CHI day 1

The first day of CHI started with a great opening plenary by Lou Yongqi (check keynotes here and yes, check out WHO is the closing plenary!), which came forward and highlighted the importance of Sustainability in research! Followed by an amazing program of novel technology (think Virtual Reality!), human augmentation (check this totally new way of embodying another person by Prof. Rekimoto), user studies (“Understanding and evaluating User Performance”), and understanding of elder users (“Designing for 55+”) and communities (a great session on Activism in Wikipedia, one on Privacy and one on the “Maker Community”)!

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Also this was the day of the video-showcase, which is a non-academic venue in which authors can submit their videos for further appreciation. It is an amazing opportunity to great a glimpse of CHI by sitting in the theater and watching great research in motion. This year’s winner was the Transform project by the MIT Media Lab (see it here), from which one of the authors is our dear editor Sean Follmer, so congrats to him and his team!

ACM CHI has started! XRDS is following!

For over 30 years, the CHI conference has been the top-tier venue for the developments in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). CHI has been truly a place to share ground-breaking research and novel ideas into the ever evolving interaction between humans and machines. This year the conference takes place in the vibrant city of Seoul, in the heart of South Korea!

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Unlike most conferences in HCI, CHI is has a broad spectrum of disciplines: computer science, cognitive psychology, design, social science, human factors, artificial intelligence, graphics, visualization, multi-media design and many others; making it a huge conference: this year, at the opening keynote, were more than 2800 researchers!

CHI is an important venue not just for professors and senior researchers but primarily for the younger ones, such as myself. CHI is a prime moment to reflect, learn and observe the field. There is no rupture, innovation, ground-breaking thoughts without a clear understanding of where HCI is right now.

If you are not familiar with CHI or even with HCI, don’t be afraid! The field is very understandable to non-experts as people try to be as clear as possible, because CHI itself is a mix of the aforementioned and very idiosyncratic disciplines; so we keep things lively with videos, animations and short summaries. Have a look at the program and you’ll find many videos to watch. In fact, just to make things really exciting, this year the chairs created a youtube playlist that allows you to browse through this massive program
in the comfort of your laptop (wherever you are!). If you are more into the academic reading, then you’ll be happy to know that at CHI the papers are immediately published during the conference, so you can already access them through the ACM Digital Library!

I (Pedro) will be covering some highlights of CHI on the XRDS blog over the next four days, so stay tuned here (and also follow us on twitter).

DIS 2012 Highlights

Here’s a few of my own highlights from DIS 2012 sessions that I attended…

At the seams: DIYbio and Opportunities for HCI (Stacey Kuzentesov, Alex S. Taylor, Tim Regan, Nicolas Villar, Eric Paulos): Fascinating look at issues facing the DIY Biology including community, materials management, ethics, etc.  Some good examples about how interaction design might have a role in supporting the DIY Biology community.

How Learning Works in Design Education: Educating for Creative Awareness Through Formative Reflexivity (Katheryn Richard, Haakon Faste).  How traditional principles of good education break down when applied to creative design education.

Reflective Design Documentation (Peter Dalsgaard, Kim Halskov).  System for design documentation, this time thinking about how this could be useful to researchers who do research through design.  Very thoughtful, particularly during the Q&A.

Framing, Aligning, Paradoxing, Abstracting, and Directing: How Design Mood Boards Work (Andrés Lucero). Mood Board 101: what are the benefits to using them, what can interaction design borrow from this practice that’s common in industrial design, fashion design, textiles, etc.

Understanding Participation and Opportunities for Design from an Online Postcard Sending Community. (Ryan Kelly, Daniel Gooch). Nifty short paper about the life and times of

Exquisite Corpse 2.0: Qualitative Analysis of a Community-based Fiction Project (Peter Likarish, Jon Winet).  Nifty short paper about crowdsourcing a novel line-by-line over twitter, looking at how the narrative is being constructed and managed in a lightweight, distributed medium.

Experiences: A year in the Life of an Interactive Desk. (John Hardy).  One computer science researcher’s reflection on spending a year living and working on an interactive desk. Brought up lots of longitudinal issues that realistically must be considered if interactive work environments are going to be supported in the long run.

… Oh, and, if you’re still curious about that “cool bit of electronics” that came with the conference nametag, it turns out it’s part of Tom Bartindale‘s to-be-published research project at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab. The board has an IR transmitter that  is picked up by the cameras at the conference that are recording talks and interviews with authors.  This metadata of ‘who’s on camera?’ allows videographers to search through stacks of footage and find clips with particular subjects.

Reporting from DIS 2012

I’ll be blogging this week (June 12-15) from DIS 2012 in Newcastle, UK.  This year’s DIS conference is actually part of a two-week conference series that also includes Pervasive 2012 and the International Symposium of Wearable Computers (ISWC 2012).

When I arrived I was very pleasantly surprised that my registration “bag” included:

  •  My badge/nametag.
  • A cool bit of electronics (more on this later).
  • A conference program, which fit into my plastic name badge.  The reverse side has a map, for easy reference.
  • A USB key with conference proceedings.
  • The ubiquitous conference bag … which is actually an Onya Bag that fits into a tiny stuff sack and attaches to a keychain.
  • A lanyard, to which everything is attached.

I tend to a) recycle 90% of the flyers that come in conference bags within 10 minutes; b) continually forget my conference program; and c) begrudgingly lug former conference bags to the grocery store.  Thank you, DIS 2012 organizing committee, for thoughtfully designing registration and being well-organized.

You may still be wondering about that QR code and cool bit of electronics near the bottom of my name tag.  Registration let me know that it’s being used to identify me automatically in video taken at the conference, and that it works with interactive coffee tables in the main lobby area.  I’ll do a bit more investigating on how this works and will report back soon!

Dear HCI, Thank you. Love, Mechanical Engineering

My entire academic background – BS, MS, PhD –  is in Mechanical Engineering.  However, in addition to conferences hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, I also attend the suite of ACM’s Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Conferences. So, why should Mechanical Engineering care about HCI?

First, product design includes interfaces.  ‘Product design’ refers to the blend of mechanical engineering and industrial design. Design is the ‘outward facing’ side of Mechanical Engineering; product designers conceptualize, design, and implement many of the physical products you interact with on a daily basis.  In the cafe that I’m currently writing from, a design engineer was involved in everything from the teacup, the teapot, the table, the chair, and the laptop I’m writing on… and all the packaging that each of those products arrived in.   These traditional products still have interfaces – examples from Don Norman’s infamous “Design of Everyday Things” address how people physically interact with ‘non-smart’ products and devices such as teapots, doorknobs, or rotary telephones.  Today’s product designers are asked to not only design the physical product, but also weigh in on how the user should interact with smart products.

Second, design research in mechanical engineering can learn from findings from interaction design.  Early-stage phases of new product development – particularly user research and concept generation– are agnostic to whether or not the final ‘product’ is a physical product, software, a physical or digital service, or an architectural space.  As a result, many of the same design theory principles coming out of the interaction design community are broadly applicable to other design domains, including product design or new product development, within some level of translation.

Finally, engineers deserve well-designed technology. Engineers are people too – and, while computer scientists frequently design new programming environments for themselves, mechanical engineers and new product developers are not always the subject of thoughtful, human-centered technology design. Taking an HCI perspective to understand how engineers and designers are users of software opens up the possibility for better-designed tools in the future (I’m looking at you, CAD!).

… so why should HCI care about Mechanical Engineering?

It’s sometimes easy to get lost in cognition, perception, algorithms, and pixels.  However, when mechanical engineers check their gut, they see the physical interface between humans and computers.  You’ll see plenty of relevant contributions from Mechanical Engineering in the areas of ergonomics, haptic feedback, or tangible interfaces. But more broadly, mechanical engineers offer the reminder that humans (and computers) still primarily exist in a physical world.