Friday, 30 July 2010

Call for Papers: IEEE Pervasive Computing special Issue on Automotive Pervasive Computing

Next year will be a special issue of the IEEE Pervasive Computing magazine on Automotive Pervasive Computing. I am honored to edit this issue together with Joe Paradiso and Brian Noble :-) The submission deadline for full papers is October 1st and work in progress one month later - see the call for papers for details.

Cars have become an interesting and challenging microcosm for pervasive computing research and we invite articles relating to pervasive computing in the automotive context. Examples of relevant topics are:

Sensing and context in automotive environments
  • Pervasive sensor systems in the car
  • Use of sensors and context for automotive applications
  • Contextual vehicular applications
  • Collaborative sensing with multiple cars

Automotive user interfaces
  • Concepts for in-car user interfaces based on pervasive computing techology
  • Multi-modal interaction in the car
  • Detecting user intentions, emotions, and distraction
  • User interfaces for assistive functionality and autonomous driving
  • Applications of car to car communication

Pervasive computing applications in the car
  • Contextual information and navigation systems
  • Technologies to improve media consumption while driving
  • Communication appliances for drivers and passengers
  • In-car pervasive gaming for passengers and drivers

Experience with pervasive computing in the car
  • Experiences with pervasive computing technologies in cars
  • Case studies of automotive pervasive computing
  • Ethnographic work on the use of technologies in cars

For details see the cfp at:

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Scientific papers as audio content?

We have started to experiment with reading articles and providing them as MP3 files or podcasts (see the facebook page or the blogpost). So far I found for myself a number of places where I like it - from gym to car. Perhaps we should make it mandatory that the camera ready version of the paper is the PDF, the source, and an audio file (e.g. the paper read by the author or a description of the work - I guess the authors reading their papers could improve some papers as the authors would be finally read what they write ;-)

Coming across this sign in a bookshop in Essen made me smile - especially as we look into ways that may making reading feasible while driving [1].

[1] Kern, D., Marshall, P., and Schmidt, A. 2010. Gazemarks: gaze-based visual placeholders to ease attention switching. In Proceedings of the 28th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 10 - 15, 2010). CHI '10. ACM, New York, NY, 2093-2102. DOI=

PS: to answer some of the questions about the audio files of research papers I got recently: Yes, I think it is nice to have real humans reading. Yes, I know that there are brilliant text to speech software (but as long as they do the Simpsons with actor's voices we are not there yet).

Monday, 26 July 2010

Handheld Laser Projector

Enrico got for his project a handheld laser projector. The nice thing about this technology is that the projected image is always in focus - it does not matter if you move the projector or if you project on an uneven surface. The AAXA L1 Laser Pico Projector (even though there are plenty of things that can be improved, noise for a start) provides some inspiration what will become possible if these devices will be common in mobile phones. In Lancaster Enrico explored already 2007/2008 some of the usage scenarios and interaction techniques [1] and I am really curious of further ones. There was a workshop at Pervasive 2010 looking at current research on personal projectors [2].

With this piece of technology we can also move on the idea of a device where interactive shell and functional core of a product is separated. We have published the concept as work in progress at CHI [3] and perhaps it is now time to look into a realistic implementation using such a laser projector.

[1] Hang, A., Rukzio, E., and Greaves, A. 2008. Projector phone: a study of using mobile phones with integrated projector for interaction with maps. In Proceedings of the 10th international Conference on Human Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 02 - 05, 2008). MobileHCI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 207-216. DOI=


[3] Doering, T., Pfleging, B., Kray, C., and Schmidt, A. 2010. Design by physical composition for complex tangible user interfaces. In Proceedings of the 28th of the international Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 10 - 15, 2010). CHI EA '10. ACM, New York, NY, 3541-3546. DOI=

Friday, 23 July 2010

Teaching Ubicomp? What is it we should teach?

Why should we teach Ubicomp? What are the core issues when teaching Ubicomp? How do we cope with the rapid changes in technologies if we provide practical exercises in our Pervasive Computing classes? What skills will students take away from the course?

As Ubicomp is still a young and dynamic subject it is inevitable that we have to ask these questions. To share our experiences in teaching we met at the ETH Zürich. Friedemann Mattern, Marc Langheinrich, Michael Rohs, Kay Römer, and many of our PhD students (and me ;-) spent two days in Zürich to collect materials and discuss the above questions. The hardest one is obviously the what is ubicomp question…

For me the key thing is that we teach about distributed computing systems that are aware and linked to the real world and which are used by humans. The systems aspect is key and I think which specific technologies, tools, methods, we teach are exchangeable. The second point I want to make in my pervasive computing class is to get students excited and aware of the potential of computing in the future and how we are at the heart of a major change that goes beyond technology.

We are currently compiling a Wiki with teaching materials which we hope will become public in the future (at least in parts). If you teach a ubicomp related course or if you know of course please feel free to add a comment with link to the webpage and we will try to include it in the collection.

PS: examples of the UI challenge of ubicomp are everywhere.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Feature or Bug - how do you end an annoying call?

My first mobile phone in 1998 had a detachable antenna (you could just screw the antenna off). This design feature enabled a socially acceptable mechanism to end annoying conversations by losing the connection. When talking became boring you told the communication partner that it seems that the connection gets worse (while you unscrewed the antenna) and then when you detached the antenna the call was usually dropped.

Reading about the iPhone I thought about this long forgotten feature and expected that Apple listened to its users and that there is a next version of this feature - nowadays implemented as touch interaction (not screwing required) on the iPhone 4. The photo shows a phone where the feature is disabled by some rubber cover.

I was really disappointed that Apple tells us it is a bug

Sunday, 18 July 2010

IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine facebook page

At the editorial board meeting we discussed new ideas on how to distribute content of the IEEE Pervasive Magazine in further ways. The magazine is widely read, has a healthy acceptance rate (about 20%) and articles are highly cited - but I think we cannot ignore that access to media is rapidly changing.

Currently this effort is not about replacing the print copy and the PDF in the online library but to add further channels. One Idea is to have a podcast that provides some of the articles (e.g. conference report or other departments) or to have an audio preview of a new issue (e.g. Guest editors introduction and abstracts of technical articles).

The experiment has started :-)

Grace Tai read one article (conference report on the Auto-UI conference, [1]) and this is now available as MP3. This MP3 is deliberately "home made" as we would expect that this is a quality we as a community (e.g. the authors reading their articles, volunteers reading the articles) can achieve.
It would be great if we can start a discussion how useful such a podcast would be. There is a facebook page where the discussion already started:

If you have recently authored an article for the IEEE Pervasive Magazine - it would be great if you could also read it an share it here for discussion on the facebook page.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Wolfgang Spiessl, Dagmar Kern, "Driving Automotive User Interface Research," IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 85-88, Jan.-Mar. 2010, doi:10.1109/MPRV.2010.3.

Emmy Noether meeting in Potsdam

Before the meeting close to Berlin I once more underestimated the size of the planet (and how far Berlin is away from any other place in Germany). I volunteered to co-organize the computer science workshop on Friday afternoon and then realized when booking the flights that it is easily possible to get for lunch time on Friday to Berlin when leaving Santa Clara on Thursday morning. Was not an issue as there were others to run the workshop and I arrived on Friday late afternoon - thanks :-).

The political discussion on Friday night was on the utility of basic research. Frankly I did not really get the question. Increasing our understanding is a clear value. For me also the economic value of research is pretty obvious - even if the research outcome (basically what is in the papers and patents) is not of direct monetary value the people we educate (BSc, MSc, PhD) while the research is done are clearly of great value for the economy (an I would guess significantly more the staff cost that was invested in them).

The Emmy Noether meeting (this year with over 160 participants, all young researchers - I am already one of the old ones ;-) is the only meeting I go to where I really meet many other disciplines close up - it was really interesting to discuss about sociology and theology - and how it relates to computer science. I wonder what would happen if we would get together such a diverse set of people for 2 weeks to initiate new projects. Would this create entirely new ideas for research? Perhaps we should try…

Here you can find more information on the DFG Emmy Noether program - a very unique program for young researchers.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Pervasive Editorial Board Meeting in Santa Clara

The IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine is one of 4 magazines I still read in paper (the others are IEEE Computer, Communications of the ACM, and Interactions) and we had interesting discussions how we read/consume magazine content in the future. In the near future it seems likely to me that we will get more choice and will use more different media. For the Pervasive Magazine we will over the next month experiment with some new ideas. There is a new faccbook page:

It was for me the first editorial board meeting of the IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine and I was impressed by the people :-) We discussed the upcoming special issues for the magazine - and I am thrilled that one will be on automotive pervasive computing! The call will be published in the next weeks. The magazine has a set of departments and we discussed how to move these forward. It is exiting that we will have a new department that will provide short tutorials on research methods and I am looking forward to contribute in a department on new pervasive computing devices.

Prior to the meeting there was an interesting workshop at Intel in Santa Clara looking a future challenges and opportunities from ubicomp research.

PS: Satya suggested a book: The Shallows - What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.