Category Archives: travel

HCI Summer School in Łódź, Poland

Hello, it’s Michelle again, writing this from Łódź, Poland! We are currently at the Lodz University of Technology for a week-long HCI summer school. It has been a great experience so far, and I’ve been able to meet HCI postdoc students and professors from all over Europe while exploring a country I’ve never visited before.

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All of the summer school participants I’ve gotten to know have been extremely friendly and helpful. We were split into six groups, with one IRES student in each group. My group consists of Toni (an Eastern German phD student in Austria), Paulina (a Polish phD student in Sweden), Jan (from the Czech Republic), and Jakob (one of the Stuttgart postdocs). We’ve all gotten along very well, with each of them telling me about their respective academic experiences. Toni has given me great encouragement regarding graduate school and such.

jan, paulina, toni, and michelle at lodz uni

I also finally met someone younger than me for the first time this summer – Mikołaj, the younger brother of the summer school organizer, who is volunteering for the program. He thinks I’m very lucky to have been able to enroll in this school as an undergraduate, as that’s normally not allowed, which has given me even more appreciation for this opportunity.

Mikołaj and Michelle at the closing dinner

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!

Saarbrücken lab tours

Recently, the UNH IRES group visited Saarbrücken, Germany to tour two HCI labs at Universität des Saarlandes. We were all quite amazed by research effort at both labs.

The Innovative Retail Lab at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence  (DFKI) is conducting multiple studies on innovative shopping solutions and more! The simulated intelligent supermarket (pictured) provides shoppers with virtual assistance through smart shopping carts and sensor-based shelves that provide nutritional feedback. Very cool!

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The Embodied Interaction Lab, housed in the Max Planck Institute for Informatics (Cluster of Excellence “Multimodal Computing and Interaction”), studies a range of HCI-related topics. We got to see all sorts of futuristic inventions, from use cases of flexible displays to sensor-based on-body devices.  iSkin (pictured) is a flexible, stretchable, ground-breaking technology that detects touch input on skin (it is also the winner of the Best Paper Award at CHI ’15!).

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After a day of lab tours, we had the chance to indulge in some German-Mexican fare! A few of us had been missing “American food,” so this was a great opportunity to have some enchiladas while socializing with the Saarbrücken researchers. Of course, some delicious dessert was enjoyed as well (pictured).

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And a selfie was taken!

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First Lab Visit in UNH IRES Program: Hasso Plattner Institute

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On June 30th, 2014 we met with Dominik Schmidt at Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI). HPI was Founded in 1998 and is the first, and still the only entirely privately funded university college in Germany.

 

Dominik is currently doing research in human-computer interaction. More specifically, in his research, he scales natural user interfaces to span entire rooms and creates novel interaction technologies and techniques with the goal to enable seamless and powerful interaction across physical space.Before joining Patrick Baudisch at HPI’s Human Computer Interaction Lab in Potsdam, Germany, Dominik received his Ph.D. from  Lancaster University, UK, where he was part of the Embedded Interactive Systems (EIS) group. You can check out his blog here.

 

The objective of the human computer interaction department at HPI is to unify the virtual world of the computer with the physical world of the user into a single space. During our visit we got a glimpse of a few projects they are working on. The most intriguing piece of technology they have is an interactive floor. One research project Dominik showed us is GravitySpace. GravitySpace is a new approach to tracking people and objects indoors. Unlike traditional solutions based on cameras, GravitySpace reconstructs scene data from a pressure-sensing floor. While the floor is limited to sensing objects in direct contact with the ground, GravitySpace reconstructs contents above the ground by first identifying objects based on their texture and then applying inverse kinematics.

A picture during our visit. This is the room below the interactive floor. 
GravitySpace recognizes people and objects. We use a mirror-metaphor to show how GravitySpace identifies users and tracks their location and poses, solely based on the pressure imprints they leave on the floor.
 HPI says

Smart rooms support users by offering not only a series of convenient functions, like home automation, but also by acting pro-actively on the user’s behalf. To this end, such rooms need to know their own geometry as well as the people and their actions within it.”

The GravitySpace prototype senses pressure at 1mm resolution and projects across an active area of 8 m² in a single seamless piece–a 10x larger version of multitoe.

Check out this video of GravitySpace:

Another projects they showed us is called Haptic Turk Wwalk-Up VR where a user can use his/her friends for motion based feedback in a virtual world. This is a great solution because it not only involves your friends it is also a cheap solution to not buying an expensive motion platform.
Fully immersive experience with motion feedback based on People