CHI 2009 – Days 4 & 5
April 10th | 2009 By
Well, CHI is officially over. It was quite the week of interesting presentations. Some gave a 100,000 feet view and some about 50 feet, both of which were great to hear. The HCI community is a great bunch of folks from many different walks of life. Even though there were ~2,000 people in this ridiculously huge building, it still felt intimate. Day 4 had some great presentations and today (not officially a day of CHI), Google, IBM, and Microsoft offered tours of their Cambridge offices. So, without further ado:
Brain Measurement for Usability Testing and Adaptive Interfaces: An Example of Uncovering Syntactic Workload with Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy – Tufts U.
Wow, that title is a mouthful and the presentation was absolutely intriguing. The authors used functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) to determine users’ cognitive workload while interacting with an interface. fNIR measures the amount of blood that is flowing through areas of the frontal cortex. The relative change in blood flow in the frontal cortex indicates a working mental load. While using an interface, a person has two sources of workload: using the interface itself and performing the task. They designed a special interface to separate these workloads which are then compared to the workloads during a usability study. There is plenty of work to be done before this type of methodology is mainstream, but I think it will be very important to usability practitioners and neuromarketers everywhere.
O’Game, Can You Feel My Frustration?: Improving User’s Gaming Experience via StressCam – U. of Houston
This presentation was interesting on two different levels. First, the goal of the study was to make a game that adapts to the user’s frustration by measuring their physiological state. But their method of measuring frustration was equally intriguing: an infrared camera to detect heat changes on the forehead. Their literature review showed that mental engagement increases not only the frequency of upper facial expressions, but also increases the temperature on the forehead, between the eyes (the supraorbital region). They went on to explain how the game adapted, based on the input from the camera. Too bad the camera they used costs around $300k.
Discriminating the Relevance of Web Search Results with Measures of Pupil Size – Google & UC Berkeley
I’m always up for hearing about how people are using eye tracking data and this was another great one. The goal here was to determine if relevant (Google) search results affect pupil size. They chose this method because they want to find a way to determine the best results without the filter of the user’s cognitive bias. Using pupil size is tricky though. The pupil changes size for many different reasons: luminance, affective response, cognitive work load, and overall interest. They presented the participants with a question that could be answered with a Google search. They then showed them three image and three text results of varying relevance. The first experiment found that the relevant text results had a significant change in pupil size, but the image results did not. So, for a second experiment they showed VERY irrelevant images, along with a relevant one. This time, there was a difference in pupil size. It is exciting to see that people are exploring new ways of using eye tracking data to measure the user experience.
Interaction Criticism and Aesthetics – Indiana U.
This excellent presentation, which received a Best of CHI honorable mention, was from our friend Jeff Bardzell at IU. His main idea was that “criticism and aesthetics are on the threshold of HCI and should be used in an intellectual and rigorous way” (again, loosely using quotes). Frankly, there is no way that I can accurately convey the details of his intriguing presentation, as the field of aesthetics and criticism is a little above my head. Nonetheless, it was captivating to hear the definition of these terms, a bit about their history, and the implications they should have on HCI.
This was not an official activity of CHI, but wrapped up the week nicely. Today, Google, IBM, and Microsoft offered tours of their Cambridge facilities. The day started at Google and included a tour of their offices. All the stories are true: their offices are completely off the hook – toys, food, musical instruments, whiteboards EVERYWHERE, whimsy, and smart people. Google then gave a series of short presentations on things they are working on that pertain to the HCI community. We then walked to IBM, which really wasn’t worth the walk other than it was a nice day out. They setup a hallway with posters and demos of various things they are working on, many of which I had previously seen or heard about. Ah well, can’t win them all. Microsoft fed us and gave a series of presentations on the projects that MS Research is working on. This included surface computing, Windows 7 Usability testing, and some other projects. It was a great day to walk around Cambridge and I feel bad for IBM and MS, because Google was a very tough act to follow.
And thus ends the CHI updates. It has been quite a week and I look forward to next year’s CHI in Hotlanta.