ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2010

Hi everybody,

In this last post I want to present you two very interesting papers and ideas presented at ACM CHI ’10.
The first paper entitled “Skinput: Appropriating the Body as an Input Surface” was presented in the “Computing on the Body” session and won one of the best paper awards. It was published by Chris Harrsion et al. As the title of the paper suggests, “Skinput” uses the skin as an “input device”. A sensor array, worn as an armband, collects signals which occur when touching the skin. Depending on the place where the skin is touched (e.g. fingers, specific place at the forearm) these signals differ. This allows for a classification and the possibility to control a device, e.g. a cell phone, by just touching a specific location on one’s arm. Here is the abstract:

“We present Skinput, a technology that appropriates the human body for acoustic transmission, allowing the skin to be used as an input surface. In particular, we resolve the location of finger taps on the arm and hand by analyzing mechanical vibrations that propagate through the body. We collect these signals using a novel array of sensors worn as an armband. This approach provides an always available, naturally portable, and on-body finger input system. We assess the capabilities, accuracy and limitations of our technique through a two-part, twenty-participant user study. To further illustrate the utility of our approach, we conclude with several proof-of-concept applications we developed.”

The second paper I want to mention was published by Anne Aula et al. from Google. It was presented in the “Exploratory Search” session and is entitled “How does search behavior change as search becomes more difficult?“. Abstract:

“Search engines make it easy to check facts online, but finding some specific kinds of information sometimes proves to be difficult. We studied the behavioral signals that suggest that a user is having trouble in a search task. First, we ran a lab study with 23 users to gain a preliminary understanding on how users‘ behavior changes when they struggle finding the information they’re looking for. The observations were then tested with 179 participants who all completed an average of 22.3 tasks from a pool of 100 tasks. The large-scale study provided quantitative support for our qualitative observations from the lab study. When having difficulty in finding information, users start to formulate more diverse queries, they use advanced operators more, and they spend a longer time on the search result page as compared to the successful tasks. The results complement the existing body of research focusing on successful search strategies.“

This work was especially interesting for me, since it is related to our research and shows a perfectly designed user study.

Concluding, I want to thank the “Förderverein Technische Fakultät” for the great support and the chance to attend the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2010 in Atlanta. Since I’ll start my PhD Program at Delft University of Technology soon, I am absolutely sure that I’ll benefit from all the knowledge and impressions gained while visiting this conference.

All the best and see you soon!


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Praxissemester am MIT, Cambridge USA – TEIL I

In letzter Zeit werde ich oft gefragt wie es mir so ergangen ist am Massachusetts Institute of Technology oder einfach nur kurz dem MIT. Um euch ein wenig Einblick zu gewähren werde ich hier über die nächsten paar Tage/Wochen einen Mehrteiler veröffentlichen und ein wenig über die Zeit am MIT Media Lab plaudern an dem ich vom August 2009 bis Februar 2010 ein Praxissemester absolvieren durfte.

MIT Main Entrance

Wenn mir jemals jemand gesagt hätte ich würde einmal am MIT studieren und arbeiten, geglaubt hätte ich es bestimmt nicht, obwohl es ein langjähriger Traum von mir war. Als ich im Mai 2009 nach etwa 3-monatigem Hin und Her endlich die fixe Zusage hatte, dass ich mein Praxissemester am MIT Media Lab in Cambridge machen kann, war ich mehr als nur überglücklich – ein Traum ging in Erfüllung.

Doch war es nicht gerade einfach. Das Media Lab mit ihren 29 Forschungsgruppen ist eine ausschließlich durch mehr als 60 namhafte Sponsoren finanzierte Einrichtung am MIT, welche es 138 Studenten (73 Master, 65 PhDs) ermöglicht auf Weltklasse Niveau zu forschen und zu studieren. So, oder zumindest so ähnlich, war mein erster Eindruck den ich gewinnen konnte, nachdem ich mich auf meine Reise in die USA vorbereitet hatte. Bevor mir jedoch die Pforten zum MIT geöffnet wurden, gingen zahlreiche Emails, Skype Konferenzen und ein von mir verfasster Forschungsvorschlag über die tief im Meer verlaufenden Übersee-Datenleitungen quer durch den Atlantik. Kurz darauf, oder genauer gesagt am 5. August desselben Jahres, machte ich mich dann auf die Reise von Klagenfurt über München nach Boston, über den Atlantik oder ganz salopp gesagt „ab über den große Teich“.
MIT Stata Center
Nach 10 Stunden Flug, und damit nicht ganz so schnell wie die Datenpakete sondern um etwa einen Faktor 3,6 * 105 langsamer, erreichte ich die Ostküste der USA voller Aufregung und mit einer großen Portion Abenteuergeist.

Wie es mir nach der Ankunft ergangen ist könnt ihr im Teil II nachlesen, welcher schon bald hier veröffentlicht wird.

Bonifaz Kaufmann

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ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2010

Hi everybody,

As you know, I attended the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM CHI) which took place in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

I arrived in Atlanta on Friday, 9th of April. After driving from Klagenfurt to Munich, and flying from Munich through Frankfurt to Atlanta, I finally arrived. On Saturday and Sunday several workshops took place. Since I didn’t attend any of them and just registered for the main conference program, I had time to get a feeling of Atlanta by walking around in different neighborhoods, visiting the CNN headquarters, the Georgia Aquarium, the Dr. Martin Luther King, jun. museum and many other interesting places – together with my advisor Mathias Lux, who also attended the conference.

On Monday, 12th of April, the actual conference program started. It was very interesting. Besides listening to exciting presentations and new ideas, learning a lot concerning researching, designing studies and experiments etc., I also had the chance to network and meet new people. I talked to people of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Skype, and Microsoft Research just to mention a few. Conferences like this one really provide the possibility to expand one’s network, share thoughts and have interesting discussions. Although a big conference like ACM CHI with 2300+ attendees has a lot of “closed networks of people and communities”, it is still interesting to see the dynamics and activities that are existent.

On Wednesday, 14th of April, we had our big day: the poster presentation about our paper “A Classification Scheme for User Intentions in Image Search” was on. We set up the poster in the morning in a huge exhibit room. Afterwards, between 10.30 and 11.30, we had the possibility to present our poster and talk with other researchers about our work. Together with Mathias Lux (main author of the paper) and Oge Marques from Florida Atlantic University, who traveled from Boca Raton, Florida to Atlanta on Sunday evening, we got a lot of input for our future research.

Thank god I already traveled back home to Austria on Wednesday (I arrived on Thursday), since the ash clouds of the burst of volcano Eyjafjalla on Iceland induced the cancelation of all transatlantic flights.

I’ll provide you a final report of the journey and the interesting conference in the next couple of days.

Have a good time!



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ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2010

On Friday, April 9th, I will be traveling to one of the biggest ACM conferences, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) (, which will take place from April 10th to April 15th in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. With over 2.000 attendees, ACM CHI is the premier international conference for the field of human-computer interaction.

In the course of my Master’s thesis which I completed under the supervision of Prof. Laszlo Böszörmenyi and Dr. Mathias Lux at the Institute of Information Technology, Dr. Mathias Lux, Dr. Oge Marques (from Florida Atlantic University, USA), and me published the paper “A Classification Scheme for User Intentions in Image Search” in the Work-in-Progress section. Based on an already existing taxonomy for text-based web search, we developed a novel classification scheme for user intentions during the search process in digital image retrieval and conducted studies and experiments with it. The classification scheme itself and further findings are presented in the paper. Please find the Abstract here:

Searching for images on the web is still an open problem. While multiple approaches have been presented, there has been surprisingly little work on the actual goals and intentions of users. In this poster we present our classification scheme for user goals in image search and describe our ongoing work focusing on identification and classification of user intentions during image search tasks.

All accepted Work-in-Progress papers are presented from Monday, April 12th, through Thursday, April 15th, in poster sessions. There I will have time to explain our research, talk with researchers from all over the planet, and get feedback, new ideas and insights for our work.

I look forward to reporting about my impressions, the feedback concerning our research, and other interesting ideas from a definitely amazing week in Atlanta at ACM CHI.

See you in Atlanta!


Christoph Kofler

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Happy to be back in Klagenfurt!

david_ahlstroem2010Dear informatics friends!

After eighteen exciting and educational months abroad I’ve now returned back home to Klagenfurt and the Department of Informatics Systems after travelling over 18,000 kilometres from Christchurch in New Zealand. My visit in New Zealand started in July 2008 when I received an Erwin-Schrödinger scholarship from FWF, The Austrian Science Fund, to conduct research on desktop interfaces at the HCI & Multimedia Lab at the University of Canterbury. After long hours and days in the hosting lab, thinking, prototyping and t

esting on how to re-design and make current desktop tools–such as task switching interfaces (e.g. the Microsoft XP Taskbar and Alt+Tab tool), pull-down menus and toolbars–easier to learn and more efficient and fun to use, I had the opportunity to explore the magnificent scenery of New Zealand, Australia and Cook Islands.

If you’re interested to hear more about my research and my experiences from the south pacific region, I welcome you to join in on our get-together on 8 April when Bonifaz Kaufmann and I talk about our experiences from USA and New Zealand. For more details about the when, who, where, what, and how, click here.

David Ahlström


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Lakeside Labs / TEWI Kolloquium:

3335029e75Prof. Dr.-Ing. Daniele Nardi

Small UAVs for Emergency Response

Wednesday, February 24th 2010
11:00, Room L4.1.114
Lakeside Labs.

The talk addresses the potential for application of small UAVs, such as quadrotors, for emergency response. We initially analyze a number of emergency scenarios and motivate the need for situation awareness, in order to plan and monitor the actions of the emergency response team. We argue that small UAVs can be effectively deployed to improve the situation awareness, and, consequently, the performance of the operation. Besides the flying and control capabilities of the platform, a key issue for the development of eff

The Revelation Effect – Mentalism And Mind Reading (christmas Special

ective solutions in t

The Revelation Effect – Mentalism And Mind Reading (christmas Special

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he targeted domain, is the ability to easily develop software that acquires data on the scenario in such a way as to maximize the amount of knowledge for the operator. Specifically, we describe the main features of the OpenRDK framework for developing robotic applications, implemented at Sapienza Univ. Di Roma, and currently distributed to a few other research groups. Moreover, we present some examples developed through OpenRDK on our experimental quadrotor system. We conclude by addressing future research, and, in particular, forms of cooperation in robotic teams including UAVs.

Daniele Nardi is Full Professor at Facoltà Ingegneria, Sapienza Univ. Roma, Dipartimento Informatica e Sistemistica, since 2000. His current research interests are in Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Robotics, Multi-Agent/Multi-Robot Systems and Search and Rescue Robotics. He is author of more than 100 scientific publications, recipient of „IJCAI-91 Publisher’s Prize“ and of Prize „Intelligenza Artificiale 1993“ and ECCAI Fellow. He is currently Vice President of RoboCup Federation, Coordinator of the Curricula in Computer Engineering at Sapienza Univ. Roma and Director of the research laboratory „Cognitive Robot Teams“.

The Revelation Effect – Mentalism And Mind Reading (christmas Special
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Lakeside Labs / TEWI Colloquium

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Economics as a self-organized evolutionary system

Monday, December 14th 2009 4 pm, presentation-room B4.1.114, Lakeside Labs.


We propose a simple model of evolution dynamics and demonstrate it in a framework of economic dynamics. New goods and services are endogenously produced through combinations of existing goods. As soon as new goods enter the market they may compete against already existing goods, in other words new products can have destructive effects on existing goods. As a result of this competition existing goods may be driven out from the market – often causing cascades of secondary defects (Schumpeterian gales of destruction).
The model leads to generic dynamics characterized by phases of relative economic stability followed by phases of massive restructuring of markets — which could be interpreted as Schumpeterian  business cycles. Model timeseries of product diversity and productivity reproduce several stylized facts of economics timeseries on long timescales such as GDP or business failures, including non-Gaussian fat tailed distributions, volatility clustering etc. The model is phrased in an open, non-equilibrium setup which can be understood as a self organized critical system. Its diversity dynamics can be understood by the time-varying topology of the active production networks.

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Die Erfindung des Zufalls

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Unvoreingenommen meint jeder zu wissen, worum es sich beim Zufall handelt: Etwas, das man nicht prognostizieren kann: ob ich eine gefährliche Operation überleben werde, ob ich beim nächsten Lotto den Haupttreffer landen werde – Dinge dieser Art.

Eigenartigerweise hat der Begriff des Zufalls sogar in exakten Wissenschaften einen fest verankerten Platz erhalten. So zum Beispiel in der Physik. Wenn man ein radioaktives Kohlenstoffatom vor sich hat, kann man auf keine nur denkbare Art und Weise berechnen oder durch Messung bestimmen, zu welcher Zeit es zerfallen wird. Es zerfällt plötzlich irgendwann, ohne dass dafür eine Ursache genannt werden kann – spontan und zufällig. Und in der Biologie hält sich seit Darwin das Paradigma, dass pur zufällige Mutationen die Triebkraft der Entwicklung der Arten nach dem Prinzip der „selection of the fittest“ darstellen.

Allerdings spricht der Naturwissenschafter das Wort Zufall gerne ohne langes Grübeln aus, und es ist auch nicht ganz einfach, eine schlüssige Definition von „Zufall“ anzugeben. Aus der Sicht der Mathematik kann man jedoch den Begriff „Zufall“ einigermaßen gut verstehen: er ist eine Erfindung des Menschen. Um welche Erfindung es sich genau handelt, wird im Vortrag beschrieben.

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Newsletter 03/2002 (PDF)
Newsletter 02/2002 (PDF)
Newsletter 01/2002 (PDF)

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