Launch of the Centre for Geoinformatics at the University of St Andrews, 27 June 2012

Our great colleagues at the Centre for Geoinformatics at the University of St Andrews are launching their research institute in style, with a day-workshop with a distinctively multi-disciplinary flavour. It is a free one-day event with international speakers.  See all the details here, and let them know that you want to come here before June 8th.


Workshop on Infrastructure and Design Challenges of Coupled Display Visual Interfaces PPD’12

Please, come to Capri to discuss MDEs with us!

Workshop on Infrastructure and Design Challenges of Coupled Display Visual Interfaces PPD’12
In conjunction with AVI’12, Capri, Italy, May 25, 2012
Following on from the very successful PPD’08 and PPD’10 workshops at previous AVI conferences.

Keywords: Multi-display environments, MDE infrastructure, Coupled Displays, Interaction Techniques

Submission deadline: March 30th
Acceptance notification: April 5th

The objective of PPD’12 is to bring together researchers active in the areas of multi-display user interfaces to share approaches and experiences, identify research and deployment challenges, and envision the next generation of applications that rely on visual interfaces that can spread across multiple displays. Among the possible outcomes of the workshop are a book and a grant application.

TOPICS (including but not restricted to):
-Understanding the design space and identifying factors that influence user interactions in this space
-Developing evaluation strategies to cope with the complex nature of multi-display environments
-Understanding the implications that display is shaped by human activity into an ecological arrangement and thus an ecology
-Ethnography and user studies of visual interfaces relying on coupled displays
-Examples of applications of coupled display interfaces in real-world applications
-Social factors that influence the design of suitable interaction techniques for shared and private displays
-Exploring interaction techniques that facilitate multi-display interfaces
-Novel input mechanisms for both private and public multi-touch devices as part of multi-display environments
-Techniques for supporting input re-direction and distributing information between displays
-SDK/APIs, IDEs, and hardware platforms for the development of coupled display visual interfaces

An increasing number of interactive displays of very different sizes, portability, projectability and form factors are starting to become part of the display ecosystems that we make use of in our daily lives. Displays are shaped by human activity into an ecological arrangement and thus an ecology. Each combination or ecology of displays offer substantial promise for the creation of applications that effectively take advantage of the wide range of input, affordances, and output capability of these multi-display, multi-device and multi-user environments. Although the last few years have seen an increasing amount of research in this area, knowledge about this subject remains under explored, fragmented, and cuts across a set of related but heterogeneous issues. We invite researchers and practitioners interested in the challenges posed by infrastructure and design.

The workshop will be for a full day and structured to provide maximum time for group discussion and brainstorming. Each participant will be expected to be familiar with all position papers (which will be available to them well in advance of the event). The workshop will structured around four sessions (separated by the morning break, lunch and afternoon break). In the first session the participants will briefly introduce themselves and engage in a brainstorm to outline key discussion topics for the two midday sessions. In the second and third session the group will be divided into sub-groups moderated by the workshop organisers to have focused discussions on some of the key topics identified earlier. In the fourth session the group will reconvene to summarise the advances identified in the breakout discussions.

Alan Dix, University of Birmingham/TALIS
Miguel Nacenta, University of St Andrews
Aaron Quigley, University of St Andrews
Tom Rodden, University of Nottingham

The position papers should be prepared according to the ACM SIGCHI Format (2 column, 10 point font size) and should not be longer than four pages. The submissions can present summarizing, on-going or speculative work.

Send submissions before the end of March 30th.
Submissions will be peer reviewed by a international program committee of multi-display and surface computing experts. Submissions do not have to be anonymous.


Dzmitry Aliakseyeu – Philips Research Europe
Simone DJ Barbosa – Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
Shlomo Berkovsky – NICTA
Alan Dix – University of Birmingham/TALIS
Adrian Friday – University of Lancaster
Rodger Lea – University of British Columbia
Alessio Malizia – Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Miguel Nacenta – University of St Andrews
Kenton O’Hara – Microsoft Research
Aaron Quigley – University of St Andrews
Stuart Reeves – University of Nottingham
Tom Rodden – University of Nottingham
Michael Rohs – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Lucia Terrenghi – Google
Frederic Vernier – Université Paris-Sud
Jim Wallace – University of Waterloo

An exemplary move

In April this year (2011) Kate and I moved our residence from Calgary, Canada, to Cellardyke, Scotland. Our budget for the move was limited, and, although we decided not to move any big pieces of furniture, we have quite a big collection of books. Moving is something that we dreaded since we knew we had to do it in January. So… how do you go about it?

Well, we started by looking on-line for moving companies. This is one of those sectors on the internet where most of what you find is aggregated sites that ask you to fill forms, and supposedly, they will send your way a number of quotes. Generally useless because most of the time you get nothing back, but sometimes even dangerous, because we got at least one quote (from Euro Transport International) that we later found by doing a quick search on-line was basically a scam (check this out for scary stories on how a move can become a nightmare).

Finally, we thought that it would be a lot safer to go local, and it paid off. Before anyone says anything, this post is just the result of grateful clients to a wonderfully executed service, and we have absolutely no conflict of interest here. The service from Highland Movers which operate as STARLINE OVERSEAS MOVING for international relocations was wonderful, friendly, courteous, timely, and dead-on on the estimation. We chose to do groupage to make it cheaper, but it still took shorter than expected. Every box arrived in perfect state, dry, and the movers back here were also friendly and very quick. In other words, if you are in western Canada, and need to move abroad, you should call these guys. Thanks Robin!!

So you have an idea, we moved about 195 cubic feet (equivalent to approx 80 banker’s boxes), and before insurance, the total price came below 4000 $CAN. It took about two months to arrive, and it could have been less if the local movers had trusted Kate that “a 40 foot truck will not fit through our narrow street”. After the initial payment there came no extra charges, not even from customs (at least so far).

Anyways, I thought I would put this out in the interwebs: if you are moving, please, check your mover with the BBB, do not trust anyone that does not want to do a visual inspection of your stuff, and choose local if you can. Also, if they are not very responsive on e-mail through the whole process, that’s probably a bad sign (I count at least 20 e-mails sent by our moving manager in the last few months).

“A Delicate Agreement” gets an Alberta Digital Award!!

Congrats to Lindsay MacDonald for getting the prestigious Alberta Digital Award for her work (with us) in the digital piece A Delicate Agreement.

She received the award on Monday the 6th at the Hotel Arts in Calgary.

We are only hoping to see more awards coming… way to start a PhD Lindsay!!

Some more coverage here.

Also congrats to Jon Haber for getting his QEII scholarship! It’s nice to see students/collaborators getting prices!

Standing on the shoulders of… nobody? – Connected Research, Related Work and Discussion sections in Human Computer Interaction

Disclaimer: this is purely personal opinion

This is a great time for Human-Computer Interaction. It seems that society and computer science’s awareness of how important it is to find new ways of interacting with the real world, engaging with our data, and finding our way in virtual communities keeps increasing. However, there seems to be an increasing discontent about some aspects of the community and the work it is generating. Some people complain about how difficult it is to publish real systems that perform real tasks and evaluate real scenarios. Others have suggested that forcing research to include empirical studies can kill new promising ideas in our field, but also that empirical research rarely replicates previous results, sometimes because it is considered incremental.

I agree with most of these concerns. I believe that our role as researchers in this community is to find the new, disruptive technologies, as well as to establish true and tried ways to improve people’s way of creating and interacting with their new interactive space. In my opinion, however, one of the main problems of this community is that work is disconnected. Probably one of the reasons why our empirical knowledge does not seem lead anywhere is because so many authors have no interest in taking others’ research further, but rather to publish their bit as fast as possible, or find some new original bit, without regard for how this advances the overall field.

I believe this is reflected in much related work sections of new works (particularly of interaction technique papers), probably as a symptom of how papers are written. I am tired of reviewing papers that have very weak related work sections that go like this:

  • Our work relates to [very famous early reference]
  • Some people have done work in the general area [X,Y,Z]
  • Author P did AB (superficial discussion of what they did), but not C, and their work is therefore
  • Author Q did BC (same problem), but not A
  • Author R did AC (same problem), but not B
  • We did ABC (and therefore our work is worth publishing – and better than P,Q, and R’s)

Many related work sections like this get published every day (and much worse). I myself might be even guilty of some of these. The main problem is that this is very superficial. These related work sections are often written only after the research is done, and they are written only because reviewers will not accept a paper if it does not mention certain basic references, and sometimes their own work.

However, this is not enough. The problem is that these connections with previous work are very weak. It should not only be about connecting nodes in the networks of publications. It should be about the quality of these connections. These related work sections mention other research, but they do not connect to other research meaningfully; they do not build knowledge. We are trying to find our little hole, the only clear snow where nobody has stepped before (and step on it), but not to build something upon each others’ work. How are we supposed to build a strong discipline, to stand on the shoulders of giants?

Perhaps one of the ways of solving this problem is to ask more of our related work sections. Related work sections should include all relevant work, and help the reader understand how the presented work builds upon it; moreover, related work sections should be paired with a part of the discussion, where the connection from previous work and current work is explained and developed. How does our work contradict previous findings? How does it support previous speculation? What are its possible limitations?

A related work section like this probably needs to be written before much of the research of the paper is done. In my opinion, this would prevent of bad papers to even come to life, will increase the connectedness of our work, and save a lot of time to researchers and students that find (to their dismay) that after all the research and a study, what they have done is a (bad) replication of previous work, which does not teach us much. I am also inclined to think that better connection with previous research would even increase our incentive as a community to replicate research: if we are to stand on each others’ shoulders, we will want to know that the fundamentals are solid, and this will require replication and an improvement of our methods.

I’m I crazy? Is this only a rant? Too prescriptive, not accurately descriptive? Will this all lead to disaster? or does people even care? Any examples of good related work sections?

In Budapest for the FP7 ICT Proposer’s day

I’ve spent the end of this work week in Budapest, at the ICT Proposers Day. For those of you who do not know about this, this is a network opportunity put together by the European Comission to get together people that are interested in putting together a paneuropean research proposal on an ICT topic.

Per Ola and myself have been networking like crazy and exploring some extremely interesting possibilities. Here are a few pictures of the very successful event:

For the reception, they took us by steam train to the Hungarian train museum, where we saw a pretty cool set of old engines and train wagons (just a couple photos above).

After all the hard work, we had a bit of time to visit the centre of the city, and take a photosynth of the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Getting busier

The good weather is gone (for now), but our place is just as beautiful in the rain. Today, I will try for a run in the evening, but for now you can check out the photosynth (a kind of panorama) that I made just north of Cellardyke during my run:

I’ll try to keep these coming! 🙂

Newbie in Scotland

Kate and I have been in Scotland for almost a week. So far, we are loving it. The weather is wonderful, our place is amazing, and the people have been wonderfully welcoming. We live now in Cellardyke, which is a tiny fishing village, about ten miles from St Andrews.

For our first impressions of Scotland, it’s best that you check Kate’s funny account of our landing and first days.

Tomorrow I will start work at the SACHI group. Meanwhile, you check out some of the photographs that I made around where we live.

NOTE: because of the University of Calgary e-mail policies, I am not allowed to keep or redirect my ucalgary e-mail, so please, use the gmail address instead. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience!