Quite a few things happened since I last posted about my research. Here is a (not so short) summary of what happened during my blogging leave of absence

Ubicomp 2009

Our work on supporting why and why not questions to improve end-user understanding in Ubicomp environments was accepted as a poster to Ubicomp 2009

Answering Why and Why Not Questions in Ubiquitous Computing

Jo Vermeulen, Geert Vanderhulst, Kris Luyten, and Karin Coninx. Answering Why and Why Not Questions in Ubiquitous Computing. To appear in the Ubicomp ’09 Conference Supplement (Poster), Orlando, Florida, US, September 30th – October 3rd, 2009, 3 pages.

Abstract: Users often find it hard to understand and control the behavior of a Ubicomp system. This can lead to loss of user trust, which may hamper the acceptance of these systems. We are extending an existing Ubicomp framework to allow users to pose why and why not questions about its behavior. Initial experiments suggest that these questions are easy to use and could help users in understanding how Ubicomp systems work.

There is a separate page for the poster on my homepage, including a PDF version of the poster and the extended abstract.

Mario Romero has an excellent Ubicomp 2009 photo set on Flickr.

Here’s a picture of me explaining the poster:

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And here I am presenting in the One Minute Madness session:

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Karel Robert helped me create a video for the One Minute Madness session that would stand out. Although it might have been a bit too attention-grabbing, I certainly had fun making it and presenting in the Madness session.

Here is the video:

Next to presenting my poster, I also served as a Ubicomp 2009 student volunteer, which earned me a place in Joe McCarthy’s opening slides for the conference (slide 6)

Being a student volunteer was lots of fun! I got to meet a lot of interesting people, and still had the opportunity to follow most of the sessions. I also explored the parks together with a few of the other volunteers (Ubicomp 2009 was held in Disney World), and we even played beach volley on the last day

When we went to the Magic Kingdom, I had to see Randy Pausch’s plaque at the Mad Tea Party:

Randy Pausch plaque in Disney World containing a quote from the Last Lecture

The plaque contains a quote from Randy’s Last Lecture:

Randy Pausch: Be good at something; It makes you valuable... Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.

If you haven’t watched the Last Lecture yet, I strongly recommend you do! It will be an hour well-spent.

Full paper accepted to AmI 2009

The full paper that we submitted to the third international conference on Ambient Intelligence 2009, was accepted as well. This work was a collaboration with Jonathan Slenders, one of our Master’s students.

I Bet You Look Good on the Wall: Making the Invisible Computer Visible

Jo Vermeulen, Jonathan Slenders, Kris Luyten, and Karin Coninx. To appear in the Proceedings of AmI ’09, the Third European Conference on Ambient Intelligence, Salzburg, Austria, November 18th – 21st, 2009, Springer LNCS, 10 pages.

Abstract: The design ideal of the invisible computer, prevalent in the vision of ambient intelligence (AmI), has led to a number of interaction challenges. The complex nature of AmI environments together with limited feedback and insufficient means to override the system can result in users who feel frustrated and out of control. In this paper, we explore the potential of visualizing the system state to improve user understanding. We use projectors to overlay the environment with a graphical representation that connects sensors and devices with the actions they trigger and the effects those actions produce. We also provided users with a simple voice-controlled command to cancel the last action. A small first-use study suggested that our technique could indeed improve understanding and support users in forming a reliable mental model..

There is again a separate page for the paper on my homepage, together with a PDF version.

Basically, our technique visualizes the different events that occur in a Ubicomp environment, and shows how these events can lead to the system taking actions on behalf of the user and what effects these actions have. Here is a video of the technique:

The AmI 2009 conference takes place in Salzburg in about three weeks.

Talk at SIGCHI.be

I also submitted a paper to SIGCHI.be‘s (the Belgian SIGCHI chapter) 2009 Fall Conference on New Communities. The paper was titled Improving Intelligibility and Control in Ubicomp Environments, and motivated the need for intelligibility and control in Ubicomp while also giving a short summary of the Ubicomp 2009 poster and AmI 2009 paper.

Here are the slides:

[slideshare id=2276932&doc=sigchibe-091019085111-phpapp02]

Thanks to everyone at our lab who contributed in one way or another (either by participating in user studies, or by reviewing drafts of the papers)

Specials thanks to:

  • Karel Robert for designing the visualizations we used in the AmI 2009 paper and for helping me with the Ubicomp 2009 One Minute Madness video.
  • Daniël Teunkens for drawing the why question storyboards that were used in the SIGCHI.be presentation.
  • Mieke Haesen for being a great actress in the AmI 2009 movie
  • Kris Gabriëls for posing in the picture we used for the Ubicomp 2009 poster abstract.