Monday, 31 March 2008

Fraunhofer IAIS visiting Essen

Today former colleagues from Fraunhofer IAIS visited the faculty of economics and computer science here in Essen. It was amazing how many topical connections we found between the research at IAIS and the work that is going on here in business studies, information system, and computer science. We discussed different options for future cooperation – in research and teaching – and I am very hopeful that we create interesting opportunities.

Last year, while still in Bonn, I organized summer @ IAIS. For this year we may go more interdisciplinary and set ourselves high goals… lets see.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

GIBU meeting in Dagstuhl

The week before Easter is the traditional time for the meeting of the GI group university professors (GIBU). GI (Gesellschaft für Informatik) is similar to the ACM, but on a national level. Due to other time constrains I was only able to be there for two days. We see that political aspects play more and more a role in our daily work life – if we like it or not it becomes essential to express our views with regard to computer science in Germany from a university perspective.

Besides this Dagstuhl (and in particular the wine cellar) is a good place to meet and to network. We discussed the option of doing a GI-Dagstuhl Seminar on novel user interface – let's see if we find the time. To my surprise I met one of my professors during my undergaded studies from the University of Ulm – Prof. Uwe Schöning. His book on theoretical computer science (Theoretische Informatik - kurz gefasst, in German) got me really excite for the subject. It is really a great book to read – even if you don’t do theory.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

DIY automotive UI design – or how hard is it to design for older people

The picture does not show a research prototype – it shows the actual interior of a 5-series BMW (fairly recent model). The driver (an elderly lady) adapted the UI to suit her needs. This modification includes the labeling of controls which are important, writing some instructions for more complicate controls close to them (hereby implementing one of the key ideas of embedded information [1]), an covering some to the user “useless” controls.

At first I assumed this is a prank* – but it seems to be genuine and that makes it really interesting and carries important lessons with regard to designing for drivers of 80 years and older. Having different skins (and not just GUIs more in a physical approach) as well as UI components that can be composed (e.g. based on user needs) in the embedded and tangible domain seem challenging but may new opportunities for customized UIs. Perhaps investigating ideas for personalizing physical user interfaces – and in particular car UIs – may be an interesting project.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Matthias Kranz, Paul Holleis. Embedded Information. UbiComp 2004, Workshop 'Ubiquitous Display Environments', September 2004

* will try to get more evidence that it is real :-)

Friday, 7 March 2008

Application Workshop of KDUbiq in Porto

After having frost and snow yesterday morning in Germany being in Porto (Portugal) is quite a treat. The KDubiq application workshop is in parallel to the summer school and yesterday evening it was interesting to meet up with some people teaching there.

The more I learn about data mining and machine learning the more I see even greater potential in many ubicomp application domains. In my talk “Ubicomp Applications and Beyond - Research Challenges and Visions” I looked back at selected applications and systems that we have developed over the last 10 year (have a look at the slides – I, too was surprised what variety of projects we did in the last years ;-). So far we have often used basic machine learning methods to implement – in many cases creating a version 2 of these systems where machine learning research is brought together with ubicomp research and new technology platforms could make a real difference.

Alessandro Donati from ESA gave a talk “Technology for challenging future space missions” which introduced several challenges. He explained their approach to technology introduction into mission control. The basic idea is that the technology providers create together with the users a new application or tool. He strongly argued for a user centred design and development process. It is interesting to see that the concept of user centred development processes are becoming more widespread and go beyond classical user interfaces into complex system development.

User-generated tutorials – implicit interaction as basis for learning

After inspiring discussions during the workshop and in the evening I reconsidered some ideas for automatically generated tutorials by user interaction. The basic idea is to capture usage of applications (e.g. using usa-proxy and doing screen capture) continuously – hard disks are nowadays big enough ;-) Using query mechanisms and data mining a user can ask for a topic and will then get samples of use (related to this situation). It creates some privacy questions but I think this approach could create a new approach to creating e-learning content…. maybe a project topic?

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Advertising 2.0 - Presentation at CeBIT

This morning I presented a short talk on new ways for outdoor advertisement at CeBIT. Based on results from interviews we know that shop windows and billboards are a well received medium. Similarly to measures we know from web logfiles I argue that it is interesting to have similar information on visitors, views, returns, durations for real world adverts.

The general approach we suggest is to use senor to measure activity – and as such measurements are incomplete there is need for data analysis and models. In two examples I show how this can be done using Bluetooth as sensing device. The slides (in German) are online.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

TEI08 Proceedings in the ACM DL online, mandatory reading

The proceedings of the 2nd international conference on Tangible and embedded interaction are online in the ACM digital library. Still not in the search index and with a few corrections to do...

Hiroshi Ishii contributed a paper on "Tangible bits: beyond pixels" - the first paper in the proceedings [1] and a great overview and introduction to the topic. If you are a student to start on tangible interaction or if you have students that start this paper is a mandatory reading!

[1] Ishii, H. 2008. Tangible bits: beyond pixels. In Proceedings of the 2nd international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Bonn, Germany, February 18 - 20, 2008). TEI '08. ACM, New York, NY, xv-xxv. DOI=

CeBIT Demo - always last minute...

Yesterday afternoon I was in Hannover at CeBIT to set up our part in a demo at the Fraunhofer stand (Hall 9, Stand B36). The overall topic of the fraunhofer presence is "Researching for the people".

After some difficulties with our implementation on the phone, the server and the network (wired and wireless - my laptop showed more than 30 wifi-accesspoints and a BT-scan showed 12 devices) we got the demo going. The demo is related to outdoor advertisement and together with Fraunhofer IAIS we provide an approach to estimate the number viewers/visitors. On Wednesday I will give a talk at CeBIT to explain some more details.

It seems demo are always finished last minute...