All posts by Lauren Futami

Poland and Summer Wrap-Up

These past few weeks absolutely flew by as we were all busy with our week of summer school in Poland as well as finishing up our projects in the few remaining weeks we had in Germany.  Poland was a lot of fun; it was a week filled with informative lectures on new technological applications in human-computer interaction as well as hands-on workshops that involved various skills like sketching and prototyping.  I also got to experience and learn a lot about the culture and history of Łódź, like how the bustling shopping center known as Manufaktura was once a textile factory.  We were lucky enough to be able to zipline off the rooftop of Manufaktura and see the beautiful views from above.

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I met lots of graduate students and professionals at the summer school too, and it was fun collaborating and learning with them during our afternoon workshops.  There were lots of after-school activities a lot of us participated in too, like a walking tour of Łódź where we got to see some really interesting sites like this hallway of broken mirrors formed together to look like flowers.

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I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Poland again, but I had a lot of fun during my week there at the summer school!

Once Midori, Calvin, and I got back to Stuttgart, we were all busy finishing up our projects before the end of our internships.  Although there was a steep learning curve in the beginning, I finally was making a lot of progress with my underwater Unity environment.  I was especially happy with how all of my scripts were turning out, especially with all of the object movement in the scene.  Since Midori and I sat in the same office, I would lean over and make her test my environment to make sure what I was trying to simulate still made sense.  It was a lot of fun working with the Oculus, especially since I had absolutely no experience with virtual reality before coming to Germany.  This is what my setup looked like:

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I was able to finish up the underwater environment and give a brief demo to Tonja and Pascal!  I was really happy with how it turned out, and even though I’ll no longer have an Oculus headset to use, Pascal gave me a lot of useful information of how I can convert the scene to Google Cardboard so I can use my phone and be able to see the scene I built in a virtual environment.

The entire lab also had a summer barbecue party!  There was so much good food and competitive ping pong, it was a really fun way to wrap up our summer in Germany.

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Before coming to Germany this summer, I was nervous about how everything would work out – research at the University, living in Germany, the language barrier – but these past two months flew by in a whirl.  I learned so much, not only about human-computer interaction research, but also about graduate school in general and how to even just live on my own in a foreign country.  I had so much fun this summer, I’m so happy I was able to take part in this opportunity!

June in Stuttgart

Hallo!

My name is Lauren Futami, and I’m spending June and July here in Stuttgart, Germany, working in the Human Computer Interaction Lab at Stuttgart University.  I’m here with two other students – Midori Yang from Wellesley College and Calvin Liang from Tufts University.  We each have our own projects and supervising graduate students to guide us in our work – I’m working with Tonja and Pascal (they’re both incredibly nice and fun to talk to!).  They’re working on a virtual reality research project and the effects of haptic feedback on users in the virtual environment.  This haptic feedback is possible in the virtual world by using drones equipped with various materials that float in front of the user so that when the user physically reaches out to touch something in the virtual environment, she can actually “feel” the virtual object when she consequently touches the drone.

My project for the summer is to create an environment that naturally causes the user to interact with the drone in three different ways – reaching out to touch an object (active), having the drone bump into the user (passive), and having the user reach out and grab an item from the drone (like a key or a coin).  I decided to create an underwater scenario in which the user will reach out to touch a fish, feel jellyfish tentacles as they swim by, and pick up a worm from a fishing line that conveniently hangs in front of the user.  I have never worked with Unity before, and it’s been a bit difficult to get used to working with it, but I’ve learned so much about its capabilities, and I’m having fun solving the problems that arise in my underwater scene.  Luckily, Tonja and Pascal helped set me up with a monitor, so I have a large screen to spread all of my thoughts out.

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That’s not all, though!  Tonja, Pascal, and I are reading through a virtual reality book together filled with useful background information on the technical and behavioral aspects of VR!   We have these weekly meetings where we discuss the most recent chapter we’ve read, and I’m having a lot of fun listening to Tonja (who has incredible knowledge on the psychology and human behaviors to VR) and Pascal (who knows all about the technology and physics behind VR).  I’ve really been enjoying the work!

Midori, Calvin, and I have also been traveling a bit!  We were able to attend a day workshop on wearable technology in Saarbrücken, a small city near the German/France border.  This is us taking a picture outside of the lab at the university there.  Even though the abbreviation is MCI (for Mensch-Computer-Interaktion), we liked to think the “i” was just a lowercase “L” so it really stood for “Midori, Calvin, and Lauren.”

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I also traveled to London a few weeks ago!  I went with Midori while Calvin went to Barcelona to visit his friend there.  Midori and I both have never been to London before, but we both really enjoyed it!  We did a lot of sightseeing and just general walking around.  While we were in London, we were also able to visit Stonehenge, a place I’ve always seen in pictures but never thought I would actually get to see in person.

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We also just celebrated 4th of July with the lab!  Every year, the American interns throw a barbecue for the entire lab, so we did our best this year to bring in some fun American cheer!  It was a strange feeling coming into the lab on the 4th of July and having everyone treat it like a regular work day while I talked to my friends back in Boston who were already celebrating.  Even though it was just us three organizing the barbecue, I think we managed to pull it off pretty well.  I had fun and I think others did too!  This is mostly everyone who was at the barbecue (Calvin took the photo).

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Anyway, we’re all off to Łódź, Poland tomorrow for the weeklong summer school on methods in HCI at Łódź University of Technology.  I’m excited to visit Poland and learn even more about HCI!

Bis dann!