Thursday, October 11, 2012

UIST 2012 highlights

... in my humble opinion, based on my particular interests:


Watches are old news. How about having 6 watch screens in a bracelet shape around your wrist? It's clunky now, but who knows. They can detect pose and interact smoothly as needed.

A ring for input with 4 sensors. Clever: recognizes IR reflection and skin deformation to tell whether you're clenching, bending, pushing, flipping, or rotating the ring. Detects position/rotation by melanin content (which varies around your finger. Wired currently (and a ring is so small it makes me wonder if the wire could be removed).

Camera/LED on your finger for always-available input. The camera is 1x1mm, 148x148 pixels. ("NanEye") Read "fake textures"; ascii characters printed into patterns. Downsides: wired and ~1s latency on touches. Still, cool!

IR laser line and camera mounted on your wrist to detect your finger positions. Allows finger gesture prediction, 3d manipulation, etc. It's a bulky box now, but you could imagine it shrinking. Between 2-9 degrees of error, which is good enough for a lot of tasks.

Wear gloves so when you're looking at a wall of stuff you can find the exact thing. Sounds like it could be useful. (the trick is finding a task where the computer knows where the right thing is, but you still have to find it with your hands.)

An addition to phone calls. You can squeeze the phone, and then it vibrates on the receiver's ear. Four intensity levels, from light to sharp. This might sound a little silly, but:
- they tried it with 3 couples for a month, and they all sent at least one Pressage every single call.
- they wanted to have it available other times too, and as another channel of communication (e.g. light buzz = "I'm coming home")
Assuming they didn't just get 6 quirky people in their study, people will use this. It's super intuitive and quick, and adds a layer of richness to phone conversations. (the channel during non-phone conversation is mostly a nice bonus, and is kind of tricky for a lot of reasons.)

Other Things:

Pan-tilt projector and kinect so things can project and interact all around the office. Quite a feat of engineering.

Our current displays have around 100ms latency on touch. You can see this yourself: draw a quick line with your finger; it lags an inch behind you. What if instead we had 1ms latency? I tried the demo, and it is much slicker. Feels like you're moving real objects. Remember when Google started targeting latency and all of a sudden Gmail became a viable non-painful application? Latency matters on tablets too.

You know image histograms? What if you could select pixels by brightness or by blueness instead of by location, and edit them all based on that? Looks fun.

Ever made an iOS app with Interface Builder? You specify constraints (like "this text box aligns with the center of this image") and they are automatically maintained through resizes etc. ConstraintJS looks like a way you could do this on the web, and for more than UI layouts. You can make asynchronous calls and display all their states without the pain!

An IDE for developing camera- (i.e. Kinect-) based applications. If I made a camera app, I think I would want this.

Instead of expensive "clickers" which you might have used in university classes, just print everyone a QR-like card and have them hold it up. Cheap webcam takes a picture of the whole class.

What if the default unit on the web were a JSON object instead of a hyperlink? Sounds like web standards stuff, where it's awesome as much as everyone uses it, and good luck, but would be really useful in a ton of ways.

MTurk is great, but people cheat. Some tasks you can design around this, but some you can't. Crowdscape lets you visualize what people are doing as they do your task, easily weed out cheaters, use that as labeled input to bootstrap a machine learning system, and more importantly understand what work patterns lead to a good response. (Maybe tooting my school's horn a bit, but: won a best paper award!)

Some folks made a braille tutor out of the pressure-enabled touchpad that we got for the Student Innovation Contest. Awesome. They won 2nd place; I'd have given them first. Our ambient stress sensor was neat but did not win. Nor did it deserve to; there was a lot of great stuff.

Cool posters:
MMG armband, Shumpei Yamakura (like EMG, but resilient to sweat; not sure how they'd compare)
MISO, David Fleer, Bielefeld; point and snap at your electronics
Tongue-finding with Kinect (i.e. for rehabilitation), Masato Miyauchi
Breathwear (band to detect when you're breathing), Kanit Wongsuphasawat

Cool coffeeshops in Cambridge: Crema in Harvard Square for cappuccino and Voltage by Kendall for a fine Guatemala Buena Esperanza roasted by Barismo.

Yes! Another good conference. People asked me multiple times "So how's UIST going?" Look, of course it's fun and full of cool people doing exciting stuff!

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