Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dec 2010 - Two Journal Papers: Visualisation and Usability

Along with Julie Doyle and Brian O'Mullane we have had our paper on "Usability by Proxy – Killing 2-N Birds with One Stone?" accepted to the Journal of Usability Studies. A controversial paper we look forward to its publication stimulating follow on research and debate.

Usability testing is a critical part of the design process for applications, which can require many iterations of testing with, often-times, many different groups of users. As such, the cost of testing is typically significantly high. In this article we propose a new UEM to address this problem, which we call Usability by Proxy. Usability by Proxy involves studying usability measures with a cohort at one level of expertise or ability to identify the expected values at the next level of expertise or ability. In this article, we begin the process of evaluating the effectiveness of this method through a usability study of the BioMOBIUS™ biomedical research platform, an application with intended usage by both biomedical engineers and clinicians. We ask whether testing usability with each specific user group is beneficial in identifying additional significant usability problems, or whether the costs in terms of time and resources outweigh these potential benefits

Along with Michael Farrugia we had had our paper on "Effective temporal graph layout: a comparative study of animation versus static display methods" accepted to the Journal of Information Visulisation. Again, this is a paper which turns some conventional wisdom in dynamic display on its head, in a small scale study followed up with a larger online study.  Again, we look forward to this paper stimulate follow on work and the realisation of new forms of dynamic information display.

Graph drawing algorithms have classically addressed the layout of static graphs. However, the need to draw evolving or dynamic graphs has brought into question many of the assumptions, conventions and layout methods designed to date. For example, social scientists studying evolving social networks have created a demand for visual representations of graphs changing over time. Two common approaches to represent temporal information in graphs include animation of the network and use of static snapshots of the network at di erent points in time. Here we report on two experiments, one in a laboratory environment and another using an asynchronous remote web based platform, Mechanical Turk, to compare the e ciency of animated displays versus static displays. Four tasks are studied with each visual representation, two characterise overview level information presentation, and two characterise micro level analytical tasks. The results of this study indicate that static representations are generally more e ective particularly in terms to time performance, when compared to fully animated movie representations of dynamic networks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov 2010 - Ambient Displays and Changing Behaviours - (Yvonne Rogers - Dec 8)

Last week Umer Rashid, one of my graduates students presented at the ACM International Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2010. Umer recently moved to St. Andrews after completing an internship with Nokia Research. Thanks to his very pro-active nature we were able to arrange for Yvonne Rogers to come and visit us in St. Andrews for a day in December. Along with meeting researchers and graduate students working in HCI she will be presenting a very interesting and timely seminar. 

Ambient Displays and Changing Behaviours 
"Choice Moments: Can Ubiquitous Technology Change People's Everyday Behaviour?"

Date/Time: December 8th 2010 (Postponed due to weather) 

It is well known that when making a decision – be it buying food, choosing what to wear or even selecting a partner – people often ignore most of the available information in the environment and rely instead on a few important cues. At the same time, recent surveys have shown that people are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of their decisions, and want to know more about what they buy, consume or wear. How can we help people make more informed decisions given their tendency to make snap judgements? In my talk, I will describe a new genre of mobile, social and ambient devices that are currently being developed to change people’s behaviour.

Yvonne Rogers is a professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Computing Department at the Open University and directs the Pervasive Interaction Lab. She is also a visiting professor of Informatics at Indiana University (where she was from 2003-2006). Yvonne is internationally known for her work in the fields of human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work and has published widely in both. She is interested in new paradigms for computing, especially ubiquitous, pervasive, and tangible interfaces. A particular focus is augmenting  everyday learning and work activities with novel technologies. This involves designing enhanced and engaging user experiences through using a diversity of technologies, including mobile, wireless, handheld and pervasive computing. With colleagues she edited the influential report on Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the year 2020. From 1992-2003 she was at the former School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at Sussex University. She has also spent sabbaticals at Apple, Stanford University, University California San Diego, and the University of Queensland in Australia.

Sept 2010 - HCI 2010 Dundee, UK

In Sept I attended HCI 2010 24th BCS Conference on Human Computer Interaction.

Ben Shneiderman kicked off the conference with a keynote on Getting Serious About Social Media: 
Strategies for Increasing Civic Participation

. He also spent sometime covering some of his past research which you will be familiar with if you know his work. He demonstrated a number of points drawing examples from his recent book "Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World" [1]. The following day his co-author Marc Smith tweeted a link to a NodeXL layout he produced overnight showing "Connections among the Twitter users who recently mentioned #HCI2010 when queried on September 8, 2010 scaled by numbers of followers".  

1. Hansen, M., Shneiderman, B, and Smith, M. A., Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers (2010).

2010-09-07-NodeXL-Twitter-#HCI2010 Graph

He is clearly now impassioned about social participation [2] and specifically getting the HCI community to advocate and lobby government on the various challenges we face. He has run a couple of workshops on "Technology-mediated social participation". The website has details of the events along with links to various position papers. As these comes from people working at funding agencies and industry they are worth a read. 

[2] Preece, J. and Shneiderman, B., The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating technology-mediated social participation, AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction 1, 1 (March 2009), 13-32, available at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sept 2010 - iHCI 2010 Dublin, Ireland

I recently attended the fourth Irish Human Computer Interaction Conference iHCI 2010, which took place at Dublin City University on September 2nd & 3rd 2010. Along with serving on the program committee for iHCI, I also chaired a session during the conference. Usefully, the proceedings are available for you to download in pdf. Of the student papers presented on the first day, I enjoyed hearing about the work of Ingi Helgason from the University of Edinburgh Napier on "Interaction design: learning from new-media art". I will be tracking this work based on my own interest in Public and Private display systems (see for example our latest PPD10 workshop).  

On the afternoon of the first day we had an industry session co-organised by the IxDA Dublin and Limerick. Ben Arent from the IxDA Dublin will be uploading some videos (to their IxDA Dublin YouTube channel I suspect or here) from this day. If you want to know when these videos are online, follow Ben on twitter. In this session I was pleased to hear an update from Hilary Kenna of the IADT on the NDRC Vizi project which I help found when based in UCD Ireland. This project seems like a lifetime ago now but development has moved on of course. "Vizi is an online platform to facilitate the contextualisation of statistical data in realtime using dynamic visualisation technology. The ultimate objective of this project is to unlock the value of data by creating a platform that will enable users to visualise, manipulate and track data in a way that is meaningful for them. The resultant dynamic visualisations can then be used to investigate causal relationships to influence decision and policy making with evidence based conclusions." I've not been involved in the project (which used to be called DVIZ) for a while but I'm glad to see the work is progressing to the next stage of commercialisation.

Richard Harper at iHCI 2010
The second day of iHCI2010 started out with a Keynote from Richard Harper a Principal Researcher in Socio-Digital Systems at Microsoft Research entitled "Do we communicate too much". A very good question for me as I tweet and even write this blog! Richard's abstract states, "In this talk I will reflect on contemporary human expression when it is often said that everyone is suffering from communications overload. I will ask how we might measure communication, and draw a contrast between different ways of doing so." In this image Richard refers to his new MIT Press book "Texture Human Expression in the Age of Communications Overload" (Richard H. R. Harper) coming out in November. If you are interested in the threads, seams, weaving, interweaving and our fabric of day to day communication, then this book will be of interest to you (well it is to me). As Keynotes go, this was excellent, it provoked many discussions during the rest of the conference and even in the days and week afterwards.

The remainder of the second day included both a poster paper session and three research paper sessions. During the poster paper session my PhD student Jakub Dostal presented our poster on "There Is More to Multimodal Interfaces than Speech, Vibration and Position: State of the Art in Multimodal Interfaces for People with Disabilities". This poster is based on the findings from A Survey of Multimodal Systems for Disabled Users (PDF) he published as a technical report from the Human Interface Technology Laboratory Australia (TR001) in July 2010. This survey is the initial literature review from the early stages of his doctoral work. Jakub was successfully awarded a Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) scholarship earlier this year. SICSA has four themes, one of which is multi-modal interaction. Both myself and Jakub are looking forward to collaborating with the wider body of SICSA multi-modal research community in Scotland. 

Cognitive Load Theory and mLearning

Some of the research papers which prompted interesting thoughts for me included "Considering prior experience and expectation in automotive safety system development" by Christopher Wilkinson for the University of Cambridge, UK and Alan Dix from the Lancaster University, UK. The use of haptic feedback prompted me to recall an earlier blog post on the "haptic jingle". The use of such feedback for notification, while difficult to sense, is an interesting use of haptics for conveying key state information (which cannot be easily ignored). A second paper of interest was entitled "Now You See It, Now You Don't: The effect of wiki flexibility on anxiety during wiki editing" by Benjamin R. Cowan and Mervyn A. Jack  from the University of Edinburgh, UK. This is an interesting paper which studies how Wikis are used in Higher Education. Given my use of Wiki's in projects including CAPSIL and BRAID along with a moo, discussion board, Moodle, Blackboard etc. this talk resonated with me. I pointed Ben towards this recent book on "The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age". The concepts and issued raised in this book are relevant to the use of Wikis. In addition, as a co-created book the history of the book development itself is interesting with respect to who feels ownership along with details on the final text lock down and edit prior to print. The final paper I was taken by was entitled "Designing Interaction for a Multi-touch Wall" by Chen Wang (National University of Defence Technology, China), Hyowon Lee, Alan F. Smeaton (Dublin City University, Ireland). This area is a significant challenge as large public multi-touch, multi-person systems move from research lab based prototype to real world deployments.

Congratulations to the folks from DCU for organising iHCI 2010, in particular Daragh Byrne who put in considerable effort. I'd like to see iHCI grow and prosper as a national conference in HCI for Ireland.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aug 2010 BCS Interaction Specialist Group

"Founded in 1984, Interaction (or the BCS Interaction Specialist Group) is a specialist HCI group of the British Computer Society (BCS). It provides an organisation for all those working on human-computer interaction - the analysis, design, implementation and evaluation of technologies for human use."

In moving to my new role in St. Andrews I've joined the executive of the BCS Interaction Specialist Group. I'm looking forward to taking an active role in both this group and more broadly in promoting interest in next generation HCI challenges across the UK.

My own focus in Human Computer Interaction is on bridging the digital-physical divide. We live our lives in a physical world. I contend the current generation of human computer interfaces are very limited in their support for heads up, face to face or face to world interaction as apposed to the heads down interfaces as we currently have. The range of mobile (handheld or tablet/pad), laptop/netbook and desktop interfaces focusses our heads down and away from the world around us. As a result, many day to day tasks or even forms of work are poorly supported by access to appropriate digital information. Myself along with my students are exploring a variety of ways in which we can bridge this divide, bringing digital information into its context of use in our physical world. This is the theme of my research in the University of St. Andrews.

6th - 10th September Dundee
As part of my involvement with this BCS group I will be attending the 24th BCS Conference on Human Computer Interaction - HCI2010 in Dundee this September. This year the conference has as its theme, Play is a serious business. I would certainly agree with this theme. As we move beyond mere usability issues, interfaces must be engaging, persuasive and even elicit an emotional attachment if we want people to love using them, not simply suffer them.

I expect to attend the following workshop on the 6th of September, East meets West: Challenges and opportunities in complementary approaches to HCI. Experience suggests the approach to research (funding/publication/direction/style/graduation etc.) can be markedly different between the east and west. While this can be over emphasised, I'm looking forward to this workshop to help scratch beneath surface of this.

The conference itself runs from Wednesday the 8th until Friday the 10th of September and again this will be an excellent opportunity for me to become familiar with the breath of HCI work across the UK, while reconnecting with colleagues old and new.

On the 7th September my PhD student Jakub Dostal will present an outline of his multi-modal research questions, aims and plans at the HCI2010 Doctoral Colloquium at the University of Abertay Dundee. It is a great opportunity for him and impressive as he made his submission to attend the DC on his first day here in the University of St. Andrews. I hasten to point out he has been developing the ideas for a number of months while a visiting student in HITLab Australia the University of Tasmania. I don't expect all my students to be ready to submit for a doctoral colloquium on their first day of postgraduate study.

Jakub will give a 20-minute presentation of his work to a panel and the other participants. I expect he will be completing a dry run of his presentation here in St. Andrews on August 31st.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 2010 - International Workshop on Mobile Collaborative Augmented Reality

I'm been invited to serve on the program committee for a very interesting workshop on mobile collaborative augmented reality which is part of ISMAR 2010. I've been interested in AR for a number of years as a means to bridge the digital physical divide. While we have many methods for bring digital information down into our physical world currently our means of bringing information into the digital is limited to mobile, desktop, gaming interfaces and sensor systems. While we look at new means of bringing the digital into our physical day to day life (such as MobileAR, which can overload us) we do need to explore methods to ease the movement of information from our physical world (without burdening people in the provision of input or obtrusive sensing).

"Mobile Augmented Reality For Art Interaction" (image from thesis)
by Laurence Judge University College Dublin Ireland
"Augmented reality is a direct or indirect view of real world scenes in which physical objects are annotated with, or overlaid by computer generated graphics. The past two decades have seen a fast growing body of research and development dedicated to techniques and technologies for augmented reality. In particular, advances in hardware and networking have made possible a wide use of augmented reality for remote collaboration. However, in order to develop systems that are truly useful and comfortable for end users, many challenges need to be addressed first.

Two of those challenges include handling environmental constraints and understanding human needs. The former requires that systems can handle ever changing real word conditions to be continuously functional, while the latter requires that systems are constructed in ways with which end users can work effectively and comfortably. To address these challenges, we invite you to a one-day workshop on research issues specific to mobile augmented reality for remote collaborations.

This workshop aims to bring industrial and academic researchers together and to provide a platform to foster discussions among participants on the current state of art and future directions for mobile collaborative augmented reality. The workshop will be held on October 13, 2010 in Seoul, Korea, in conjunction with ISMAR2010. We solicit high quality research and position papers for the workshop. Submitted papers will be peer-reviewed by our highly regarded international program committee members. Accepted papers will be published in the workshop proceedings. Currently we are investigating the possibility of including the proceedings in ACM or IEEE Digital Library, and inviting selected papers for a special issue of a journal."

Please see the website at for more details.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 2010 - First week as a Professor - From Golf to New Jobs and EU funding

So today is the end of the first week in my new role as Professor in the Chair of Human Computer Interaction at the School of Computer Science in St. Andrews University Scotland. While it's been a relatively quiet week within the University it's been a hectic time outside as the Golf Open Championship started here on Thursday. On Tuesday I was invited to attend an Open Golf Graduation where Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington  were awarded Honorary Degrees by the University in a public ceremony. In the past I've not been a great fan of such degrees but having seen the event myself, the caliber of the recipients and the nature of the honorary degree I think I was wrong about such awards.  Thankfully the campus closes down for two days to help facilitate the tournament. Given the traffic and numbers in town I think this is the wise (and financially opportune) thing to do. 

As for the University, it's well and true enmeshed within St. Andrews itself. It's an idyllic setting overlooking the sea, cliffs and beaches and is a quintessential University town. During the graduation ceremony I was able to sit beside two retired ladies from St. Andrews. Their knowledge and pride in the institution is a testament to the high esteem the people of the area hold the University in. Across the board I feel a sense of great academic and community pride throughout St. Andrews. It's difficult to pick out what is and isn't part of the University, so much so the whole place feels like the campus. However, my part of the University with Computer Science (shown to the right), Mathematics, Biomedical Science, Physics etc. is one of the few clearly defined "campuses" around. We are on the edge of the town where our teaching, research, office and lab space is more characteristic of a more modern campus.  None the less, the character, caliber and ethos remains very much the same. 

Along with the usual paper, reviewing deadlines and work on existing grants I've been getting settled in. I've assumed my teaching duties for HCI and Graphics along with coordination for Knowledge Transfer and as Honours project coordinator. I'm looking forward to the teaching where I hope to weave in some of the latest findings from CHI, UIST, ITS etc. And with graphics to explore the fundamental aspects while pushing into mobile and algorithmic methods to exploit more recent graphics hardware. The Knowledge Transfer role should be an interesting challenge. Moving research findings out to the broader community to encourage dissemination and impact creation. As part of this role I'm going to attend an FP7 (EU) Information and Communication Technologies Funding Day  in Edinburgh on the 20th of July. I've been involved in a number of EU projects in the past and I think the range of EU opportunities affords us some timely knowledge transfer pathways. 

Finally, my new school is seeking applications for a lectureship in human-computer interaction and a lectureship in Software Engineering which each have a closing date of 15 September 2010.   The lectureship in human-computer interaction is funded by the Scottish  Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA).  "The overall objectives of SICSA are to build a world-class Scottish computer science research community and to promote cultural change so that researchers in Scotland work collaboratively rather than in competition. The SICSA research themes of Next-generation Internet, Multi-modal Interaction, Modelling and Abstraction and Complex Systems Engineering."

I'm looking forward to some fun and exciting times here. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 2010 - MUM2010 and AutomotiveUI 2010

I have been invited to serve on the Program Committee for MUM 2010This is "a leading annual international conference, which provides a forum for presenting the latest research results on mobile and ubiquitous multimedia. The conference brings together experts from both academia and industry for a fruitful exchange of ideas and discussion on future challenges".

The 9th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM 2010) will be in Limassol, Cyprus, 1st - 3rd December, 2010. It is organized by Cyprus University of Technology and Frederick University, Cyprus. (website

I've also been invited to serve on the Program Committee for Automotive UI 2010 which will be held in Pittsburgh, 11-12 November 2010.

"In-car electronic devices are becoming ubiquitous. Drivers and passengers use these devices because they perceive them as providing a valuable service. Some of these devices, such as collision warning systems, assist drivers in performing the primary task in a vehicle which is driving. Others provide information on myriad subjects or entertain the driver and passengers. A problem that arises from the proliferation of in-car devices is that they may distract drivers from the primary task of driving, with possibly disastrous results. Thus, one of the three major goals of the Automotive UI 2010 conference is to explore ways in which in-car user interfaces can be designed so as to avoid distracting the driver while still providing a valuable service. This is a challenging task, especially given that the design of in-car devices, which was historically the responsibility of car manufacturers and OEMs, is now a shared responsibility between a large and ever-changing group of parties. This group includes the car manufacturers and OEMs, but also the designers of devices that are brought in to the car, such as portable personal navigation devices and MP3 players." (website

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May 2010 - Workshop on coupled display visual interfaces

PPD’10 our workshop on coupled display visual interfaces has been accepted as a workshop of the 10th International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces (AVI 2010). This workshop will be on May 25th, immediately preceding the main conference on May 26-28th. The website for this workshop can be found here PPD10. A Media Release from the HITLab Australia on this workshop can be found here - January 31 International Workshop on coupled display visual interfaces.

May 2010 - Keynote Talk - IDEs for Pervasive Computing

I have been invited to give a keynote talk at the First International Workshop on Programming Methods for Mobile and Pervasive Systems (PMMPS 10) which will be held in Helsinki, Finland on May 17, 2010 and is co-located with Pervasive 2010. The topic I have choosen for this talk is the Challenges in Producing Integrated Development Environments for Pervasive Computing. It's a topic I've been worrying about for a number of years and with my move to St. Andrews where there are world class Software Engineering and Pervasive Computing academics, it's something I hope to help address.
Integrated Development Environments or IDEs are single software applications that provide a comprehensive range of features to aid in the software development process. Features include the ability to author, edit, compile, test, debug and deploy software onto a range of target platforms. Moderns IDEs support developers creating software applications for desktop platforms, mobile phones, set-top boxes, and PDAs. However, Pervasive Computing or Ubiquitous Computing consists of a myriad of hardware, software, systems and services which act as the computational edifice around which we need to build systems to afford natural or “invisible” interaction styles. This is driven by the evolution from the notion of a computer as a single device, to the notion of a computing space comprising personal and peripheral computing elements and services all connected and communicating as required. Further complications arise when we consider the range of GUI applications which might be deployed which in some contexts may have access to 1 display and in others 10.

In this context, with varying hardware, software, services and sensors being available throughout the context of use for a particular "pervasive application", what challenges do we face in the development of suitable IDEs and is this even the correct paradigm? This talk will survey the approaches taken to date in this space and will seek to motivate a broader interest in the challenge of increasing developer productivity through IDEs which are not fragile to the vagaries of Pervasive Computing contexts of use.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apr 2010 - Professor in the Chair of Human Computer Interaction

I will be moving to Scotland in July of 2010 to start my new appointment as Professor in the Chair of Human Computer Interaction at the School of Computer Science in St. Andrews University Scotland.

"St Andrews (founded in 1411) is the oldest university in Scotland. It has won international renown for both research and education and consistently features among the highest ranking British universities in league tables compiled, for example, by the Times Higher Education Supplement".

"The School of Computer Science organises its research by working within small but highly motivated teams. These teams are often fluid, acquiring and losing researchers as the focus of interest shifts. To stimulate such a dynamic high-quality environment, the School’s research is organised into a three overlapping themes that cover four areas of theoretical and practical Computer Science:
  • Networked and distributed systems including computer networking, distributed systems engineering and systems architecture
  • Complex systems engineering including software engineering, system dependability, middleware and social informatics
  • Artificial intelligence and symbolic computation including computational algebra, computational logic, natural language processing, constraint programming, intelligent computation, automated reasoning and image processing."
The School is a host institution in the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), which is providing partial funding for my post (

"The overall objectives of SICSA are to build a world-class Scottish computer science research community and to promote cultural change so that researchers in Scotland work collaboratively rather than in competition. The SISCA research themes of Next-generation Internet, Multi-modal Interaction, Modelling & Abstraction and Complex Systems Engineering."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jan 2010 - Six PhD scholarships at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory Australia

The Human Interface Technology Laboratory Australia (HITLab AU) is pleased to announce that applications are now open for 6 fully funded PhD scholarships within the lab starting in 2010. 

The deadline for applications is Mar 1st 2010. 

The topics of these projects include:

- Interactive Surface User Interfaces
- Tangible User interfaces
- Hybrid AR Tracking
- Mixed Reality for Digital Museums 
- Digital Physical Gaming 

We are looking for exceptionally well-qualified, motivated candidates who want to be part of the first phase of our development into a leading international research laboratory in interface technology research.