The Living Room: Exploring the Haunted and Paranormal to Transform Design and Interaction

Woo! Next month, I will be going to Brisbane, Australia to present work that was done last summer in the DGP Lab by myself, Matthew Lakier, and Mingzhe (Franklin) Li, about Haunted User Interfaces. We were interested in developing new ways that information could be conveyed to users in a household setting and used ideas from haunted and paranormal phenomenon to do so.

Our animatronic moose built from LEGO and Servo Motors!

Along with a number of prototypes, we also ran a Mechanical Turk study to gather information about the objects people have in their living rooms and how they interact (or as it turned out, ignore) these objects. We also synthesized the survey results, prototypes, and construction lessons into a Haunted Design Framework that can be used to develop or re-imagine interfaces for the home.

A quick video illustrating some of the ideas and prototypes:

Within this work, a novel metaphor, haunted design, is explored to challenge the definitions of display’ used today. Haunted design draws inspiration and vision from some of the most multi-modal and sensory diverse experiences that have been reported, the paranormal and hauntings. By synthesizing and deconstructing such phenomena, four novel opportunities to direct display design were uncovered, e.g., intensity, familiarly, tangibility, and shareability. A large scale design probe, The Living Room, guided the ideation and prototyping of design concepts that exemplify facets of haunted design. By combining the opportunities, design concepts, and survey responses, a framework highlighting the importance of objects, their behavior, and the resulting phenomena to haunted design was developed. Given its emphasis on the odd and unusual, the haunted design metaphor should great spur conversation and alternative directions for future display-based user experiences.

L’Oreal Canada and UNESCO Post-Doc Award!

I am so super, super excited and honored to have been chosen as the 2015 recipient of the  L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science – NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship Supplement! It was an honor before to win an NSERC PDF, but to be recognized for my contributions to advancing women in science and my research interests is beyond amazing.

The winners of the L’Oreal Canada and L’Oreal-UNESCO awards (I am one of the only in pants!)!

The awards presentation was held in Ottawa, Ontario, at the French Embassy so I got to have my first visit to the nation’s capital (the National Gallery of Canada is fabulous!). Never did I imagine that I would get to go to an Embassy, so it was a real treat to meet and learn about the lives of diplomats and those who make decisions about funding at NSERC.

Art Deco and some fabulous marble!

Feels just like a Castle in France.

The press release, which also announces a fabulous new program from L’Oreal supporting women in science, can be found here.

UIST 2015 Publication! MoveableMaker: Facilitating the Design, Generation, and Assembly of Moveable Papercraft

This year at UIST (November 2015), I will be fortunate enough to give two presentations. The first is on the unintended touch ToCHI work that I did at Microsoft Research and the second is on a new project that I undertook while at Autodesk Research and the DGP Lab at the University of Toronto. As I am a papercrafter and love using my Silhouette machine, back in January / February I began working on a small idea to create a unique menu for my wedding. The end result was MoveableMaker (and a number of menus!), a novel software application that automates the creation of interactive, moveable papercraft. More wedding details will soon follow (and I can now talk about it) and the UIST publication will be posted as it becomes available.

Wedding Menu pre-MoveableMaker

Wedding Menu post-MoveableMaker (everything is much cleaner and required must less effort)

In this work, we explore moveables, i.e., interactive papercraft that harness user interaction to generate visual effects. First, we present a  survey of children’s books that captured the state of the art of moveables. The results of this survey were synthesized into a moveable taxonomy and informed MoveableMaker, a new tool to assist users in designing, generating, and assembling moveable papercraft. MoveableMaker supports the creation and customization of a number of moveable effects and employs moveable-specific features including animated tooltips, automatic instruction generation, constraint-based rendering, techniques to reduce material waste, and so on. To understand how MoveableMaker encourages creativity and enhances the workflow when creating moveables, a series of exploratory workshops were conducted. The results of these explorations, including the content participants created and their impressions, are discussed, along with avenues for future research involving moveables.

Dissertation now online

Now that all of the research comprising my Dissertation has been published (see here, here, here, here, and here), I am happy to make it publicly available. If you would like to read my dissertation (its a tad long at 144 pages), a .pdf copy of my thesis can be found here. I am also super happy that I was lucky enough to receive the University of Alberta Faculty of Science Doctoral Dissertation Award for my research.

Yes, there was lots of pontificatation during the writing of my dissertation.

Although pens and paper are pervasive in the analog world, their digital counterparts, styli and tablets, have yet to achieve the same adoption or frequency of use. Digital styli should provide a natural, intuitive method to take notes, annotate, and sketch, but have yet to reach their full potential. There has been surprisingly little research focused on understanding why inking experiences differ so vastly between analog and digital media and amongst various styli themselves. To enrich our knowledge on the stylus experience, this thesis contributes a foundational understanding of the factors implicated in the varied experiences found within the stylus ecosystem today. 

The thesis first reports on an exploratory study utilizing traditional pen and paper and tablets and styli that observed quantitative and behavioural data, in addition to preferential opinions, to understand current inking experiences. The exploration uncovered the significant impact latency, unintended touch, and stylus accuracy have on the user experience, whilst also determining the increasing importance of stylus and device aesthetics and stroke beautification. The observed behavioural adaptations and quantitative measurements dictated the direction of the research presented herein. 

A systematic approach was then taken to gather a deeper understanding of device latency and stylus accuracy. A series of experiments garnered insight into latency and accuracy, examining the underlying elements that result in the lackluster experiences found today. The results underscored the importance of visual feedback, user expectations, and perceptual limitations on user performance and satisfaction. The proposed Latency Perception Model has provided a cohesive understanding of touch- and pen-based latency perception, and a solid foundation upon which future explorations of latency can occur. 

The thesis also presents an in-depth exploration of unintended touch. The data collection and analysis underscored the importance of stylus information and the use of additional data sources for solving unintended touch. The behavioral observations reemphasized the importance of designing devices and interfaces that support natural, fluid interaction and suggested hardware and software advancements necessary in the future. The commentary on the interaction – rejection dichotomy should be of great value to developers of unintended touch solutions along with designers of next-generation interaction techniques and styli.

The thesis then concludes with a commentary on the areas of the stylus ecosystem that would benefit from increased attention and focus in the years to come and future technological advancements that could present interesting challenges in the future.

GI 2015 Publication! The last of my dissertation to be published …

I am very happy to announce that the last work from my Dissertation is set to be published at Graphics Interface this year. The publication, “Hands, Hover, and Nibs: Understanding Stylus Accuracy on Tablets” reports on a two-stage user study that evaluated the role hand posture, the information available from the hover cursor, and nib diameters have on the user experience while inking. a user study that was conducted at Microsoft Research during my extended internship. Walter assisted me with the analysis and discussion sections of the work. Once the full paper is available, I will provide a link to it, but for now the abstract is below.


Although tablets and styli have become pervasive, styli have not seen widespread adoption for precise input tasks such as annotation, note-taking, algebra, and so on. While many have identified that stylus accuracy is a problem, there is still much unknown about how the user and the stylus itself influences accuracy. The present work identifies a multitude of factors relating to the user, the stylus, and tablet hardware that impact the inaccuracy experienced today. Further, we report on a two-part user study that evaluated the interplay between the motor and visual systems (i.e., hand posture and visual feedback) and an increasingly important feature of the stylus, the nib diameter. The results determined that the presence of visual feedback and the dimensions of the stylus nib are crucial to the accuracy attained and pressure exerted with the stylus. The ability to rest one’s hand on the screen, while providing comfort and support, was found to have surprisingly little influence on accuracy.