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.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2967102).

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.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2983531).

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.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2957756).

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.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2970817).

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.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2963095).

The Editor’s Spotlight, Part 2 — TOCHI Issue 23:4 — Adding Physical Objects to an Interactive Game Improves Learning and Enjoyment

IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Part 2:

Adding Physical Objects to an Interactive Game Improves Learning and Enjoyment

This delightful contribution explores EarthShake, a mixed-reality game that helps children learn some basic principles of physics by bridging the physical and virtual worlds via depth-sensing cameras.

The work includes not only an interactive prototype that is put to the test by 4-8 year old children (a particularly demanding user demographic if ever there was one!), but also through careful experimental design that teases out many insights illustrating how and why the use of three-dimensional (3D) physical objects in mixed-reality environments can produce better learning and enjoyment than flat-screen 2D interaction.

Computer technologies can be especially empowering when brought to bear in the context of the physical environment. This has long been suspected as a benefit of so-called “tangible interfaces”—that is, interfaces employing physical stand-ins or props as proxies for digital objects—yet precisely how, or why, or under what circumstances tangibles might bring benefits has remained murky, particularly when combined with mixed-reality environments, i.e. sensing systems that detect the 3D world and incorporate it directly into the interactive experience. One can hypothesize many possible reasons that tangibles could be beneficial to learners in mixed-reality environments:

Is it the three-dimensional nature of the objects?

Do the potential benefits derive from making interaction more enjoyable?

Or perhaps it is the embedding in reality, and the sensory cues that the real world affords, that forms the critical difference—as compared to watching videos of the same activities, for example.

In addressing these questions, the carefully controlled studies isolate various possible effects and confounds, and thereby convincingly demonstrate many aspects of exactly how these mixed-reality environments benefit learners. The results demonstrate that learning benefits accrue through embodied cognition, improved mental visualization (as evidenced by children’s hand gestures, for example), and via the mere observation of physical phenomena in the full richness of sensory cues available in the real world—cues that are inherently absent when watching a video recording of the same activity on a flat, two-dimensional screen.

 

Nesra Yannier, Scott Hudson, Eliane Wiese, Ken Koedinger. 2016. Adding Physical Objects to an Interactive Game Improves Learning and Enjoyment. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 4, Article 26 (August 2016), 33 pages.

DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2934668

 

The Editor’s Spotlight, Part 1 — TOCHI Issue 23:4 — Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy

TOCHI Issue 23:4 is now available on the ACM Digital Library.

This month’s TOCHI has an unusually rich and far-ranging set of contributions, some of which forced me to confront deep personal truths (more about that shortly, in this post).

And while there were several articles that piqued my curiosity, two in particular caught my editorial eye. The first of these is featured below, the second will appear shortly in a follow-up post.

 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Part 1:

Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy

This article offers a great example of the rich insights that can be unpacked by a thorough qualitative analysis of an HCI design context—in this case, the challenges of loss and grief that we all must eventually confront, and which therefore may be the essence of the human condition itself.

This unique problem takes on some strange twists in this modern era, when many of the “possessions” representative of our loved ones who have passed on assume an online and digital, rather than physical, form. How can one confront such an overwhelming task—going through thousands of digital photos, or blog posts, or a Facebook timeline which may not even be under your direct control—in such circumstances?

Furthermore, one might naturally assume that one always wants to retain such digital possessions, whereas the reality is much more complicated. Indeed, to move on, what many people need is in fact a therapeutic way of letting go—an end-goal spectacularly ill-suited to the inflexible, binary, and non-embodied methods that computers and web services currently offer us for deleting digital objects (or massive collections thereof).

And I have to admit, this article really hit home because it represents a very deep, dark hole that I have fallen into myself: Kerrie, my first spouse, died at the tender age of 29, just as I was embarking on my career at Microsoft Research. As I tried to put my life back together, one problem I had to confront was what to do with my wife’s greeting, which may have been the only recording I had of Kerrie’s voice, on our voice mail. While I will leave the solution that I came up with to the reader’s imagination, I can assure you that hitting some Delete button is about as far as you can get from a satisfactory solution to such a dilemma, and indeed there are no easy answers.

Because people flattened by such events (which the authors astutely expand to encompass related circumstances such as stillbirth, separation and divorce, as well as death itself) are in no condition to participate in some focus group or contextual inquiry, the article takes the clever indirection of working with professional grief therapists, all of whom helped clients to prepare “rituals of letting go” so as to move on with their lives—a new life that by necessity could no longer could include their loved one.

And indeed, the problems faced and the type of rituals enacted depend strongly on such circumstances, leading to a vocabulary of action and intent that the authors characterize in a rich design space. The work also suggests many new design directions and possibilities for HCI and sustainable, full life-cycle design to help people divest themselves of emotionally charged digital possessions.

To riff on the novel direction of release-centric interactions suggested by the article, imagine, for example, a digital-photo locket explicitly designed for letting-go such that each time you choose to open it, it displays a photo (or a voice message…) of a loved one for the very last time; when you decide to close it, an embodied act, the echoes of the emotionally-charged digital artifact would drift away on a chill wind and be gone forever, allowing the survivor—if only symbolically, and in a small way—to move on.

The article is rich with provocative examples, situations, and design questions of this sort, and reading it may very well forever change how you think about the design of photo repositories, voice messages, texts, and other such digital possessions.

 

Corina Sas, Steve Whittaker, and John Zimmerman. 2016. Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 4, Article 21  (August 2016), 37 pages.

DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2926714

 

A Quick Update on the TOCHI Editorial Board

The TOCHI journal continues to strive for greater heights.

And in recent events, as an institution it has grown far wiser as well.

Because I am happy to report that four illustrious new members have graciously accepted my invitation to serve on the Editorial Board:

Pourang P. Irani (University of Manitoba);

http://www.cs.umanitoba.ca/~irani/

  — Per Ola Kristensson (University of Cambridge);

http://pokristensson.com/

  — Wendy E. Mackay (Université de Paris-Sud); and

http://insitu.lri.fr/~mackay/

  — Albrecht Schmidt (University of Stuttgart).

http://www.vis.uni-stuttgart.de/en/institute/people/prof-dr-albrecht-schmidt.html

Each of them are accomplished innovators, lecturers, and researchers—if not a force of nature in their own right—and I’m very excited for the vision and guidance they will all bring to the board. And these reinforcements arrive just in time, too, as TOCHI is on a record pace for new submissions this year, with manuscript #155 having just entered the queue as of mid-July.

And that doesn’t even count the revisions.

So needless to say, there’s plenty of editorial work to go around. Our average response time continues to hew to about 50 days, although admittedly this obscures a highly bimodal distribution: we decline many submissions within a few days, while those that go through full external reviews usually take longer. We strive to issue a decision letter within 90 days, but that isn’t always possible—especially during the summer, when almost all prospective reviewers (somehow having the gall to enjoy their sunny holidays) tend make themselves rather scarce!

And if your manuscript has been with us for more than 90 days, please do feel free to query tochi@acm.org so that we can check on its status. Such queries, when necessary, often constitute a useful prod to stir reviewers and editors (including myself!) to imminent action.

Perhaps now is also a good time to remind everyone, oh ye of the faithful TOCHI readership, that 2016 will herald the first annual TOCHI Best Paper Award. We expect to make our selection(s) in early 2017, with all papers published in Volume 23 being eligible. I would love to receive your nominations for our best papers published in 2016, to be sure they receive full due consideration for the award. Just drop us a line at tochi@acm.org. And please do include a brief statement as to why you think the paper is especially deserving—that may be just the thing necessary to push it over the top, given the consistent excellence of all the work that we publish.

The Editor’s Spotlight: Navigating Giga-pixel Images in Digital Pathology

For the first article to highlight in the freshly-conceived Editor’s Spotlight, from TOCHI Issue 23:1 I selected a piece of work that strongly reminded me of the context of some of my own graduate research, which took place embedded in a neurosurgery department. In my case, our research team (consisting of both physicians and computer scientists) sought to improve the care of patients who were often referred to the university hospital with debilitating neurological conditions and extremely grave diagnoses.

When really strong human-computer interaction research collides with real-world problems like this, in my experience compelling clinical impact and rigorous research results are always hard-won but in the end they are well worth the above-and-beyond efforts required to make such interdisciplinary collaborations fly.

And the following TOCHI Editor’s Spotlight paper, in my opinion, is an outstanding example of such a contribution.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT:

Navigating Giga-pixel Images in Digital Pathology

The diagnosis of cancer is serious business, yet in routine clinical practice pathologists still work on microscopes, with physical slides, because digital pathology runs up against many barriers—not the least of which are the navigational challenges raised by panning and zooming through huge (and I mean huge) image datasets on the order of multiple gigapixels. And that’s just for a single slide.

Few illustrations grace the article, but those that do—

They stop the reader cold.

Extract from a GI biopsy, showing malignant tissue at 400x magnification. (Fig. 3)

The ruddy and well-formed cells of healthy tissue from a GI biopsy slowly give way to an ill-defined frontier of pathology, an ever-expanding redoubt for the malignant tissue lurking deep within. One cannot help but be struck by the subtext that these images represent the lives of patients that face a dire health crisis.

Only by finding, comparing, and contrasting this tissue to other cross-sections and slides—scanned at 400x magnification and a startling 100,000 dots per inch—can the pathologist arrive at a correct and accurate diagnosis as to the type and extent of the malignancy.

This article stands out because it puts into practice—and challenges—accepted design principles for the navigation of such gigapixel images, against the backdrop of real work by medical experts.

These are not laboratory studies that strive for some artificial measure of “ecological validity”—no, here the analyses take place in the context of the real work of pathologists (using archival cases) and yet the experimental evaluations are still rigorous and insightful. There is absolutely no question of validity and the stakes are clearly very high.

While the article focuses on digital pathology, the insights and perspectives it raises (not to mention the interesting image navigation and comparison tasks motivated by clinical needs) should inform, direct, and inspire many other efforts to improve interfaces for navigation through large visualizations and scientific data-sets.

 


Roy Ruddle, Thomas Rhys, Rebecca Randell, Phil Quirke, and Darren Treanor. 2016. The Design and Evaluation of Interfaces for Navigating Gigapixel Images in Digital Pathology. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 1, Article 5 (February 2015), 29 pages. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2834117

 

 

 

 

Introducing “The Editor’s Spotlight”

In a new feature, as the Editor-in-Chief I will offer up some thoughts on select papers as they appear in the pages of TOCHI (or to be more precise, as they grace the ACM’s digital library, given our desire to turn-around accepted manuscripts to the research community as quickly as possible—not to mention the electronic-first nature of publishing these days). And in addition, I will always strive to give an overview of all the content in each issue, to the extent possible.

But before I unshutter the brilliant beacon for the first time, with Issue 23:1 as its deserving focus, let me briefly set the context:

The purpose of these spotlight editorials is to help frame the contributions of the research that we publish in the wider context of the field.

As well as to direct attention to articles that may be of especial interest.

That, of course, serves not only our readers but also our authors—all of them—because by implication, bringing attention to our great content raises the profile of the entire journal.

By highlighting certain articles my intent is not to suggest that others are not worthy of your attention. Far from it. Every article we publish has received exquisite attention from our Editorial Board, so the TOCHI brand in and of itself tells you that the content is always absolutely sterling.

Hence these are not critical reviews or critiques. These articles have already passed the gauntlet of rigorous peer review, and so my purpose here is to help guide our readers as to the nature and importance of the contributions we publish.

As such, my hope is that both newcomers to the field of human-computer interaction (who may be missing some of the implicit framing and motivation that underlies many papers) as well as seasoned practitioners and students of HCI (who may be quickly scanning the journal’s contents to see what catches their eye) can benefit from these remarks and reflections.

As well, astute authors-to-be can perhaps gain a few insights as to what level of contribution is necessary to pass muster at the journal—not to mention the ways of conveying one’s results that tend to best resonate with TOCHI’s reviewers and our Editorial Board.

To fully absorb and appreciate both the strengths and limitations of each article’s scientific contributions one must read them in detail, of course, as I hope you will be moved to do when one of these catches your eye—and as they originally did my own.

Just follow the “DOI” link immediately after each paper to view it directly in the ACM Digital Library.

You can be the first to see these commentaries on the TOCHI News page (http://tochi.acm.org/news), which I urge you to follow. Please do help spread the word for those TOCHI articles that pique your interest.

And of course, all of your individual downloads, subscriptions, and citations are the loose change in the treasury of the journal’s impact.

But they compound over time and slowly accumulate great intellectual riches.

 


The first Editor’s Spotlight will follow this post shortly. Stay tuned. We will also issue Article Alerts for all of our other great content.