andrews, Teaching Context-Awareness

I had the privilege to teach a course on context-awareness [1] as part of the SICSA Summer School on Multimodal Systems for Digital Tourism. The summer school was directed by Aaron Quigley (University of St Andrews), Eva Hornecker (University of Strathclyde), Jon Oberlander (University of Edinburgh) and Stephen Brewster (University of Glasgow).

It was very exciting to discuss with the students ideas for novel digital devices to support tourists and come up with new concepts in this domain. Ideas ranged from interactive umbrellas (taking the concept described in [2] further) to digital souvenirs that ensure a lasting memory.

On Monday night Chris Speed gave an inspiring talk on ghosts, memories, and things reflecting on history, the Internet of things and how we perceive the world around us in a very though provoking way. Hi inspired us to think about the stories and memories that surround us and that are inherently linked to all things humans us. … it was in a long time a story about ghosts that made a lot of sense :-)
When going back we saw a great example of a security system that is based on physical constraints... you can open it from the inside but not from the outside:

Aaron asked me to talk on context-awareness. I did the talk along the lines of a soon to appear chapter on To me one of the – still remaining – fundamental challenges in HCI with context-aware systems is that the system as well as the human is adaptive. And as people learn often incredibly fast the adaptation may be contra-productive, hence it is essential to take this into account. Have a look at my slides if you like to learn more about context-awareness and HCI.

When we were there, we learned that St. Andrews is the place to play golf – the old course is where you need to go. Looking more closely it became clear that this is for others ;-) but there is a option for the rest of us. It is called the The Ladies putting Club St.Andrews “Himalayas” – just walk in and play (2 pound per person, and no need to book a year ahead). And if your friends don’t play golf you get away with the photos you take there as it is only 5 meters from the old course.

[2] Sho Hashimoto, Takashi Matsumoto. The Internet Umbrella.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Somnometer – A Social Alarm Clock – Users Wanted!

We have continued our work on the social alarm clock for Android phones. The Somnometer App can be used as a regular alarm clock but offers functions to:
(1) rate your sleep
(2) monitor your sleep duration (manually based on wake-up time)
(3) have graphical representations of the sleep quality and duration
(4) optionally share some of this information with your friends on facebook

Are you interested in trying this alarm clock application? Please have a look at the app home page ( or download it from the android market.

We are looking for volunteers to participate in a study with this alarm clock application. If you are interested in the new functions and if you are an active facebook user, please contact us. There will also be a chance to take part in a comparative study using a different sleep monitoring device and the alarm application. Our email address for the project is:

Monday 20 June 2011

Self-expression, Belonging, and Respect – Is Taking Risks Part of it?

Seeing someone walking up the leaning tower in Pisa with shoes that were clearly not designed for this situation I wondered about the risks people take in live. We recently had a discussion (with other parents) on the risks kids take today in the digital world – put up regrettable pictures flickr, liking a politically incorrect site on facebook, or posting silly things on twitter.

I sometimes feel in these discussions that I want to put things into perspective… We do a lot of things that are not reasonable in order to express ourselves and to present an image to our peer group (e.g. tattoos and piercings are common and there are risks associated). We want to belong to a group and hence we do things that are expected by our peers or even to impress them (e.g. doing a skateboard trick without protection or skiing where it is not allowed). If think hard there are probably many things you remember where you took major risks (when you were young)…  On TV I saw a yesterday night a documentary on the Hippie movement in the 1960/1970. In comparison to the risks young people took in order to change the world (or to just be different and accepted in their peer group) the risks you take on the Internet seem very tame…

There is a further point we can learn from this: eventually society (and the law) will catch up and some of the innovations will stay and change society. But some will no be accepted… People need to explore boundaries – otherwise progress is unlikely.

For many people who have explored boundaries in 1970ies (ranging from drugs to violence – in a way we have agreed today is completely unacceptable) this has not hindered their careers. People generally see actions in context…  Hence having the “wrong” photo on facebook is probably not harming someone’s career (but probably the time they spend on facebook rather than revising for exams may).

Friday 17 June 2011

Gestural Input on a Touch Screen Steering Wheel in the Media

At CHI 2011 we presented initial  work on how to use gestural input on a multi-touch steering wheel [1]; a 20 second video is also available [2]. The paper described a prototype - a steering wheel where the entire surface is a display and can recognize touch input. The study had two parts. In the first part we identified a natural gesture set for interaction and in the second part we looked at how such interaction impacts the visual demand for the diver. The results in short: using gestural input on the steering wheel reduces the visual demand for the driver.

Shortly after the conference a journalist from discovery news picked the topic up and did some interviews. This resulted in an article: "Touch-Screen Steering Wheel Keeps Eyes on Road" (Discovery News, 6.6.2011)

ACM Tech News mentioned the Discovery News article News (ACM Tech News June 8 2011).
After this it found its way around and appeared more widely than expected :-) examples include
 There were also a German article "Touchscreen-Lenkrad Wischen wechselt Radiosender" (sp-x, 14.6.2011), e.g. found in:
[1] Tanja Döring, Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Max Pfeiffer, Johannes Schöning, Volker Gruhn, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2011. Gestural interaction on the steering wheel: reducing the visual demand. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 483-492. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979010

[2] Gestural Interaction on the Steering Wheel - Reducing the Visual Demand. chi2011madness Video.

Keynote at EICS 2011

 I was invited to present a keynote at EICS 2011 in Pisa. In the talk "Engineering Interactive Ubiquitous Computing Systems" I motivated why user interface engineering approaches are well suited for creating user interfaces in the context of embedded and ubiquitous computing systems. Looking at desktop applications and mobile devices I think the quality and ease of use is high - compared to 20 years back or compared to embedded and ubiquitous computing systems. I think a lot of user interface research, and in particular engineering approaches for interactive systems, could have a great impact on real world systems beyond the desktop or phone.

As one example of an engineering process for embedded user interfaces I shared our experience with developing Gazemarks [1]. Gazemarks is a technology based on eye-gaze tracking that reduced the time required for attention switching. It eases tasks that require the user to move attention repeatedly between 2 or more displays or between the real world and a set of digital displays. Application domains could be looking at the street and at the satnav while driving or switching attention between a screen in an operating theatre and the patient.

When investigating development from an embedded user interface to interactive ubiquitous computing systems further issues come up. As we investigate the PDnet project [2] with public displays we see that the concerns of the stakeholders play a much bigger role than in traditional systems and that finding an appropriate business model is very close to the user interface development process. 

In the final part of the talk I shared a future vision of how technology may change the way we live. In the not so distant future we could imagine that the traditional boundaries of perception (mainly temporal and spatial) will fall [3]. This would create an entirely new experience where "Perception beyond the here a now" change fundamentally the way we see and experience the world. The slides  of the keynote are available in as PDF.

From the research we did over the last 15 years I picked some lessons learned:
  • Novelty may be about the values/ethics
  • Implement it and try it out!
  • 20% who like the UI/system are a large market
  • Humans are smart and adaptive
  • Design for creative users
[1] Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2010. Gazemarks: gaze-based visual placeholders to ease attention switching. In Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2093-2102. DOI=10.1145/1753326.1753646

[2] Pdnet project homepage:

[3] Albrecht Schmidt, Marc Langheinrich, and Kritian Kersting. 2011. Perception beyond the Here and Now. Computer 44, 2 (February 2011), 86-88. DOI=10.1109/MC.2011.54

Tuesday 17 May 2011

CHI 2011 in Vancouver, Keynote and Papers

In the opening keynote Howard Rheingold proclaimed that we are in a time for learners and he outlined the possibilities that arise from the interactive media that is available to us. In particular he highlighted the fact that people share and link content and to him this is at the heart of learning. Learning as a joined process where contributions by students - in different forms of media - become major a resource was one example.

I best liked his analogy on how little innovation there is in teaching. "If you take a warrior from 1000 years ago on a battlefield today - they will die - quickly. If you take a surgeon from a 1000 years ago and put them in a modern hospital - they will be lost. If you take a professor from 1000 years ago and put them in a University today he will exactly know what to do. " I am not sure about the 1000 years but it by 100 years the story works just as well. In essence he argued that there is a lot of potential for new approaches for teaching and learning.

After initially agreeing I gave it some more thoughts and perhaps the little change in learning and teaching shows that learning is very fundamental and technology is overrated in this domain? What is more effective than a teachers discussing in an exciting topic face to face with a small set of students - perhaps even while on a walk? Reminds me about things I read about the Greek teachers and there practices several thousand years ago … and it makes me looking forward to our summer school in the Italian Alps (

I found the SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award lectures very exciting and educational. Especially the talk by Larry Tesler provided deep insight into how innovation works in user interfaces - beyond the academic environment. He talked about the "invention" of cut and paste - very enjoyable!

This year we had a number of papers describing our research in CHI:
  •  Elba reported on the field study in Panama using mobile phones to enhance teaching and learning [1]
  • Ali presented work on how to increase the connectedness between people by simple means of iconic communication in the context of a sports game [2]
  • Tanja showed how touch and gestural input on a steering wheel can reduce the visual distraction for a driver [3], and
  • Gilbert (from LMU Munich) presented work on interaction with cylindrical screens [4].

The most inspiring and at the same time the most controversial paper for me was the possessed hand by Jun Rekimoto et al. [5]. He reported their results in using electro stimulation in order to move fingers of a hand.

Bill Buxton showed throughout the conference his collection of input and output devices (Buxton Collection). Seeing the collection physically is really exciting, but for all who did not have the chance there is a comprehensive online version with photos and details available at micosoft research:

[1] Elba del Carmen Valderrama Bahamondez, Christian Winkler, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2011. Utilizing multimedia capabilities of mobile phones to support teaching in schools in rural panama. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 935-944. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979081

[2] Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Michael Rohs, Robert Schleicher, Sven Kratz, Alexander Müller, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2011. Real-time nonverbal opinion sharing through mobile phones during sports events. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 307-310. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1978985

[3] Tanja Döring, Dagmar Kern, Paul Marshall, Max Pfeiffer, Johannes Schöning, Volker Gruhn, and Albrecht Schmidt. 2011. Gestural interaction on the steering wheel: reducing the visual demand. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 483-492. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979010

[4] Gilbert Beyer, Florian Alt, Jörg Müller, Albrecht Schmidt, Karsten Isakovic, Stefan Klose, Manuel Schiewe, and Ivo Haulsen. 2011. Audience behavior around large interactive cylindrical screens. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1021-1030. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979095

[5] Emi Tamaki, Takashi Miyaki, and Jun Rekimoto. 2011. PossessedHand: techniques for controlling human hands using electrical muscles stimuli. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 543-552. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979018