Thursday, 19 July 2007

Report published in the IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine

After the Pertec07 workshop at Percom earlier this year we summarised the workshop results and the ongoing discussion in an article. This is published in the current issue of the IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine.

F. Michahelles, F. Thiesse, A. Schmidt, J. R. Williams
Pervasive RFID and Near Field Communication Technology
IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 94-96, c3, Jul., 2007

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Wall-Sized Printed Adverts with Integrated Screen

At Zurich Airport Orange and Nokia are running a large printed advert. At a first glance it looks just as a printed large scale poster. The TV screen in one poster and the projected writing on top of another poster are seamlessly integrated. The media design of the overall installation is appealing.

The active screen (could be a 50 inch plasma TV) is the screen of the mobile phone and shows the navigation application. In contrast to most other installations, where screens and printed posters are used, this appears right and it catches people’s attention.

There is work from Scott Klemmer's group at Stanford that looks the relationship between the printed displays and projection/displays for various applications. The Gigaprints project was shown as a video at Ubicomp 2006.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Visit to the Wearable Computing Lab at ETH Zurich

I was at ETH Zurich for the PhD defence of Nagendra Bhargava Bharatula. His thesis is on context-aware wearable nodes and in particular on the trade-offs in design and the design space of these devices.

The tour in Prof. Tröster’s lab was very impressive. It is a very active and probably one of the largest groups world wide doing research in wearable computing. It seams that wearable computing is getting more real, many scenarios and demonstrators are much more realistic and useful than several years ago.

In the backmanager project Corinne Mattmann works on a shirt that measures body posture. Using stretch sensors made of elastic threads, which are fixed with silicon to the fabric they can measure several different body postures. The material is really interesting (probably done by and I think such technologies will open up many new opportunities. (further reading: Design Concept of Clothing Recognizing Back Postures; C. Mattmann, G. Tröster; Proc. 3rd IEEE-EMBS International Summer School and Symposium on Medical Devices and Biosensors (ISSS-MDBS 2006), Boston, September 4-6, 2006)

The SEAT project (Smart tEchnologies for stress free Air Travel) looks into integration of sensing into a airplane seat set-up. Having seats is a real set-up allows easy testing of ideas and realistic testing in early phases of the project. This setup made me think again more about an automotive setup in my next lab.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Ubilog'07 Program is online

Based on the submissions we have selected in a peer-review process 4 papers for presentations and discussion the the Ubilog'07 workshop. The program including title and abstract is online at

The workshop is part of the Conference Informatik-2007 and will be held on the 27th of September in Bremen, Germany.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

What is the Digital Equivalent of a Park in a City?

The visit to the eCulture Factory showed me again that bringing new media into the real public space creates new and very valuable insights, even though it is difficult and costly. Such installations can give a glimpse of what future public space will be. When thinking of the design space for media in public spaces one can image to create completely different and new experiences. Contextuality and awareness seem key design criteria.

Transforming public space using digital technology offers a lot of chances. However it seems that currently a lot of people think about this mainly with regard to new forms of advertising (obviously us included). But after seeing the installations in Bremen I think there is a great chance to improve the quality of life in a place with digital technologies. We probably should think more along the non-short-term-business-lines in this domain.

Thinking of quality of life... who wants to live in a city without a park or at least some green patches? No one – really. Perhaps it is time to invent the digital equivalent of a park for public spaces of the future. I think I have to do some reading to understand the traditional motivation behind parks…

MP3 Player Module for Prototyping

Just talked to Matthias Kranz and he told me about an interesting MP3-Player module from - uMP3. It is not cheap but very versatile and it seems easy to use with a PIC. Looking at the documentation of the uMP3 I saw there is even a function to control the playback speed. It seems this is an interesting tool for prototyping and teaching labs!

Visit at Fraunhofer IAIS in Bremen, eCultury Factory

After talking sometime ago to Monika Fleischmann I was curious about the eCultury Factory in Bremen, which is a part of Fraunhofer IAIS. Today I had the chance to visit them and see several installations, including a news browser for the public space (ENERGIE_PASSAGEN). It is a pity that I missed to see the large scale installation in Munich.

We discussed the current developments of the point screen and realized that there is an interesting link to a thesis that was done last year at my group in Munich. Raphael Wimmer looked systematically at options for capacitive sensing and created a toolkit for capacitive sensing (

Monika Fleischmann, Wolfgang Strauss and their team run the digital sparks competition. The collection of projects is amazing. One can really envy Monika and Wolfgang – by running the competition they have a complete overview of the digital media scene. They also run a web page with a lot of interesting information on media art and electronic culture:

When looking at the projects we saw that the CabBoots by Martin Frey had featured in the digital sparks competitions and at the TEI-07 conference I chaired with Brygg Ullmer in February this year. The Paper is available in the ACM DL: Frey, M. 2007. CabBoots: shoes with integrated guidance system. In Proceedings of the 1st international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 15 - 17, 2007). TEI '07, pp 245-246. DOI= (Foto by Matthias Kranz)

Deadline for Summer@IAIS soon

Not much time left to apply for the student research project. From 20.8. to 30.9.2007 we plan to design and implement a new specific search engine. The program is open to all computer science and media informatics students, primarily in Germany. We assume it will be very competitive. For accepted students we provide a HIWI-job at Fraunhofer IAIS for the 5 weeks. It will be possible to get credits for the course (IPEC lab course at the University of Bonn).

For more information please see:

Friday, 6 July 2007

bi-t Student demo lab results at Fraunhofer IAIS

This morning we presented selected demos of the lab on location and context awareness to people at the Fraunhofer IAIS. Besides the fact that our main infrastructure component (the Ubisense indoor system) did not work the demos went well. It was very strange – the infrastructure worked for the last 6 weeks (including several reboots) and this morning after rebooting the server it did not find the sensors anymore for several hours.

The majority of demos were based on the second assignment which was to create a novel application that makes use of an indoor location system. The applications implemented by the students included a heat-map (showing where a room is mainly used), co-location depended displays (enabling minimal setup effort and admin effort), museum information system (time and location depend display of different levels of information), and a security system (allowing a functionality only inside a perimeter dynamically defined by tags). Overall it was very interesting what the students created in 4 weeks of hard work.

We also briefly showed the location post its which were based on GPS and were done for the first group assignment, the CardioViz prototype (from the lab in the winter term), and the Web annotation tool that is now nearly ready.

Even though there were some difficulties in running some of the demos I am still convinced in a research environment we need to show live demos and not just ppt-slide-ware ;-) We probably have to demo more to get more professional with non-working components.

More pictures are online at

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Interaction Ivrea

Pascal Bihler send me today a link to an interesting teaching/research project at Ivrea ( The assignment is to think how a common artefact can be enhanced with digital technology. The results of the exercise are quite impressive. It seems that Interaction Ivrea is now somehow integrated into the Domus Academy in Milan.

When I was at Ivrea in November 2003 for the Jamboree of the disappearing computer initiative it was amazing to see the level of creativity - from the Ivrea design institute as well as from the various European projects in the disappearing computer program.

There at Ivrea I also met a really amazing person who has greatly influenced interaction design in the last 20 year: Gillian Crampton Smith. She was the founding director of the institute in Ivrea and has moved on to Venice (IUAV).

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Master in Pervasive Computing

In Linz I got some flyers for a new master program in Pervasive Computing which will be offered by the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. See the computer science web page at Linz for more information.

Visiting the pervasive computing labs @ Johannes Kepler University in Linz

It is always great to visit the pervasive computing labs in Linz - always new and cool research to see. Looking at my my Google News-Alert it seems that the term “pervasive” is dominate by Alois :-)

Alois Ferscha showed me their interaction cube. It is a really interesting piece of research and the background and argument of the cinematic of the hand shows a deep insight. There are some slides on the Telekom Austria Cube that are worthwhile to look at. It is interesting that he has gone successfully the full cycle from concept to product (image is taken from the slide show).

We talked about location systems and what options are available on the market. In Linz they have one room where they have high accuracy tracking based on an array of InterSense systems. Our experience in Bonn with the ubisense system has been mixed so far. Perhaps there are different technologies to come (or we have to develop them).

PhD defence of Mario Pichler in Linz

This Morning Mario Pichler defended his PhD dissertation at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. One central theme he investigated in his research was how innovation happens between technology push and application/market pull. It is scientifically a very interesting argument when looking at applied research. However considering successful products, especially products from Asia and in particular Korea, it appears that focusing on technology innovation can be a strong and successful strategy.

In the ubicomp community it seems that technology driven projects are seen very critical and that there seems to be a need to justify ubicomp research with applications. The arguments for it is simple – if we let technology drive development we end up with things nobody needs. But I am less and less believing in this argument – many of the things we use daily (phone, SMS, internet, cars) are there because technology has created the need and we did not really need them. Obviously there is a need for communication, entertainment and mobility but this is abstract and the concrete technologies used are not easy to be directly deduce from them.

In Austria they have a general exam as part of the PhD viva. I learnd something about the history of the term dead reckoning (see for a discussion on the Etymology of the term).