CHI Madness: A Summary of CHI 2009
So, where do I start? If you’ve been following my Twitter @jayvidyarthi, you know that last week I experienced an overload of knowledge transfer at the annual CHI conference in Boston. I wanted to write a blog updating all of you on some of the fantastic methodologies, processes and technologies on the fringe of our field. First, let me tell you a little about my read on the main theme of the conference.
Tying directly into the Closing Plenary delivered by Kees Overbeeke from Eindhoven, I observed the underlying theme of HCI and design today as focusing on the humanization of technology. Computer systems no longer have to be cold and digital. Instead, they can behave more organically, installing themselves into our lives in a natural way. Kees described how our relationships with technology can even go beyond such seamless integration. He presented a lamp which gradually loses power. As one pets the lamp, as if it were a cat or dog, it comes back to life. This was an example of technology which can appeal to our emotions and connect with our users in a more profound way (while also being environmentally friendly!). The tradeoffs between a practical and useful lamp and a “pet” lamp are still to be explored, but Kees’ point of view undoubtedly inspires questions about the future directions of human-computer interaction.
Although not every researcher is ‘dreaming of the impossible’ like Kees, a broad survey of projects from various angles at CHI 2009 show that seamless integration is the underlying theme of our technological future. I decided to summarize a few interesting projects for you to check out, but by no means is this a comprehensive summary. Check out the official CHI program summary to get many more descriptions and references on the fringe of HCI.
- Eric Gilbert’s work on building a predictive model for social networks allowing a system such as Facebook to automatically distinguish your close friends from your distant acquaintances based on your behaviour with the system. A short summary on Eric’s blog
- John Zimmerman is building a strong design philosophy centered around creating products which promote self-identity. An application of product attachment theory to design specifically for role transition and self enhancement. Really fantastic stuff for the creative theorist. John’s Research Description
- Sunny Consolvo is working on the Ubifit Garden, a wallpaper for your mobile phone which measures how much time you spend sedentary, walking, running, biking, etc., and grows flowers and plants to indicate your physical exertion. The system serves as a subtle ambient measure of your own exercise which creates a motivating factor within your cellphone. A Poster Describing the Ubitfit Garden
- Tovi Grossman et. al. at Autodesk are designing and testing a new approach to measure the learnability of an interface: the Question-Suggestion model. By having a coach directly interact with users, the method extracts specific problems and provides a more precise measure of interface learnability. Extremely valuable for any kind of longitudinal usability testing of complex interfaces. Description of the Paper @ ACM
- David Geerts from Leuven presented well-justified heuristics for the implementation of social functionality in interactive TV systems. Hopefully I’ll hear more from David when I head to Euro ITV 2009 in Belgium to present Yu Centrik’s interactive TV research findings. David’s Presentation Slides (jump to slide 33)
- Sarah Diefenbach and Mark Hassenzahl presented a thought-provoking piece on the interaction of Beauty and Usability on consumer product choice. The paper served as a launching point for an intense panel discussion including a tirade on the definition of beauty from Bill Buxton. Very engaging stuff. Sarah and Mark’s Thought-Provoking Paper
- Leanne Hirshfield from Robert Jacob’s lab at Tufts University presented some early work on using fNIR brain imaging to get a read on human syntactic and semantic workload. The eventual fruits of this work could lead to interfaces which can adapt to the users’ cognitive load by reading bloodflow in the brain. If this project starts to fly, interfaces could get very interesting. A Description of the Adaptive Interfaces using fNIR Project
- Alexander Hoffman is working on TypeRight, a keyboard which uses language dictionaries to adjust the resistance of keys on the keyboard based on the probability of each letter being pressed. I tried using the keyboard and barring some minor technical issues, it seems to have potential to help us avoid type-os and increase our overall typing speed. The TypeRight Project
- David Frolich presented a case study of StoryBank, a mobile-phone and touch-screen based system allowing children in rural India to develop narrated slideshow videos. Being a kind of “local, embodied youtube”, the interfaces involved no language, enabling use by illiterate children in the village. The findings were quite surprising, and the videos made were very powerful. David was intent on stressing how our technology can help the developing world. The StoryBankHomepage
Again, if you enjoy this type of work, check out the CHI program summary for more quick descriptions! If you want details and have access to ACM’s digital library, check out the full proceedings.