Thursday, 14 October 2010

Do tangible user interface make sense? Yes they are a great design tool.

The question "Do tangible user interface make sense?" is a question that probably everyone who seriously works in this field has asked themselves once in a while.

Seeing the iPhone and iPod app of the people doing the reactable made me think about this question again! What is really - in the use case of the reactbale the value of the physical over the touch screen? Or is it just sentimental and old school to believe in the physical? Not sure … needs probably some more thinking and research ;-)

One other points which this example underlines is that tangible interaction is a great design tool (still in the process of writing a paper about this - but here the basic idea for discussion). And I strongly believe that this is a great value for user interface design in general. I suggest the following approach:
  1. Analyze your task
  2. Find data elements that can be made tangible
  3. Find operators/manipulators on the data elements that can be made tangible
  4. Create a tangible user interface to realize all the interaction required
  5. Port it to a touch screen or conventional user interface
The steps 1-4 will ensure simplicity and in step 5 you may lose some of the "ah" and "wow" but it is very likely that you have created a usable and simple interface!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Will social science change completely?

Seeing the recent post on (Gay Sex vs. Straight Sex) made me think if we are approaching a point where our understanding of society will massively change (hopefully for the good) and where we will get much greater insights in who we are. Is this similar to the era of the invention of the microscope? Things become visible and one does not need to guess anymore?

The amount of data collected on websites is huge - and in many cases the data is probably of very high quality as it matter to people who contributed it (probably higher than what you get with a random questionnaire) . I think this is exciting and looking at some of our project proposals going beyond explicit data collection to implicit data collection may even make this approach stronger (adding another x10 on the new microscopes).

Friday, 8 October 2010

Competitions in computer science for schools

Spending 3 intensive days at the University of Freiburg as member of the jury at the finals of the German computer science competition (Bundeswettbewerb Informatik) I learned once more how vast our field is … especially at the theoretical end. The tasks on the first day were related to stream processing algorithms and on the second day to games on graphs. But don't be fooled theoreticians have a very different understanding what a good game is ;-)

The 28 people (pupils and high school students - who have not yet started studying) at the finals are the "best" from over 1000 participants and had successfully passed two rounds before. There level of CS knowledge was massively impressive. Many of them would have passed the BSc exams - in Math and theoretical computer science - without much further preparation! The event showed that computer science has a great potential to attract young people.

Here are links to German competions:
  • Informatik Biber (the general CS completion for students from class 5-13, last year some 80.000 pupils took part)
  • Bundeswettbewerb Informatik (the more difficult completion, last year bit more that 1000 pupils took part)
Around the event there were some interesting demos (to impress the prospective students), including Toyota Robina and an autonomous mini-airship.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Two automotive deadlines today!

Today (Friday, October 1st 2010) there are two deadlines related to automotive computing research:
For the AutomotiveUI 2010 the program looks really exciting, see the conference web page. John Krumm is giving the keynote and the program includes 26 papers (if I counted right) in the areas of: Attention and Distraction, Speech and Sound, Exploring Modes of Interaction, Supporting the Driver, and Connected Cars.

With regard to the special issue I heard that there is a chance to get a few days extension ;-)