At Ubicomp 2007, there was a book stand by Springer just outside the conference room. On the last day, the volunteer behind the stand told me that I could choose one of the books that were still lying there. I didn’t see anything interesting at first. Since a few people at our institute are working on multimodal systems, I picked the book SmartKom: Foundations of Multimodal Dialogue Systems.
During the holidays, I read the first part of the book and noticed the book was relevant for me after all. SmartKom was a large four-year project about multimodal dialogue systems. They developed a system that provides symmetric multimodality in a mixed-initiative dialogue system with an embodied conversational agent. There is also a follow-up project that should ends in 2007: SmartWeb. SmartWeb goes beyond SmartKom in supporting open-domain question answering using the entire (Semantic) Web as its knowledge base.
Symmetric multimodality means that every input mode (e.g. speech, gesture, facial expression) is also available for output, and vice versa. Multimodal interaction is one way to make interaction between humans and computers more intuitive. Human dialogue is not only based on speech but also on nonverbal communication such as gesture, gaze, facial expression, and body posture. One of the major characteristics of human-human interaction is the coordinated use of different modalities (e.g. allowing all modalities to refer to or depend upon each other). Symmetric multimodality combined with a mixed-initiative conversational agent results in more intuitive interaction. The SmartKom systems reduces recognition errors by modality fusion. By considering multiple input modalities together (e.g. speech, facial expression and gesture), the system can more correctly estimate the user’s intention.
SmartKom has been used in several application scenarios: in public telephone booths, home entertainment systems, mobile systems and in a car environment. The last part of the book discusses techniques to evaluate multimodal dialogue systems, which should be an interesting read.
We are in the midst of an explosion of emerging human-computer interaction techniques that redefine our understanding of both computers and interaction. We propose the notion of Reality-Based Interaction (RBI) as a unifying concept that ties together a large subset of these emerging interaction styles. Based on this concept of RBI we provide a framework that can be used to understand, compare, and relate current paths of recent HCI research as well as to analyze specific interaction designs. We believe that viewing interaction through the lens of RBI offers both explanatory and generative power. It provides insights for design, uncovers gaps or opportunities for future research, and leads to the development of improved evaluation techniques.
The paper discusses amongst others the results of a CHI 2006 workshop on the next generation of HCI. The authors provide a framework for classifying, comparing and evaluating new interaction styles. The framework concentrates on four themes used in these emerging interaction styles:
Naïve Physics: people have common sense knowledge about the physical world.
Body Awareness & Skills: people have an awareness of their own physical bodies and possess skills for controlling and coordinating their bodies.
Environment Awareness & Skills: people have a sense of their surroundings and possess skills for negotiating, manipulating, and navigating within their environment.
Social Awareness & Skills: people are generally aware of others in their environment and have skills for interacting with them.
These four themes are clarified by the accompanying picture:
Apparantely, even when Johnny is procrastinating, he is doing interesting work
JL: I guess I just spend a lot of time on my hobbies that I really enjoy doing and it turns out that my hobbies end up being productive. Even the Wii remote work started as a way to procrastinate working on my thesis.
During the holidays, I spent some time reading about creativity and the basic principles of scientific research.
We (researchers) are supposed to come up with innovative ideas, but no one ever told us how to do that exactly. Great ideas are often said to be discovered by accident. People assume creativity is a talent, something you’re good at or bad at. However, according to Edward De Bono, creativity is a process we can steer. He came up with the concept of lateral thinking, which consists of a set of techniques to deliberately shift away from our traditional thinking patterns. I am currently reading his book De Bono’s Thinking Course. Although I am still a bit sceptic, let’s see where it leads me