Let the day (night) begin

I’m sneaking in my first day of DH blog post during that magical time after my daughter has fallen asleep and before the same thing happens to me. For the past nine months, that’s my most productive time – 8 pm until just after midnight. Tonight on the agenda I have the following: check email, read some DH About me pages, and make changes to an ethics app for a user study I plan to run in April. Really the ethics (though last on the list) is the most pressing. Thanks to a very informative session presented by Lisa Given last fall, I now know that as a Mount Royal University (MRU) prof and a University of Alberta grad student I must get ethics clearance from both institutions. I’m very glad I learned about this rule before running any studies that may count towards my dissertation.

A more typical Thursday

This Thursday actually happens to be quite different from most of the Thursdays I have been having this semester. I begin most Thursdays in Calgary. Then, either at the ungodly hour of 6 am or the slightly more reasonable hour of 8 am, I drive to the Red Arrow North Calgary stop, get on the bus, and make the three hour journey to Edmonton. The Red Arrow is, in my mind, the Rolls Royce of bus transportation. There’s a movie, leather seats, a washroom, cookies, tea, and free wireless. I can catch up on some sleep or, more appropriately, on some backlogged interface sketching. Some days I indulge in a movie, except when they’re playing Rat Race for the 27th time, but I digress.

I arrive in Edmonton just in time to have a delicious plate of salmon sashimi with one of my PhD supervisors – Dr. Stan Ruecker – then make my way to class. I’m taking CMPUT 607: Human Computer Interaction (more on that later), from Dr. Walter Bischof (my other PhD supervisor). After class, I take the LRT downtown to catch the 4 pm bus home. More work, more sketching, email, movie, nap, and home by 7:30. I’ve been repeating this ritual, twice a week since September. I think the Red Arrow must have my picture hanging somewhere, and below it a sign that reads “Most Valuable Customer”.

This week just happens to be different, however. I’ve been in Edmonton since Tuesday, and leave tonight, at supper time.


So far this morning:
email checks (5); gmail chats with design colleague (1); facebook status updates (0); cheerios (27).

Lunch and book shopping

After a lovely, though slightly rushed, lunch with my supervisor, I put the little one down for a nap to do some book shopping:

I feel extremely lucky that I have a PhD project already, and that I’ve been able to contribute some of my course work towards it. The project proposal isn’t due until September (80 glorious pages), so I can’t get too cocky about it but, so far, I feel I’ve made [some] progress. And progress is good.

One of the challenges I encountered most recently has been around terminology. It seemed like an obvious answer to a simple question: “What are you working on?”; “Decision Support Systems.” Well, har har har. I should have know it couldn’t be that easy. In my most recent literature search, the term HMI has been thrown into the mix. HMIs are defined as Human Machine Interfaces and, so far, I understand them as belonging to the industrial/manufacturing sector, which may mean that they are a specialized subset of HCI. Now, how do decision support systems fit in? I’m thinking that a DSS could occur either as a stand alone system within (for my purposes) a manufacturing context, or as a component of an HMI. I’m hoping to clarify my thinking around all of this at our meeting with the industrial partners later on this month.

Virtual reality & presence

The Human Computer Interaction course I’m taking this semester focuses on human capabilities and limitations, the design of interaction systems, current and future interaction systems and devices, and methods for evaluating interaction systems.

During Tuesday’s CMPUT 607 class we talked about the 4 key elements of VR:

  • Virtual World
  • Immersion
  • Sensory Feedback
  • Interactivity

And reviewed a number of VR environments: Cybersphere, Vision dome, Head-mounted displays, and Virtual retinal displays. AR contact lens prototypes also exist: see Babak A. Parviz, U. Washington. We also looked at VR hardware inputs.

Today’s class is a continuation of the VR topic, and focuses on “presence” – a tricky concept since it lacks both a concrete definition and direct ways to measure it.

Augmented reality

I find AR – the mixture of the real world and the virtual world – much more interesting than VR, especially the medical applications. Though as exciting as I find the concept, the iPhone examples I’ve seen so far, have been disappointing. (Here’s an article that disagrees.)

I’m taking notes as Walter is lecturing and have to admit that finger tracking is pretty cool.

The paper drill

Just finished a design meeting with Shannon Lucky and Stan Ruecker, reviewing design concepts for the Inke paper drill interface. Stan just wrote an excellent description of our project on his Day of DH blog, so I won’t repeat. I will say, however, that our idea around a smart go button is pure brilliance.

It’s not always a healthy breakfast

DSS wordle

This is a wordle of the DSS paper I submitted this week to Design and Emotion 2010. I attended DE 2008 in Hong Kong and loved it. Brilliant yet cooky papers. I highly recommend DE 2010 this October in Chicago.


While on our way back to Calgary, our new car’s odometer turned to 1,000.