Category Archives: stuttgart

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!

Wrapping Up in Stuttgart

My summer in Germany has now come to an end and I’m back in Boston ready for my final year of my master’s! I’ve enjoyed my time in Europe and have truly learned a ton.

As a recap of my research project, we sought to analyze programming language proficiency based on eye movements. In the experiment, participants self-rated their programming skills then looked at a series of programs while the eye tracker recorded their eye movements. We asked participants to enter what they thought was the function of each program. The participants and I were separated by a divider as I monitored their progress (pictured below).

In one summer, I have identified a research question, designed an experiment around it, ran studies, and performed data analysis. I’m really proud of what I have achieved and have learned that I would be happy pursuing a career in research. Sure, there were frustrating times, but I learned to work through them.

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What I enjoyed most about working in the lab has been talking to the PhD students and fellow interns about different research within HCI. Hearing about their projects gets me really excited about the possibilities that this field can accomplish, and I find new perspectives on interesting questions that I have.

The theme of my time in Stuttgart has been encountering a problem and finding a solution to it, to keep moving forward. Not to be too cheesy but I know that whatever happens, I will be able to handle it. That is something that I have shown to myself from this experience. So bring it on, PhD!

A big shout-out and thank you to Dr. Andrew Kun and Dr. Orit Schaer for making the IRES program possible, to Dr. Albrecht Schmidt and his amazing team at the University of Stuttgart for welcoming me to their lab, to all my new friends both at the lab and at the student hotel, and to Jakob Karolus and Thomas Kosch for being the best supervisors I could ask for! I will miss Stuttgart immensely!

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Tchüss!

Calvin Liang

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!

 

 

Hallo! Introductions, Travel, and Research

My name is Calvin Liang, and I’m a Human Factors masters student at Tufts University. I’m so excited to be doing research abroad in Germany and am super grateful to be a part of the IRES program. I’ll use this blog to discuss my experiences in Stuttgart and Europe, including my research and general adventures.

We’ve been in Stuttgart for one month now and I can’t believe that so much time has passed. This is my first time in Europe, so it took some time to adjust, but I can say that I am now comfortably settled. The U-Bahn, which intimidated me at first, isn’t so different from the T back in Boston (plus it has air conditioning!). I’ve learned some German to safely stumble through a conversation with ja’s, bitte’s, danke’s, and genau’s.

I’ve been looking forward to traveling throughout Europe since I got here. So far, I’ve been able to go to Barcelona and Paris. Both were beautiful and I enjoyed walking around (usually lost) the most. La Sagrada Familia and Jardin du Luxembourg were some of my favorites. We will spend next week in Poland, and after that, I have plans to go to Heidelberg and Berlin.

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However, it’s not all fun and games and biergarten’s here — we work hard too! I am not only surrounded by incredible PhD students doing interesting work, but I am also taking on a project of my own. Together with my supervisors, Jakob and Thomas, we are analyzing programming language proficiency using eye movements. It’s been a great experience understanding and using the eye tracker, and I have been able to consider how cool sensors are in general. I will start running experiments this week! Here’s a picture of Jakob, Thomas, and me.

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That’s all for now! Tschuss!

2016 UNH IRES student research – part 2

In its third and final year, the UNH International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program has selected eight students to conduct research in the HCI Lab at the University of Stuttgart, under the supervision of my colleague Albrecht Schmidt. The UNH IRES program is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of International and Integrative Activities, and we are grateful for their support. The eight students were each assigned to a group within the HCI Lab and participated in the research activities of that group.

I asked each of the students to write a one-paragraph report on their summer experience in Stuttgart, focusing on their research, and on their cultural experience. This is the second installment of these brief reports, where we look at some of the research conducted by the students. (You can see the first installment here.)

Natalie Warren worked EEG recording devices:

Learning about EEG during the past two months under the supervision of Valentin and Jakob has been very rewarding. I’ve learned a huge amount about signal processing, experiment design, MATLAB, coding stimulus presentations, and brain activity, not to mention using EEG recording systems! We also got to put our knowledge to use early in the program by measuring electrical activity generated by the eye movement of some of our colleagues (like Anna, pictured here).

Whitney Fahnbulleh worked on augmenting human memory:

This summer I have been developing a photo gallery application for the “recall” project, a project that explores ways to augment human memory. I have been implementing various ways users can interact with the gallery through touch gestures, mid-air gestures, speech recognition, and keyboard input. My end goal for this project is to flesh out the user interface design and run user studies on the application. I have learned so much about computer vision this summer, and I look forward to working on future projects for recall.

Aditi Joshi worked on visualizing uncertainty:

For the past two months, I have been working on designing and implementing a study investigating uncertainty visualizations. In the future, the amount of uncertain information that we will have access to will increase and often they will have conflicting information. With this study, we are trying to understand how people aggregate uncertainty information so we can implement these techniques in future technologies. In this picture Anna is participating in the study and providing us with some great data.

Donovan O.A. Toure how the realism of virtual faces affects the human observer:

This summer, I worked on the perception of computer generated/virtual faces within the Uncanny Valley by analyzing brain waves as an individual is presented with virtual faces with varying levels of detail. In addition to learning about EEG, digital signal processing, and the uncanny valley, I worked on stimulus creation–including 3D modelling–to help carry out the experiment design.