Thursday, 24 September 2009

Auto-UI 2010 announced - 2009 Proceedings available in the ACM DL

The Auto-UI 2009 conference in Essen is over - and for us it was very enjoyable to have this many visitors at the University of Duisburg-Essen - see the photos. The conference facilitated good discussions and had a very constructive atmosphere. We should continue this exchange of ideas and there is always room for improvement... and that is why there is a Auto-UI conference 2010 in Pittsburgh, US - and there is interest beyond this in hosting the conference.

You can register to get information about the next conference on the Auto-UI webpage.

The proceedings are now online in the ACM DL and the linked on the program website.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Social event at Zeche Zollverein, Accidents are avoidable

In the evening we went to Zeche Zollverein - a world cultural heritage site called "the most beautiful coal mine in the world". We got a guided tour and had dinner in the Kokerei.
It was interesting to see and learn about working conditions - which were really hard. 100 years ago it was common that live expectancy of the workers was less that 60, that there was typically one serious accident per day and that about 30 people died every year in the coal mine.

We find that nowadays inhumane and it would be in Germany (and many other countries) completely unacceptable. Coming back to cars … we accept that in order to have personal transportation it sees unavoidable to have accidents and that 4477 people were killed 2008 in traffic accidents in Germany (which was lower than all the years before). Perhaps in 100 years people will look back at us similar to how we look back at the working conditions in coal mines 100 years ago. And I think research in Automotive User Interfaces can help working towards safer individual traffic.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Automotive UI 2009 - Proceedings online available

The proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (AutomotiveUI 2009) [1] are freely available on the conference website and in the ACM digital library (see the table of contents of the proceedings). We created a printed version of the proceedings and it seemed that a lot of participants used it during the conference - so paper seems to have still a value (at least to some of us).

We decided to pursue an open policy for disseminating the proceedings. The authors keep the copyright of their paper and the authors grant the ACM digital library and the conference to distribute the electronic version over the web site (and as printed book and on a USB-Stick in car-shape). We think this approach maximizes the exposure and hence is good for the community. We are happy that the ACM agreed to this model!

If you are interested in the conference and you want to be updated please register for receiving information on future conference.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Anind Dey, Thomas Seder, Oskar Juhlin, Dagmar Kern. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (AutomotiveUI 2009). Essen. Germany. 21-22 Sept. 2009. (table of contents of the proceedings in the ACM DL)

Dagmar Kern presents a Automotive UI Design Space

Dagmar presents her work on a design space for automotive user interfaces [1]. The design space allows to categorize user interface components and elements with regard to interaction agent, position in the car, and type of interaction. The design space can be used to compare interfaces and as tool for assessing new opportunities for interaction.

The design space is based on an analysis of more than 700 pictures from IAA 2007. The photos (and soon photos from IAA 2009) are available at

[1] Kern, D. and Schmidt, A. 2009. Design space for driver-based automotive user interfaces. In Proceedings of the 1st international Conference on Automotive User interfaces and interactive Vehicular Applications (Essen, Germany, September 21 - 22, 2009). AutomotiveUI '09. ACM, New York, NY, 3-10. DOI=

Keynote at Automotive UI 2009: Gert Hildebrand, MINI/BMW

Tom Seder and I openend the conference and welcomed our keynote speaker.

I was very excited that Gert Volker Hildebrand accepted to be the keynote speaker for the 1st International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (AutomotiveUI 2009). He is with BMW Group in Munich and is the director of design for MINI. The topic of his talks was: "MINI Design: From the Original to the Original. The path from Center Speedo to Center Globe". When I first came across the UI concept I wanted to meet the person - and a keynote is always one way ;-)

I introduced the keynote with pictures from the Italian Job Movies (the first from 1969 and the second from 2003) and I find it impressive that the re-design inspired people to redo the movie.
In his talk he explained the design language used in the MINI- in short everything is a circles or a derivatives of circles. The concept of the center globe is a central sphere display that uses layers to include information. It has a horizontal surface (like a stage) and a background as well as a foreground.

The concept separates the UI for the driver (e.g. she gets navigation) and the passenger (she gets a access to the Internet). Search on Google or Bing for Mini Center-Globe and you get the idea. The concept uses a physical object (a sphere again) to transport content and to grand access - this reminded me of Durrell Bishop's marble answering machine… Tangible UIs again :-)

Gert Hildebrand also recommended his book "Mini Design" by Othmar Wickenheiser and Gert Hildebrand. The books contains many design sketches and is partly English and partly German (only available at Amazon in Germany).

Overall the presentation showed again that likeability and aesthetics play an essential role in creating an attractive product - and especially an interactive product. Opening Automotive UI 2009 I made an analogy to mobile phones in 1998. Phones were then closed systems, UIs were very basic and it was very hard for 3rd parties to create applications. And now - 10 years later - UI and applications seem to play a more important role than the core technologies (or why would in 2007 people think a phone with a 2 Megapixel and without video recording and no UMTS is great).

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Engineering Thrill - Why is a fairground fun?

On the weekend I went with Vivien to a fairground at the Volksfest in Crailsheim (smaller Version of the Oktoberfest). Vivien is now old enough for some of the attractions - giving me an excuse to try them out :-) The forces on the body are pretty exciting when you feel them for the first time or after 20 years again...

It is amazing how much (mechanical) engineering is in these attractions, even though many are still the same as when I was a child (about 30 years ago). It seems that computer science plays a very minor role (besides controlling the mechanics). Virtual reality does not feature at all. What people are attracted to is physical (e.g. a fraction of a second of zero G, great heights, and a life boxing fight).

When I was in Lancaster working in the Equator project I worked with Brendan Walker - and he is the world's only thrill engineer. He is an aeronautical engineer (Imperial College, London) and Industrial Design Engineer (Royal College of Art, London) by training and had a research grant to investigate how thrill works and how to create thrill. Some of his results are published in a booklet [1] and the work is continued in the Thrilllaboratory [2]. Earlier this year he gave an interview to that gives an intro of his work - a quick and fun read. There are some youtube videos of his work, e.g.

[1] Brendan Walker. The Taxonomy of Thrill and Thrilling Designs: Chromo11 (Volumes One and Two). Aerial Publishing (Jan 2005)


Friday, 18 September 2009

Closing Keynote by Kentoaro Toyama at MobileHCI

Kentaro Toyama presented the closing keynote of MobileHCI 2009 with the title "Technology for Global Socio-Economic Development". He gave an experience report of projects he works on in India. I liked especially that he included things that work but also discussed a set of myth with regard to ICT in the developing world (see Myths of ICT4D).

It is worthwhile to read more about his work, see Kentaro's home page for more.

Our Paper and Posters at Mobile HCI 2009

Ali presented our joint work with Nokia Rearch and DoCoMo Eurolab in the paper on sharing emotions [1] (the acceptance rate was about 20%). The research is motivated by the question how we can make communication more emotional and how we can enable digital craft creating. The idea is to have a new communication medium were a communication item is hand crafted and can carry emotion. The questions were encouraging and we hope to continue to work on this topic.

In the poster session we had two contributions. Christian Winkler showed his project on Flash-light interaction [2]. The idea is simple: a camera in the environment or screen tracks the flash light of the phone - but it is very effective.

Ali presented a poster on a new poker table; this is a project some of our students build last term. An interesting aspect is that the playing cards are on the phone, the table is a multitouch table, and interaction is based on gestures (on the table as well as with the phone).

Have look at the table of contents of the entire conference to get an overview of current work in mobile HCI.

[1] Shirazi, A. S., Alt, F., Schmidt, A., Sarjanoja, A., Hynninen, L., Häkkilä, J., and Holleis, P. 2009. Emotion sharing via self-composed melodies on mobile phones. 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, 1-4. DOI=

[2] Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Christian Winkler, Albrecht Schmidt: Flashlight Interaction: A Study on Mobile Phone Interaction Techniques with Large Displays (Poster). In: Adjunct Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI'09) - Poster. Bonn, Germany 2009.

[3] Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Tanja Döring, Pouyan Parvahan, Bernd Ahrens, Albrecht Schmidt: Poker Surface: Combining a Multi-Touch Table and Mobile Phones in Interactive Card Games (Poster).In: Adjunct Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI'09) - Poster. Bonn, Germany 2009.

Best papers at MobileHCI 2009

At the evening event of MobileHCI2009 the best paper awards were presented. The best short paper was "User expectations and user experience with different modalities in a mobile phone controlled home entertainment system" [1]. There were two full papers that got a best paper award: "Sweep-Shake: finding digital resources in physical environments" [2] and "PhotoMap: using spontaneously taken images of public maps for pedestrian navigation tasks on mobile devices" [3]. We often look at best papers of a conference to better understand what makes a good paper for this community. All of the 3 papers above are really well done and worthwhile to read.

PhotoMap [3] is a simple but very cool idea. Many of you have probably taken photos of public maps with your mobile phone (e.g. at a park, city map) and PhotoMap explores how to link them to realtime location data from the GPS on the device. The goal is that you can move around in the real space and you have a dot marking where you are on the taken photo. The implementation however seems not completely simple… There is a youtube movie on PhotoMap (there would be more movies from the evening event - but I do not link them here - the photo above gives you an idea...)

Since last year there is also a history best paper award (most influential paper from 10 years ago). Being at the beginning of a new field sometimes pays of… I got this award for the paper on implicit interaction [4] I presented in Edinburgh at MobileHCI 1999.

[1] Turunen, M., Melto, A., Hella, J., Heimonen, T., Hakulinen, J., Mäkinen, E., Laivo, T., and Soronen, H. 2009. User expectations and user experience with different modalities in a mobile phone controlled home entertainment system. 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, 1-4. DOI=

[2] Robinson, S., Eslambolchilar, P., and Jones, M. 2009. Sweep-Shake: finding digital resources in physical environments. 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, 1-10. DOI=

[3] Schöning, J., Krüger, A., Cheverst, K., Rohs, M., Löchtefeld, M., and Taher, F. 2009. PhotoMap: using spontaneously taken images of public maps for pedestrian navigation tasks on mobile devices. 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, 1-10. DOI=

[4] Albrecht Schmidt. Implicit human computer interaction through context. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing Journal, Springer Verlag London, ISSN:1617-4909, Volume 4, Numbers 2-3 / Juni 2000. DOI:10.1007/BF01324126, pp. 191-199 (initial version presented at MobileHCI1999).

Papers are all similar - Where are the tools to make writing more effective?

Yesterday we discussed (again during the evening event of MobileHCI2009) how hard it would be to support the process of writing a high quality research paper. In many conference there is a very defined style what you need to follow, specific things to include, and certain ways of how to present information. This obviously depends on the type of contribution but within one contribution type there could be probably provided a lot of help to create the skeleton of the paper… In many other areas Sounds like another project idea ;-)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Mobile HCI 2009 Keynote by Jun Rekimoto

The opening keynote of MobileHCI 2009 in Bonn was given by Jun Rekimoto. He showed selected work that he did over the last year and showed that some of the far out concepts (from a few years ago) are becoming products now - augmented reality with playing cards as one example and WIFI based location using placeEngine.

Context also featured in his talk: but there was little new in it - still where when why who what how. He suggested the notion of sensonomy (as folksonomy - just for sensor information). I can see the value of share sensor information but the concept sensonomy remains fuzzy - at least for me. Perhaps we hear more about this in the future.

In the final part of the talk he moved to life-logging - but not for humans but for cats (or pets in more general). I think the work is interesting and he clearly showed that this is enterainment computing (not entertainment for the cat - for the human). Pets are an interesting area: they are still a major form of entertainment and people are willing to spend a lot on it…

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Workshop at MobileHCI: Context-Aware Mobile Media and Mobile Social Networks

Together with colleagues from Nokia, VTT, and CMU we organized a workshop on Context-Aware Mobile Media and Mobile Social Networks at MobileHCI 2009.

The topic came up in discussions some time last year. It is very clear that social network have moved towards mobile scenarios and that utilizing context and contextual media adds a new dimension. The workshop program is very diverse and ranges studying usage practices to novel technological solutions for contextual media and application.

One topic that is interesting to further look at is to use (digital) social networks for health care. Taking an analogy in history it is evident that the direct social group you were in took were the set of people that helped you in case of illness or accident. Looking at conditions and illnesses that cause a loss of mobility or memory it could be interesting to find applications on top of digital social networks to provide help. Seems this could be a project topic.

In one discussion we explored what would happen if we would change our default communication behavior from closed/secret (e.g. Email and SMS) to public (e.g. bulletin boards). I took the example of organizing this workshop: our communication has been largely on email and has not been public. If it would had been open (e.g. public forum) we probably would have organized the workshop in the same way but at the same time provided an example how one can organize a workshop and by this perhaps provided useful information for future workshop chairs. In this case there are little privacy concerns but images all communication is public? We would learn a lot about how the world works…

About 10 years ago we published at paper there is more to context than location [1]. However, looking at our workshop it seems: location is still the dominant context people think of. Many of the presentations and discussions included the term context, but the examples focused on location. Perhaps we do need location only? Or perhaps we should look more closely to find the benefit of other contexts?

[1] A. Schmidt, M. Beigl, H.W. Gellersen (1999) There is more to context than location, Computers & Graphics, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 893-901.

Tutorials at Mobile HCI 2009 in Bonn

This year Enrico Rukzio organized the tutorials at mobile HCI 2009. He got an exciting program together:

The mobile HCI 2008 tutorials slides are still online - have a look.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Ethics as material for innovation - German HCI conference - Mensch und Computer

On Tuesday I was at the German human computer interaction conference called Mensch und Computer. The keynote by Alex Kirlik was on Ethical Design (slides from his talk) and he showed how ethics extends beyond action to technology leading to the central question: Why should we build certain systems? His examples and the following discussion made me wonder whether "Ethics become the next Material for innovation". Taking his example of 9/11 where old technology (air planes) and a different view on ethics was used to strike this is in contrast to previous/typical warfare where new technologies (e.g. Gun powder, Nuclear bomb) have changed the way wars are conducted.

Considering ethics as material for innovation is obviously risky but looking at successful businesses of the last decade such a trend can be argued for (e.g. google collecting information about the user to provide new services, youtube allowing users to share content with limited insurance that it is not copyrighted). Would be interesting to have a workshop on this topic sometime in the future…

Grace who left our group after finishing her Master's degree (to work in the real world outside of university ;-) presented her paper on how to aid communication in the car between driver and passenger [1].

In the afternoon the working group on tangible interaction in mixed realities (in German Be-greifbare Interaktion in Gemischten Wirklichkeiten) had a workshop and a meeting. We will host the next workshop of the working group in Essen early next year (probably late February or early March).

PS: the next Mensch & Computer Conference ist at the University of Duisburg-Essen :-)

[1] Grace Tai, Dagmar Kern, Albrecht Schmidt. Bridging the Communication Gap: A Driver-Passenger Video Link. Mensch und Computer 2009. Berlin.

Special issue of I-COM on automotive user interfaces

Together with Susanne Boll and Klaus Bengler I was guest editor for a special issue of the I-COM magazine on automotive user Interfaces. The papers are largely in German (but there are English abstracts available). The special issue shows different examples of work in this domain.

Dagmar and Stefan have a paper that describes the CARS driving simulator and its application [1]. Together with Stefan and Wolfgang from BMW research I published a paper on search interfaces in the car [2] - which was originality investigated in two master theses in Munich and also discussed in a CHI Note [3].

[1] Dagmar Kern, Schneegaß Stefan. CARS – Konfigurierbarer Fahrsimulator zur Bewertung der Fahrerablenkung (CARS – Configurable Automotive Research Simulator). i-com, Volume 8, Issue: 2 (Nutzungsschnittstellen und interaktive Anwendungen im Auto), 08/2009, ISSN: 1618-162X, pp. 30-33. doi: 10.1524/icom.2009.0022

[2] Wolfgang Spießl, Stefan Graf , Albrecht Schmidt. Suchbasierte Interaktion mit Fahrerinformationssystemen (Search-Based User Interfaces for In-Car Interaction). i-com, Volume 8, Issue: 2 (Nutzungsschnittstellen und interaktive Anwendungen im Auto), 08/2009, ISSN: 1618-162X, pp. 5-9. doi: 10.1524/icom.2009.0017

[3] Graf, S., Spiessl, W., Schmidt, A., Winter, A., and Rigoll, G. 2008. In-car interaction using search-based user interfaces. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 - 10, 2008). CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 1685-1688. DOI=

More surface interaction using audio: Scratch input

After my talk at the Minerva School Roy Weinberg pointed me to a paper by Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson [1] - it also uses audio for creating an interactive surface. The novelty on the technical side is limited but nevertheless the approach is interesting and appealing because of its simplicity and its potential (e.g. just think beyond a fingernail on a table to any contact movement on surfaces - pushing toy cars, walking, pushing a shopping trolley…). Perhaps having a closer look at this approach a generic location system could be created (e.g. using special shoe soles that make a certain noise).

There is a youtube movie:

Besides his studies Roy develops software for the Symbian platform and he sells a set of interesting applications.

[1] Harrison, C. and Hudson, S. E. 2008. Scratch input: creating large, inexpensive, unpowered and mobile finger input surfaces. In Proceedings of the 21st Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Monterey, CA, USA, October 19 - 22, 2008). UIST '08. ACM, New York, NY, 205-208. DOI=

Monday, 7 September 2009

CfP: What can the Internet of Things do for the Citizen?

Together with Stephan Karpischek (ETH Zurich) and Florian Michahelles (ETH Zurich & Auto-ID labs) I organize a workshop at Pervasive 2010 in Helsinki looking for an end-user perspective on the Internet of Things.

The call is online at: and the deadline is the 15th of January 2010.

The topics that we hope for include emerging applications, interaction paradigms, infrastructure, and social impact of new technologies and the implications for citizens.

For more information you can subscribe to the facebook group.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Students generate interesting ideas, links to photos

In the final part of the summer school the students worked in groups to create new ideas for displays and their use. We had 5 groups working hard - all creating amazing results for such a short time. Sometimes I wonder how we could better utilize this design exercise as the results were really exciting.

On group looked into the concept of mobile and contextual displays on garments - the idea T-SHARE assesses potential applications, when having networked displays included in T-Shirts (see the group presentation for details). This moves an idea with have investigated over the last year to a new level. I am really thrilled and I think we should really look how to setup a larger project on this topic.

We worked hard :-) but in the time between we enjoyed our trip - here are the photos I took (Bahai Garden, climbing with Keith and Antonio, the trip to Jerusalem, School and Beach in Haifa).

[1] Florian Alt, Albrecht Schmidt, Christoph Evers: Mobile Contextual Displays. In: Pervasive Advertising Workshop @ Pervasive 2009. Nara, Japan 2009.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Taking pictures during sports - ideas for an appliance

If you do sports it typically requires another person to take the photos of you. Having the evening off in in Haifa Keith, Antonio and me went climbing at It was not easy to get there - we used the typical way - first: take a bus to a random place (not intentially) - second: realize that the bus went to a place you did not want to go - third: take the taxi to where you wanted to go.

Being three people it was very easy to takes pictures while climbing - and I as I am climbing a class below Antonio and Keith I had a lot of time to take the pictures ;-)

Being computer scientist you always think about cool, challenging, and exciting projects. So we wondered if we could build an autonomous flying object that contains a camera that follows you (in a defined distance) and takes exciting photos. We have an idea how this could be done - let me know if you would be interested in the project (e.g. bachelor/master)- may be even done in a collaboration with Lancaster.

Interaction technologies for display environments

I was invited to give a talk on "Embedded interaction with display environments" to discuss human computer interaction and technology issue for creating interactive display systems. The summer school has very diverse program! and I have enjoyed listening to my colleagues as much as presenting myself :-)

In the talk I have a (more or less random) selection of technologies for making display environments interactive. There are the obvious vision based approaches (see the talk for the references) but I think there are many interesting approaches that are not yet fully explored. - including spatial audio location [1], eye tracking, and physiological sensors. Sebastian Boring create a focus and context input by combing different input technologies [2] - this can be especially interesting when scaling interaction up to larger surfaces. Additionally I think looking at the floor and the ceiling is worthwhile…

Please feel free to add further technologies and approaches for creating interactive displays in the comment.

[1] James Scott, Boris Dragovic: Audio Location: Accurate Low-Cost Location Sensing. Pervasive Computing: Third International Conference, PERVASIVE 2005, Munich, Germany, May 8-13, 2005. Springer LNCS 3468/2005. pp 1-18.

[2] S. Boring, O. Hilliges, A. Butz. A Wall-sized Focus plus Context Display. In Proceedings of the Fifth Annual IEEE Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom), New York, NY, USA, Mar. 2007

It is better to look beautiful... Aesthetics and HCI

During the summerschool in Haifa Prof. Noam Tractinsky from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev gave a presentation about Aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction. It was good to meet him in person and get some more insight in his work - as I refer to it typically in my HCI class.

In short his finding can be summarized by: What is Beautiful is Usable [1], [2]. In his talk he had some interesting example - you can look at a web page for one second only and you will figure out if it is a good design or not. There has been previous work in Japan [3] similar results - suggesting that this may be universial. Methodical I think the research approaches are not straightforward and may be disputed in parts - but the basic findings are very intuitive and should be taken more into account.

[1] Tractinsky, N. 1997. Aesthetics and apparent usability: empirically assessing cultural and methodological issues. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 22 - 27, 1997). S. Pemberton, Ed. CHI '97. ACM, New York, NY, 115-122. DOI=

[2] Tractinsky, N., Shoval-Katz A. and Ikar, D. (2000) What is Beautiful is Usable. Interacting with Computers, 13(2): 127-145.

[3] Kurosu, M. and Kashimura, K. 1995. Apparent usability vs. inherent usability: experimental analysis on the determinants of the apparent usability. In Conference Companion on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Denver, Colorado, United States, May 07 - 11, 1995). I. Katz, R. Mack, and L. Marks, Eds. CHI '95. ACM, New York, NY, 292-293. DOI=

How does a message sound? How does text sound?

Florian Alt is working on an idea of sonification of messages (if he is not enjoying himself at a summer school in Haifa). The approach is converting messages into music.

Are you curious about music and automated composition? Please have a look at the survey (it is fun, you probably get some ideas, and you help us with our research):