Lodz HCI Summer School: Part 1

Hello!

This past week, we participated in the Łódź HCI Summer School in Łódź, Poland. Our first lesson of the summer school was how to pronounce Łódź (“Wooj”).

Over the course of the week, we listened to keynotes and participated in workshops centered around topics and methods of HCI research. This experience was great not only because I got to learn from incredible researchers, but I also was able to meet fellow students of HCI from all over Europe. It was great to interact with the international HCI community! Here’s a picture of the Father of IRES, Andrew Kun, lecturing on human-vehicle interactions:

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Overall, I was most excited learning about how the iterative design process applies to HCI research. The Human Factors student in me was very happy! It is great to know that the user-centered design approach is not just available but also crucial to the entire process.

In one workshop, we worked on functional prototyping. Using EMG sensors, my group and I created a game where a player could play pinball on a computer. EMG sensors on their arms controlled each flipper of the pinball game. After building our prototypes, we tested our products in the wild with real people! It was fun grabbing people who were walking by for the sake of science and seeing how excited they were to play pinball with our prototype.

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There were so many other parts of summer school than just learning! I’ll be covering that in my next post.

Ciao!

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

Fourth Week in Oldenburg

In our fourth week at Oldenburg, many exciting events occurred, including the Fourth of July and Orit and Andrew’s visit.

On Independence Day, I made an American flag fruit tart that I brought to work. Later in the day, Susanne Boll (the professor in charge) invited us to her home for hot dogs, and I made another American-themed dessert: brownies.

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Susanne tried to translate what a “brownie” is for her young children, starting with “cookie,” then “chocolate cake,” and finally settling with “chocolate bar,” which is rather accurate.

Michelle and multimodal poster

Later in the week, Orit and Andrew visited, and the three of us IRES Oldenburg students presented our research so far through a poster presentation and demos. I showed my work in Multimodal Attention Arousal in Head-Mounted Displays, where I’ve been working with Arduino, vibration motors/speakers, and 3D-rendering/3D-printing in order to figure out user perception of urgency in different audio and vibro-tactile parameters. The motivation behind my research is alarm fatigue in staff working in safety-critical environments such as hospitals, where the vast amount of loud alarm noises as well as false alarms creates desensitization.

Michelle demo with Andrew

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!

University of New Hampshire