Sept 2009 Congratulations to Dr. Bennett

It is with great pride that I congratulate Mike Bennett on passing his Viva on Wednesday the 2nd of September 2009. Mike or (Dr. Bennett designate, as we should call him) is my second PhD student completed. He came to work with me in mid 2005 on a startup scholarship UCD afforded me and Mike was awarded for his studies. Amusingly, we met while both a little drunk at an MLE farewell party where he had been a researcher. He was the third student I'd convinced to come work with me after a bout of heavy drinking which is thankfully a habit I've managed to break. (Large grants or lovely scholarships or my insane desire to stay upto 3am working on our nth+1 paper are the attractions to work with me now ;-)

Mikes' keen intellect and curiosity impressed me greatly then as it does now. It's been my great pleasure to have had the chance to work with Mike over the past few years. Dr. Bennett is now a postdoc researcher with the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies and is moving onto bigger and better things in his research. I wish him all the very best for the rest of his very bright research career.

Mike's thesis work is on designing for an individual’s eyes with a focus on Human-Computer Interaction, Vision And Individual Differences. Mike's examiners Professors Alan Dix and Paddy Nixon said his work demonstrated clearly his mastery of the area of his thesis. And that he clearly has a deep understanding of human vision and the application of the knowledge to design and has applied strong methodological rigor to his work.

The abstract of Mike's Thesis.
When a user interface, information visualisation or graphic designer is conceiving and creating design mockups how does the designer know whether the intended audience is able to perceive the design? When a designer does know how well an intended audience can or cannot see, such as with a design targeted at an aging audience, how does that knowledge influence the visual layout of the design?

There are rules of thumb about font size, contrast, and the interaction between unused space that are learnt and handed down as design lore. If a designer follows good use of font size, with good contrast then a proposed design should be readable as long as its not too cluttered. Unfortunately “good usage”, “good contrast” and “not too cluttered” are subjective measures. What one designer defines as good another could find distinctly lacking, though experience and training do help a designer acquire knowledge of what visually works.

This thesis is concerned with examining and showing how the experience of seeing a design can be non-subjectively quantified. Then it demonstrates how the quantifications tied together with individual differences in the Human Visual System (HVS) can be used to evaluate and adapt the designs, such that they are customised to individual eye sight.

In order to non-subjectively quantify the experience of seeing a design we introduce, evaluate and demonstate two measures of perceptual stability. Perceptual stability is defined by us as a measure of how stable or unstable a visual design or image is due to differences in a perceiver’s perception. The first measure PERSva evaluates how easy or difficult it is for people to see visual detail in a design. While the second measure PERScp evaluates how different forms of colour perception effect the legibility of a visual design.

Objective quantifications which are capable of modelling individual differences are useful for automating design judgements, i.e. automatically compare a range of potential interface designs and make a decision about which is best for a specific user. Demonstrated in this work are automatic evaluations of text and font styles, network graph designs and layouts, and the pseudocolouring of scientific visualisations.

In the longer term, as we move into a world where Mass Customisation and Product Personalisation become common place, objective design quantifications are useful for adapting and customising designs to suit individual physiologies, capabilities and preferences.

Congrats once again. His site has copies of his papers and thesis.

ps. Mike your gift is in the post ;)

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