TOCHI Article Alert: Fall Prevention for Older Adults: Qualitative Results from a Long-Term Field Study

Falls are one of the chief causes of serious injury among older adults, often ultimately resulting in reduced quality of life and a transition away from independent living.

This work deploys a sensing system with an interesting set of exergames aimed at early intervention through improved physical fitness and regular assessment of the risk of falls. While many challenges were encountered in deploying the system, and the user population was necessarily limited to relatively able-bodied individuals due to ethical and safety concerns, a six-month deployment with older adults in their homes as well as in community-dwelling situations showed great promise in empowering individuals to monitor and control their own fitness, health, and fall risk. Making this an enjoyable and entertaining activity that older adults can weave into their daily routines could be instrumental in effecting long-term use with sustainable health benefits.


TOCHI Article Alert: Applying the Norman 1986 User-Centered Model to Post-WIMP UIs

This work takes Norman’s classic notion of ‘cognitive engineering’ and updates it to the modern context of touch-based and tangible interfaces.

As the authors demonstrate for the particular case of a 3D object rotation task, Norman’s model still has a great deal of explanatory power for such a task and may continue to give insights into interaction methods and techniques that barely existed as research prototypes when his work was first conceived.

If indeed human beings think with their hands every bit as much (and perhaps even more so) than they do abstractly with reason, then perhaps in this era of the post-WIMP (Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointers) interface our tools for thought have come very far indeed.


TOCHI Article Alert: Investigating Expressive Tactile Interaction Design in Artistic Graphical Representations

This article is a wonderful example of something that unfortunately we don’t see come through our submissions queue as often as I would like: namely, a design-research-centric TOCHI contribution.

In particular, this article explores how tactile feedback can be employed in a multisensory context to augment works of visual art. Here, the focus is not on metrics such as bandwidth and speed-accuracy tradeoffs—as are traditional concerns in the use of tactile feedback to augment pointing devices (for example)—but rather largely unexplored questions of expressiveness and new interaction potentials rise to the fore. The result, in addition to a richly illustrated contribution, is a set of affordances for expressive visuotactile interactions, as well as an intriguing design space for tactile augmentation that points the way to new user experiences.


TOCHI Article Alert: HCI for Reconciling Everyday Food and Sustainability

This article is a moving example of how HCI has the potential to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the globe by framing these challenges as socio-technical design problems that must be met at the social, cultural, individual, and yes, technological levels.

At present most people’s food practices are mundane and often routine, but as particularly the ‘food pioneers’ probed by this study demonstrate, there are ample insights to be gained from existing practices that could inform the ‘user experience’ of obtaining and preparing sustainable food. And indeed, what ‘sustainable food’ itself entails is a complex interplay of ideas and concerns about what we eat and where it comes from. This is a complex design problem that encompasses everything from the in-store experience, packaging design, on-line shopping, social and family pressures, and awareness of the provenance of food, to name just a few issues unpacked by this far-ranging investigation.


TOCHI Article Alert: Design of a GPS Monitoring System for Dementia Care and its Challenges in an Academia-Industry Project

In a research field that—despite our desire to focus on the humans involved—revolves around ‘computers’ and ‘technology’ as much as anything, technologically-minded researchers often take things like location-sensing via GPS tracking for granted.

Yet, as this article so poignantly illustrates, when one delves into what is actually needed to make that technology serve the needs of stake-holders ranging from nurses and caretakers, to the over-arching family-units and organizational structures—and (most critically) the patients themselves, where dementia often manifests in neuro-degenerative disorders that pose ever-shifting challenges for everyone involved—what seemingly should be a ‘simple’ step of location-tracking in the ‘turn to practice’ is fraught with technological, social, and ethical challenges.

Add to that the challenges of academia-industry collaboration mandated by funding structures, and the project-management issues become very complex indeed.


TOCHI Article Alert: Diminished Control in Crowdsourcing: An Investigation of Crowdworker Multitasking Behavior

Diminished Control in Crowdsourcing: An Investigation of Crowdworker Multitasking Behavior

This sixth, and final, contribution in this jam-packed issue of TOCHI investigates the complexities of crowdworkers who (much like the rest of us, sadly enough) typically cannot spend even 5 minutes (and probably far less if they happen to be an Editor-in-Chief) on any task without getting distracted, or interrupted, by something else.

Yet, as the authors of this article point out, the presence of naturalistic interruptions in crowdwork, in completely uncontrolled settings outside of the laboratory environment, presents both challenges and opportunities.

The challenge, of course, is rather obvious: if crowdworkers are attending to other tasks, they are most pointedly not attending to their crowdsourced task, which may be a source of undesired variability (if not outright poor performance) in experimental results. The authors therefore set out to see if they can detect, and possibly mitigate, such interruptions.

The opportunity is less obvious, but arguably even more important. The effect of naturally occurring interruptions—as opposed to those artificially imposed by laboratory settings—has received surprisingly little attention in the literature, presumably because such naturally occurring interruptions are deviously difficult to elicit, and study.

The article makes great progress on both fronts, illustrating in detail how crowdworker inattention can be detected, and even limited through appropriate interventions, while also illustrating how the presence of interruptions and distractions in the real world allows for naturalistic study of these behaviors, turning a supposed “nuisance” into the object of study.

It’s a clever turnabout by the authors, and I learned a great deal about this space by reading the article.

But I must admit—

I do find it vaguely disturbing that such is the state of modernity, that it has proven necessary for the term crowdworker to creep into the English language in the first place … but then again, perhaps I am bit too familiar with science-fictional tropes for my own good (grin).



TOCHI Article Alert: Design and Usability of Interactive User Profiles for Online Health Communities

Design and Usability of Interactive User Profiles for Online Health Communities

This work takes an in-depth look at how people in on-line communities can tap the rich sources of expertise and compassion represented by other community members who are facing (or have surmounted) similar health challenges.

The effort is lent especially noteworthy resonance, and depth, and practical impact, by the authors’ partnership with, a web site that serves as a resource and social network for cancer patients (and their caregivers).

Such connections are vital for patients—who are rarely medical experts themselves—when they are suddenly forced to navigate challenging health issues where the mentoring and support of “someone like me” can have a major impact.

But first the patient must actually find, and engage with, precisely the right person in such a community, which is where the design of Health Interest Profiles come into play. The authors therefore consider, in depth, key considerations for the design of such profiles, which surface the topics and activity related to other members in such communities.

Along the way, the authors surface many great insights that lend a greater appreciation of the difficulties this poses, while also naturally leading one to envision interesting new hybrid designs that might pave the way for further progress on this important problem.



TOCHI Article Alert: Target Acquisition vs. Expressive Motion — Dynamic Pitch Warping for Intonation Correction

Target Acquisition vs. Expressive Motion: Dynamic Pitch Warping for Intonation Correction

This article concerns techniques for the dynamic correction of pitch during production of continuous sounds on digital musical instruments, driven by stylus input on a tablet in this particular case.

While at first blush this might sound very far from the issues typically of concern for input devices, the authors do an excellent job of relating this problem to issues typically encountered when pointing in graphical user interfaces, relating it to techniques such as Expanding Widgets (in visual space) and Sticky Icons (in the motor space), for example.

Through a series of algorithm explorations and studies, this contribution illustrates how a dynamic corrections influence both the accurate production of notes, which is one concern, as well as free-form expressivity (such as vibrato, ligato, and glissandro) in the manner in which the notes are produced, which is a second—and often competing—concern in musical performance (if not for input devices in general).

The results are convincing, and intriguing—such as the authors’ suggestion that their dynamic correction could be applied to the beautification of ink strokes, a thought that indeed had occurred to me, as well, as I read this article (perhaps unsurprisingly so, given my longstanding interesting in pen computing).

The authors also note that the technique is available under a freeware license, and has been implemented in the Cantor Digitalis—which won first place in a recent musical instrument competition.




TOCHI Article Alert: SlideSpace: Heuristic Design of a Hybrid Presentation Medium

SlideSpace: Heuristic Design of a Hybrid Presentation Medium

This article presents a systematic deconstruction, and reconstruction, of presentation authoring based on a scholarly and incisive analysis of the design space of presentation systems, leading up to the design of a presentation tool known as SlideSpace.

The SlideSpace system offers many strengths and complementary properties to existing presentation tools, whether derived from the prevalent metaphor of slides or that of the canvas, because indeed it offers an intriguing hybrid of the two (while also strongly supporting elements of a third, the stage metaphor, where visual elements enter and exit the screen, often with well-crafted animations).

User feedback made clear that SlideSpace is especially well suited to more formal, businesslike presentations where the clear big-picture and hierarchical structure imposed by an outline view brings significant value, but what I perhaps found the most thought-provoking was the way in which the work suggests a rich design space of hybrid presentation systems.

Indeed, I found myself wondering if one could go in a different direction from the same core analyses, and contemplate other styles of hybrid presentation tool that might (for instance) reverse the formal and structured nature of the presentations afforded by SlideSpace, to perhaps cater to more freeform and informal ‘talks’ or collaborative sessions.

Whether or not this is a good idea, the general principles and heuristics articulated by this TOCHI article could certainly go a long way in informing such a venture, if not even more intriguing visions for ‘The Presentation of the Future.’



TOCHI Article Alert: The Effects of Changing Projection Geometry on Perception of 3D Objects on and Around Tabletops

The Effects of Changing Projection Geometry on Perception of 3D Objects on and Around Tabletops

The final article I wish to alert you to (in TOCHI Issue 23:2) offers a tour-de-force with regards to 3D object perception on tabletop displays. The possible presence of multiple users makes it difficult to choose a projection geometry, or to take full advantage of depth cues such as motion parallax that are de rigueur in other contexts.

Poor choices can result in distorted images and incorrect interpretations of objects, which of course would defeat the purpose of bringing these technologies to bear in the first place.

The authors present a series of studies which probe these issues in great detail. One of the surprises (for me, at least) was that using a fixed center of projection above the table reduced errors and improved accuracy in most of the tasks studied. Another was that this further implies that technological efforts to make the point-of-view and the center-of-projection coincide (in fish-tank virtual reality, for example) may ultimately be fruitless—or possibly even counterproductive. As someone who spent a lot of time in the virtual environments literature—albeit so long ago that this activity seemingly took place in another lifetime—that suggestion arrived as quite a shock.