Tag: research (page 1 of 8)

Belgian CHI Papers

It’s that time of the year again. This week, the annual CHI conference is taking place in Austin, Texas. While I’m not attending, I do try to follow the program somewhat through Twitter.

CHI is generally considered to be the most prestigious conference on Human-Computer Interaction, with acceptance rates between 20 and 25% (CHI currently has an overall acceptance rate of 23%: 2,930 papers were accepted out of 12,583 submissions). HCI research labs and individual researchers are often compared based on their track record for CHI (or the lack thereof). For example, Professor Jan Borchers of RWTH Aachen maintains a ranking of German universities based on the number of CHI archival publications (full papers or notes) since 2003.

Unfortunately, participation of Belgian universities and companies at CHI tends to be rather limited, especially with respect to these archival publications. Our lab, for example, got work-in-progress papers accepted before (e.g., Telebuddies), co-organized CHI workshops (e.g., User interface description languages for next generation user interfaces), and had people in the organizing committee, but we did not (yet) get a full paper or note accepted to CHI. I must say we don’t always try every year, though. On the other hand, we do publish at more specialized conferences, such as UIST (D-Macs), Pervasive (Situated Glyphs), 3DUI (Vanacken et al.), Tabletop/ITS (FluidPaint [video]), PERCOM (Pervasive Maps), INTERACT (Haesen et al.), MobileHCI (Luyten et al.), AVI (Gummy), and EICS (CAP3). Some of these more specialized conferences are considered to be as competitive and prestiguous as CHI. This is especially the case for UIST, but also for CSCW, DIS and Ubicomp & Pervasive (for the related area of ubiquitous computing). Since other scientific disciplines (e.g., physics, biology) are mostly focused on journals instead of conferences, some people explicitly mention the importance of top HCI conferences such as CHI and UIST in their resume.

What about other Belgian universities? In 2009, dr. David Geerts from CUO (KULeuven) had a full paper accepted to CHI. This was the first CHI archival publication from a Belgian institution in years. At that same edition of CHI, two researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) presented a scientometric analysis of the CHI proceedings up until 2008. Their analysis seems to indicate that the paper by Geerts was just the second Belgian archival paper at CHI. Indeed, Belgium has exactly 1 credit in the main proceedings up until 2008:

As far as I can tell, this refers to the paper at INTERCHI ‘93 by Jean Vanderdonckt and François Bodart of the Université Catholique de Louvain. Note that INTERCHI ‘93 was in fact a joint INTERACT+CHI conference (it was also the first CHI conference that was held outside North America).

Belgium’s neighbouring countries do a lot better in the analysis: the Netherlands have 17.17 credits, France has 27.03 credits and Germany is a clear winner with a score of 39.74 in the main proceedings. Belgium’s total number of credits per million inhabitants (which includes credits for extended abstracts — non-archival publications) is a bit higher than that of France, though (1.78 vs. 1.34).

Fortunately, the situation seems to be improving. Last year, KULeuven had another 2 archival papers accepted to CHI 2011: a note by Geerts, and a full paper by Karl Gyllstrom. This year, there is a note co-authored by Anand Ramamoorthy from the University of Ghent. Steven Houben, an UHasselt alumnus (and one of my former Master’s thesis students) who is now working on a PhD in Jakob Bardram’s group, got a CHI 2012 full paper accepted too (congrats again, Steven!). Of course, there’s the question of what really constitutes a Belgian CHI paper. Is it enough if the paper is (co-)authored by researchers employed by a Belgian institution, or do the authors have to be Belgian? While Karl Gyllstrom and Anand Ramamoorthy are affiliated with Belgian universities, they are not Belgian citizens (as far as I can tell). On the other hand, while Steven is a Belgian citizen, he is not affiliated with a Belgian university or company.

This made me wonder if there were any other Belgians working abroad who ever co-authored papers at CHI. I could only think of Professor Pattie Maes (VUB alumna) who directs the Fluid interfaces group at MIT Media Lab (she currently has 4 CHI papers according to DBLP). I would love to hear about other people that I might have missed.

To conclude, there is certainly room for improvement, although we’re not doing that bad either. Let’s hope the HCI community in Belgium continues to grow and Belgium will eventually be as well represented at top HCI venues as our neighbouring countries.

Research update

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:


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



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.


Apparantely, there’s a Communications of the ACM group blog now, called blog@CACM. There is also a blog roll that includes the blog of Daniel Lemire, which happens to be one of my favorite research blogs. Although Daniel works in a different subdiscipline of computer science, I enjoy reading his research advice and interesting viewpoints on the process of doing research.

The group blog features an interesting post by Tessa Lau, titled Three Misconceptions About Human-Computer Interaction, which raises a few interesting points. In my opinion, HCI is much more fundamental to creating interactive systems than people usually believe. In this context, I would like to refer to an interview with Patrick Baudisch that I recently read, in which he explains how he got started in HCI:

Doantam: How did you get started working on human-computer interaction?

Patrick: Without knowing it. I was a Ph.D. student in Darmstadt, Germany and worked on user interfaces for information filtering systems. A friend of mine saw my work and said “oh, I did not know you were in HCI, too”.

That was the first time I heard of that field.

Australian conference and journal ranking

Just read an interesting post on Albrecht Schmidt‘s blog about the Australian conference and journal rankings.

No big surprises in the list of course, but nevertheless interesting to have a look at. The problem (at least in Belgium) seems to be that the rankings used for university funding are focused mostly on journals. The top conferences are often only ranked slightly higher than average conferences, meaning that two or three papers at a mid-level conference will be better in terms of funding than one paper at a top conference. Of course, there is always the prestige and international recognition you receive when getting a paper accepted at a top conference

MIT Media Lab wearable projector prototype

Lode pointed me to an interesting article on Wired about research done at the Fluid Interfaces group of MIT Media Lab. The article was based on the recent TED Talk by Prof. dr. Pattie Maes (who is a Belgian by the way :-)).

In their prototype, the user carries a wearable projector that projects information on physical surfaces or objects. This is essentially augmented reality but without having to use VR helmets/goggles or other devices (e.g. mobile phones) to view digital annotations. Although there are already systems that use wall-mounted projectors to augment rooms with digital annotations (Jonathan Slenders also looked into this for his Master’s thesis), in this prototype the projector is mobile as it is simply worn around the user’s neck. The device could project useful annotations on physical objects, such as Amazon reviews on books or flight information on boarding passes:

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This reminds me of the topics that my student Ruben Thys explored for his Master’s thesis (paper, video). Our solution was a bit more clumsy than this one though (it required a mobile device to view information attached to physical objects). I also remember reading a related UIST’06 paper that described multi-user interaction techniques with handheld projectors.

Wearable projectors seem to be a promising approach to provide feedback in ubiquitous computing, and might help to further bridge the physical and virtual worlds.