University of Canterbury (Christchurch, NZ)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to update the blog. Well, after Stanford I spent a fantastic half a day walking around San Francisco, and then I got into the almost eternal flight to New Zeeland. There I was received by Carl Gutwin, my supervisor, and by Andy Cockburn, who leads the HCI and Multimedia Lab. (Note: Andy is probably the best host ever).

My last day in NZ I got to visit the lab, and meet and get to know the work of Andy’s students and David Ahlstrom, a visiting researcher. David is an expert in menu selection. Jason Alexander is just finishing his Ph.D., but he is already well known for his work on document navigation. Finally, the other student I got to spend considerable time with is Suzanne Tak, who is bulding some fancy prototypes for application switching (let’s hope that she releases the first version to the public soon!).

After that I got to briefly visit the HIT lab, meet Mark Billinghurst, and see a demo by Andy’s ex-student Julian Looser.

Christchurch has definitely been one of the highlights of the trip so far. I would like to thank everyone for their hospitality (special thanks to Andy), and for their insightful questions at the talk.

Stanford University

I’m blogging from Stanford. Bjoern Hartmann organized my visit to the HCI group (I knew Bjoern because we shared an office at Microsoft Research last summer).

After a brief tour of the facilities, I got to talk to some students (and post-docs) and their research. David Akers will be presenting work at CHI on using UNDO (as in what you see under the edit menu of your favorite programs) as a marker for the analysis and detection of usability problems. Steven Dow (post-doc at Stanford, PhD at Georgia Tech) got to tell me a bit about his studies in how prototype helps design.

Then I got to give my talk where I got a lot of interesting questions from faculty and students, but especially from faculty (Scott Klemmer, Terry Winograd, Stu Card). It was kind of imposing to talk to this audience, but I think it went well, and there was interest in my work and in some of the NECTAR students’ projects. After the talk, Andreas Paepcke had the time to show me his new Kindle, and discuss a bit about pen-based interfaces.

After the talk I could meet with some other students that I had met at UIST: Ranjitha Kumar, who is working on making web creation easier for novices and Joel Brandt who analyzes and designs for programmers information retrieval needs.

I enjoyed my visit to Stanford: people were really welcoming, the campus feels like being in southern Spain, and the weather was wonderful. Thanks Bjoern for organizing the visit!

Tomorrow I’ll get to see a bit of San Francisco.

Seattle (UW)

The plan for Monday was tight: lunch at Microsoft Research and then University of Washington.
At MSR I got to see Andy Wilson, Hrvoje Benko, Patrick Baudisch, Merrie Morris and Daniel Wigdor (another ex-Nectarine).

After that it was time to head to the University of Washington and talk to Jake Wobbrock, who did not know about NECTAR (issue corrected), and he told me about his latest research, which is focused on interaction techniques and devices for people with a disability.

Although the timing for Seattle was also awful (no possibility for a talk, no students in town), all in all
it was a very interesting visit. Also, it is always nice to go back to the awesome Emerald City…

Now I’m blogging from San Francisco, where the weather is awful :(.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions that I get:

1. How many locations in how many days? Are you nuts?
32 days, 15 locations. Yes, I’m a bit crazy.

2. How did you land such a sweet deal?
It was Carl’s idea (my supervisor), and then I had to prepare an itinerary that was later approved by the NECTAR management. It took me a while to prepare the trip too. I just hope to do a really good job as a "NECTAR AMBASSADOR".

3. How did you get convinced to do such an awful and tiring trip?
I didn’t need convincing… I love traveling. I just miss Kate.

4. You’re gonna get some air miles, eh! ;P
Well, to keep the budget low, I had to choose the cheapest flights for each leg of the trip. This means that I’m going to collect a marginal amount in five different programs (i.e. no real benefit). Besides, I hate air miles programs. I would rather just have them charge less.

5. When you travel, do you also have a life?
Yes! But not as much as I would like… In Toronto I got to see Susana, but missed Ragu, in Calgary I got to see Mike, but missed Amanda, in Vancouver I got to see Susan, but missed Janet.

6. Can I put comments in your blog?
Yes! You can access my blog from miguelissimo.spaces.live.com and do a lot more things than from nacenta.com (e.g. comment). (OK, I don’t really get this question that often, but I had to put it somewhere…) 😉

University of British Columbia

On Friday it was time for the last of my NECTAR visits: UBC in Vancouver. Of the two UBC NECTAR profs, only Kelly Booth is currently in Vancouver, but I got to meet Joanna McGrenere‘s students even though she was away.

It was great to see Joel Lanir wrapping up his PhD work on Multi-display for public presentations. Karyn Moffatt and Leah Findlater’s have been busy making menu selection faster by applying perception research. Garth Shoemaker is taking further (way further) his idea of using shadows for interaction with large displays. Finally, Russ MacKenzie and Evgeni Maksakov showed me their research on 3D, one for architects, the other one in large displays. I didn’t get to see Kirstie Hawkey‘s last work, but she actually took care of setting up the schedule. Thanks Kirstie!

After the great visit (thank you all), I finally got to spend some time with Susan, who saved me from missing my plane today (I’m now in Seattle) – Thanks again for everything!

(uff… it feels good to be up to date again)

Last day in Toronto: Autodesk Research

Today in Toronto I had the opportunity to visit Autodesk Research, invited by ex-Nectarine Tovi Grossman. For those of you unfamiliar with HCI, apart from Tovi, Autodesk Research (previously Alias Wavefront) has an impressive list of names that you keep coming across in this field: Kurtenbach, Fitzmaurice and Khan (among others).

It was a bit imposing to present my 3D-related research in a place where 3D is one of the core strengths… Thanks for hosting me and for the nice dialog about Multi-display environments and 3D perception!

After the visit I got to do some tourism of the city, guided by Susana, an ex-student of the Interaction lab at the U of Saskatchewan. The weather was nice, and the view from the CN Tower stunning.

University of Toronto

My day at U of T started relatively late, which is nice because I could sleep a nice eight hours.

Jonathan Deber, a Master student at DGP organized the visit. The visit included a well attended talk, and demonstrations/chats with a number of students from both the Dynamic Graphics Project where they do a variety of computer graphics and HCI research, and to the Knowledge Media Design Institute, well, to a very small part of it, because if you check their website you will learn that KDMI is actually a huge organization.

After lunch with Ravin Balakrishnan and some students it was time to see the research. Going back and forward between the two floors where DGP and KMDI are located in the Bahen centre, I learnt about what some of their students (and research assistants) are cooking up. I got to meet Kent Fenwick, who is working on assisting  people with and without mild cognitive imparements to remember the names of people you meet and live around (something that would be particularly useful for me now that I’m meeting so many people). In a related project, Masashi Crete-Nishihata is improving the lives of people with memory-related cognitive impairments, their families, and their care-takers by moving memories and identities into media. I had the luck also to finally shake hands with Ron Baeker, largely responsible for all this NECTAR thing, and of too many research projects to mention here. It was also great to see Annette, who keeps NECTAR running smoothly until the end. Then I got Delia to show me the latest develoments of ePresence, KDMI’s brain child platform that allows people to hold seminars, conferences and classes across the university or across continents. Actually ePresence has been used since the beginning by NECTAR to broadcast the voice, text and slides of talks and classes to all the Canadian universities involved.

Back at the DGP I had a very insightful talk with Seok-Hyung Bae about his work on 3D sketching interfaces and other interesting issues in 3D representation, and with Xiao Jun Bi on large displays (which is a topic very dear to me). To finish the day I got to see the prototype for mobile haptic interaction of Koji Yatani, who will make your hands trill with information. Finally, I got to talk to Jonathan about his projects for his masters, which I’m sure he would prefer me not to disclose publicly (yet).


Thanks to all the Toronto people for showing me your research and to Jonathan (and Mike Wu) for taking care of my visit. I’m sure I’ll read about all this research soon in the top conferences.

Saskatoon Airport

I’m sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight to board. Already missing Kate.

Yesterday I tried to pack so that everything would be carry on… I did not succeed. The motivation not to check in anything is obvious: if they misplace my luggage in any of my 19 flights, I’m going to have to do extra shopping. However, it’s kind of hard to put everything that you need for 32 days on a very small suitcase.

First stop is Toronto. Flight goes through Winnipeg. Tomorrow I’ll take an early train to Kingston, Ontario, home of Queen’s University. Looking forward to seeing Tad again.