Welcome to the April 2017 SIGCHI edition of ACM TechNews.

ACM TechNews - SIGCHI Edition is a sponsored special edition of the ACM TechNews news-briefing service focused on issues in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). This service serves as a resource for ACM-SIGCHI Members to keep abreast of the latest news in areas related to HCI and is distributed to all ACM SIGCHI members the first Tuesday of every month.

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Can Computers One Day Understand Emotions? Can Computers One Day Understand Emotions?
Penn State News
Erin Cassidy Hendrick
March 27, 2017

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) have developed technology they say will help computers to eventually comprehend human emotions. "With this project, we are showing that computers can harness human-generated data and then acquire the ability to understand emotions," says PSU professor James Wang. The technology encompasses a computational strategy that can apply insights about shape, such as roundness and angularity, to more accurately anticipate how a person will respond to an image. "We used a computer to code...shape-related features and map them with the data we've collected regarding people's emotional feelings," Wang says. His team found people tend to respond more positively to images without sharp angles, and more negatively to images with sharp angles. The researchers worked with PSU professor Reginald Adams to leverage his expertise in emotion and social theory. They envision the technique leading to innovations such as personal digital assistants with more humanlike responses.

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Parents Who Play 'Pokemon GO' With Kids: 'It Wasn't Really About the Pokemon'
UW Today
Jennifer Langston
March 28, 2017

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) found parents who regularly play the "Pokemon GO" mobile device-based game with their children report more exercise, outdoor experiences, and familial bonding. Many parents also noted they spend more quality time with their children and talk more about various topics besides the game. "People still don't really know how to build tech that works well for families, so when this game came out of the blue and really caught on, we wanted to look at what its ingredients for success were," says UW's Kiley Sobel. The researchers found the game fulfills six conditions identified as encouraging productive "joint media engagement" for families, including the ability to play and learn together, motivation for multiple generations to engage, and features that make it easy to put the game away. The results of the study will be presented in May at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017) in Denver, CO.

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SWiM: An Evolution in One-Handed Texting
University of St. Andrews
March 17, 2017

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. have developed a gesture keyboard text entry method that supports one-word-per-gesture inputs. The Shape Writing in Motion (SWiM) system lets users tilt the device to control a pointer ball that traces a path for the gesture keyboard to enter text. "Instead of using a finger to draw over the on-screen keyboard, we use wrist motion of the dominant hand to trace an input to perform shape writing," says St. Andrews researcher Hui-Shyong Yeo. A pilot study found first-time SWiM users could input text at a rate of 15 words per minute (wpm) after minimal practice, raising it to 32 wpm after about 90 minutes. "As more and more computation is woven into the fabric of our lives, fluid interaction with such systems and devices requires us to examine our thinking about such interaction and challenge our basic assumptions," says St. Andrews professor Aaron Quigley.

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E-Tattoos Turn Knuckles and Freckles Into Smartphone Controls E-Tattoos Turn Knuckles and Freckles Into Smartphone Controls
New Scientist
Matt Reynolds
March 17, 2017

Researchers at Saarland University in Germany have created electronic tattoos called SkinMarks that can control computers and smartphones. "We make use of the elastic properties of the skin, including bending and stretching," says Saarland's Jurgen Steimle. SkinMarks are first applied to temporary tattoo paper using conductive ink to print wires and electrodes. They can be transferred onto the skin with water and can remain functional for a few days before being rubbed off. The tattoos can incorporate multiple commands at one location thanks to their responsiveness to skin surface changes. One of SkinMarks' limitations is miniaturizing the microcontrollers used to send signals from the tattoos to a computer or smartphone, and the Saarland team employed copper tape to link the tattoos to a small Arduino microcontroller affixed to the body with a wristband. The researchers will present their work in May at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017) in Denver, CO.

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Nudging Consumers Into Making Better Purchases Online Nudging Consumers Into Making Better Purchases Online
EU Science Hub
March 13, 2017

Small revisions to online stores' website design could improve the likelihood of consumers making better purchases, according to a study at the European Commission's JRC Science Hub. A laboratory experiment with 626 participants was conducted to test whether Web design could lower the number of incompatible online purchases. Participants of different ages, gender, and educational backgrounds used virtual currency to buy digital products on an e-commerce website, and then tested their purchases. The researchers found emotive messages, such as "To avoid disappointment, please ensure that the product you are buying is compatible with your device," in combination with an appropriate emoticon, were most effective in preventing participants from making an incompatible purchase. The researchers also found compatibility information provided at the moment of check-out was more effective than the same information supplied on the product description page, while logos were more effective than text.

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The Future of Human-Centered Robotics
Electronic Design
Luis Sentis
March 10, 2017

A platform for human-centered robotics driven by the appropriate hardware and software will enable the technology to perform countless tasks, according to University of Texas at Austin professor Luis Sentis. He says his field of research concerns "how to create a robot that is focused on assisting a human being; sometimes guided by a human, but also learning on its own what action or behavior would be most helpful to that human." Sentis says there is still too little evidence suggesting humanoid robots are the optimal form factor for human-machine interaction. "The more important aspect of this field is how to create human-centered robotics that sense their surroundings and either respond to human directions or intuit what actions would best serve their human counterpart," he says. Sentis also notes this technology is focused on enabling robots to not only predict human behavior, but also perform "intervention" by evaluating situations for optimal actions.

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Researchers Develop New Solution for Independent Living: The 'Empathetic Home'
Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands)
March 9, 2017

Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands will test a home environment that "empathizes" with senior residents and thus functions as or supports voluntary care workers at three assisted living centers. "An empathetic home, which 'knows' you, has empathy, responds to your needs, and ensures that you have enough physical exercise, customizes your care, and thus helps you stay healthy," says TU/e professor Masi Mohammadi. She believes such an innovation represents the next step in home automation. "In this new phase, 'smart' is not just a precondition, but smart technology is seamlessly integrated in the home surroundings and the technology adjusts optimally to the needs of the resident, supporting him in his daily activities," Mohammadi notes. Empathetic home concepts include a smart floor that warns of the risk of a fall, or a guiding light strip on the wall and floor to support or encourage daily activities.

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Machine Learning Advances Human-Computer Interaction
University of Rochester NewsCenter
Lindsey Valich
March 10, 2017

Researchers at the University of Rochester's Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a natural-language mathematical model that enables a user to utter a simple instruction that a robot can translate into an action. If the robot is ordered to pick up a specific object, it can differentiate between other objects nearby, even if they look the same. "The central theme...is that we use language and machine learning as a basis for robot decision-making," says Rochester professor Thomas Howard. "It is essential for robots to accumulate experience and learn better ways to perform tasks in the same way that we do, and algorithms for machine learning are critical for this." Other machine learning technologies being explored at Rochester include computerized assistants that help people improve their communication skills by sensing their body language and subtleties in presentation, and predictive artificial neural networks that identify features and detect configurations in social media images and data.

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Beware Emotional Robots: Giving Feelings to Artificial Beings Could Backfire, Study Suggests
Matthew Hutson
March 13, 2017

Artificial characters perceived as having more humanlike mental processes and emotions are unnerving to humans, according to a new study from Jan-Philipp Stein and Peter Ohler at the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany. The researchers gave 92 volunteers virtual reality headsets through which they monitored a brief dialogue between a virtual man and woman in a public plaza, with emotional behavior expressed. Half the participants were told the avatars were controlled by people and half were told they were controlled by computers. Within each group, half were told the conversation was scripted, and half were told it was spontaneous. Those who thought they were watching two computers interacting autonomously found the exchange to be more unsettling than the other three cohorts. Stein suggests this "uncanny valley of the mind" is significant in its potential ramifications for a range of human-computer interactions.

Full Article
Virtual Characters That Touch You Are Seen as Being Warmer and Friendlier
University of Twente (Netherlands)
Kim Hovestad
March 6, 2017

A new study by researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands found virtual characters capable of touching the people they interact with are perceived as warmer and friendlier. Twente's Gijs Huisman explored the concept with a special sleeve fitted around the arm and equipped with vibration motors to simulate touch. The sleeve was used to impart caresses from an avatar that test subjects engaged with in a game. Huisman's work concentrates on the applications of tactile technology to affective communication. He is investigating how people can touch one another remotely, and how virtual characters and robots can use touch to enhance human-machine interaction. The HEY bracelet designed by Huisman and his team simulates human touch, specifically a gentle pinch, for users at a distance. Huisman envisions the increasing humanization of personal assistant applications for smartphones, to the degree they can respond appropriately to people's underlying emotions.

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Iowa State Geologists Develop App to Print 3D Terrain Models of Any Place on Earth Iowa State Geologists Develop App to Print 3D Terrain Models of Any Place on Earth
Iowa State University News Service
Mike Krapfl
March 13, 2017

Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) have developed an open source Web application called TouchTerrain, which enables anyone with a three-dimensional (3D) printer to print terrain models of any place on Earth, including the ocean floor. "Our application makes it very easy to create physically large models by dividing the desired area into multiple tiles that can then be 3D-printed separately and glued together to form a much larger 3D map," says ISU professor Chris Harding. The process starts at the TouchTerrain website, where users can manipulate a map to pinpoint an area of terrain to print, and then export a file for the printer. "This could be a key element in improving how geoscience students connect with the surface structure of the Earth," Harding says. The researchers say the simplicity and affordability of TouchTerrain models should encourage more geoscience teachers to use 3D-printed materials in their classes.

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Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovative Artist and DMU Professor
De Montfort University Leicester
March 22, 2017

ACM SIGCHI has bestowed Ernest Edmond, a professor at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in the U.K., with a lifetime achievement award for his pioneering work in the field of human-computer interaction. For decades, Edmonds has collaborated with colleagues in a range of different fields to uphold a culture of innovation and practice-based research as a scientist, practicing digital artist, and lecturer. Edmonds notes when he was a mathematics and logic scholar at DMU, he became intrigued with the possibility of applying computing to artistic expression. "The computer was part of the mathematics or engineering departments; it wasn't often thought of as a stimulus for creativity," he says. "I began to think about what effect it could have on all areas of my life, including art." Edmonds believes working across disciplines stimulates creative thinking and is where innovation takes place.

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Calendar of Future Events
CHI '17: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
May 6-11
Denver, CO, USA

DIS '17: Designing Interactive Systems Conference
June 10-14
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

TVX '17: ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video
June 14-16
Hilversum, Netherlands

EICS '17: The 9th ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems
June 26-29
Lisbon, Portugal

C&C '17: Creativity and Cognition
June 27-30
Singapore, Singapore

IDC '17: Interaction Design and Children
June 27-30
Stanford, CA, USA

UMAP '17: User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization Conference
July 9-12
Bratislava, Slovakia

RecSys '17: 11th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems
Aug. 27-31
Como, Italy

MobileHCI '17: 19th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services
Sept. 4-7
Vienna, Austria

Ubicomp '17: The 2017 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing
Sept. 11-15
Maui, Hawaii, USA

CHIPLAY '17: The Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play
Oct. 15-18
Amsterdam, Netherlands

SUI '17: Symposium on Spatial User Interaction
Oct. 16-17
Brighton, United Kingdom

ISS '17: Interactive Surfaces and Spaces
Oct. 18-20
Brighton, UK

UIST '17: The 30th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
Oct. 23-25
Quebec, Canada

VRST '17: 23rd ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology
Nov. 8-10
Gothenburg, Sweden

ICMI '17: International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
Nov. 13-17
Glasgow, UK


SIGCHI is the premier international society for professionals, academics and students who are interested in human-technology and human-computer interaction (HCI). We provide a forum for the discussion of all aspects of HCI through our conferences, publications, web sites, email discussion groups, and other services. We advance education in HCI through tutorials, workshops and outreach, and we promote informal access to a wide range of individuals and organizations involved in HCI. Members can be involved in HCI-related activities with others in their region through Local SIGCHI chapters. SIGCHI is also involved in public policy.

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