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