Welcome to the November 2017 SIGCHI edition of ACM TechNews.
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How to Store Information in Your Clothes Invisibly, Without Electronics
October 31, 2017
Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have devised a smart fabric and fashion accessories that could lead to apparel that stores information invisibly. "This is a completely electronic-free design, which means you can iron the smart fabric or put it in the washer and dryer," says UW professor Shyam Gollakota. "You can think of the fabric as a hard disk--you're actually doing this data storage on the clothes you're wearing." The fabric leverages the manipulable magnetic properties of commercially available conductive thread to store digital or visual data that can be read by an embedded magnetometer. The researchers rubbed a magnet against the fabric to physically align the thread's magnetic poles in either a positive or negative direction, which can correspond to the 1s and 0s in digital data. The work was presented last month at the ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST 2017) in Quebec City, Canada.
Real-Time Intelligent Translator for Mobile Phones
University of the Western Cape (South Africa)
October 26, 2017
Researchers at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa are developing a real-time intelligent translator for mobile phones. Their work is focusing on identifying sign language in ordinary video by pinpointing the signer, tracking their hands, and recognizing smaller sub-units of signed gestures and facial expressions via a commercially available webcam. The bidirectional communication system will enable a hearing-impaired person to record sign language with a mobile phone's camera, and have it instantly converted into English audio, as well as converting audio into a three-dimensional signing avatar. UWC alumnus Kurt Jacobs focused on testing systems that could recognize six hand shapes, each in five distinct orientations. His efforts built on UWC research involving machine-learning methods to emulate learning in the human brain. "The use of machine-learning techniques to recognize [South African Sign Language] gestures is necessary to convert gestures, using image processing, into sign writing, which will then be converted into spoken English," Jacobs notes.
Your Shoe, Chewing Gum, or Ciggies Are Now Your Extra Password
The Register (UK)
October 25, 2017
Researchers at Florida International University and Bloomberg say they have developed Pixie, an alternative two-factor authentication (2FA) method to login tokens by leveraging cameras in mobile and wearable devices. The team says Pixie works as a complement to current authentication tools "by providing a fast alternative that does not expose sensitive user information." Pixie lets a smartphone user capture an image of a trinket, such as a bracelet or a wristwatch, which then becomes a reference for future authentication attempts. The researchers say Pixie manages image recognition locally, so it is not reliant on network conditions or susceptible to network-based attacks that might affect 2FA schemes involving a passcode transmitted via text to a mobile device. "To fraudulently authenticate, an adversary needs to capture both the mobile device and the trinket, then guess the correct part of the trinket," the researchers note. Pixie was described in the September 2017 issue of Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
To Make People Work Better With Robots, Make the Robots Imperfect
The Wall Street Journal
October 29, 2017
Researchers in Austria at the University of Salzburg's Center for Human-Computer Interaction have found making robots more error-prone can help encourage more positive human-robot interaction. The researchers programmed humanoid robots to commit two types of errors, including mild infractions of social norms and physical lapses, and then had them perform flawlessly in one session with people while making mistakes in the other. The team noted when the robots made mistakes, the humans noticed them, and then continued working with the robot. "People who interacted with the faulty robots liked them more," says the University of Salzburg's Nicole Mirnig. She believes designing error-susceptible robots creates "believable robot characters" that could facilitate better adoption of robotics technology via more natural interactions. Mirnig says the experiment validates the concept of the pratfall effect, suggesting people are more likable after making mistakes. "Some mistakes can make people sympathetic," she says. "It holds true for robots as it does for people."
Microsoft Makes VR Controllers That Let You Feel
October 18, 2017
Researchers in Microsoft's Natural Interaction Research group have built new handheld virtual reality (VR) controllers called NormalTouch and TextureTouch, designed to add tactile feedback to virtual objects. The team says the controllers "render the shape of virtual objects through physical shape displacement, enabling users to feel [three-dimensional] surfaces, textures, and forces that match the visual rendering." NormalTouch employs a small "platform" linked to the handset to provide haptic and force feedback, with the object attached via a series of small legs and moves according to the surface it passes over in the virtual environment. NormalTouch also functions as an input device for those in VR. Meanwhile, the TextureTouch controller uses an array of pins that sit under the holder's fingertip and move when a virtual object is passed over. The controllers were created using an optical tracking system, which monitors their motions around a room, and tested with a developer model of the Oculus Rift.
Mobile On-Body Devices Can Be Precisely and Discreetly Controlled Using a Tiny Sensor
October 24, 2017
Researchers at Saarland University in Germany have developed DeformWear, wearable mobile devices that use tiny sensors for precise and discreet gesture control. They developed a prototype ring, bracelet, and charm with an embedded sensor that can control a smartwatch and virtual reality glasses. The researchers also defined motion sequences to control a TV and play music without having to look at the wearable device. The team then had 24 participants test the devices more than 18,000 times. "Despite the tiny surface, the interactions are precise and expressive, since they make use of the fine motor control of the fingertips and of the three primitives pressing, pushing, and pinching," says Saarland's Martin Weigel. Saarland professor Jurgen Steimle notes, "When only a tiny sensor needs to be deformed for input, mobile devices can be worn at places on the body that enable quick and discreet input. This will help the industry bring even smaller control devices to the market."
Dartmouth to Debut Wearables That Warn and Wow at UIST 2017
October 20, 2017
Researchers at Dartmouth College last month introduced wearable technologies with various applications at the 30th ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST 2017) in Hanover, NH. One of the debuted products was RetroShape, a shape-deforming smartwatch that adds multiple dimensions to virtual objects. Each pixel on the device's screen has a corresponding tactile pixel on the back of the watch face, and developers can use the wearer's skin beneath the watch face for sensing output that matches the visual content shown on the watch. In addition, the researchers also debuted Pyro, a method that detects thermal signals from fingers to recognize gestures. The researchers used an infrared sensor to create more seamless finger-gesture interaction with computer applications. The researchers also introduced Frictio at UIST 2017, a smart ring that combines a braking system with electronics to deliver helpful sensory feedback to the wearer via a series of six separate information-laden force profiles.
A New Breathing Monitor Signals the Coming Generation of Pervasive Healthcare
October 31, 2017
A team of European Union-funded researchers has announced the development of a pervasive healthcare device featuring a mobile phone-enabled breathing monitor that uses software in tandem with an inexpensive thermal camera. "As thermal cameras continue to get smaller and less expensive, we expect that phones, computers, and augmented reality devices will one day incorporate thermal cameras that can be used for various applications," says University College London (U.K.) professor Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze. "When combined with complementary monitoring devices such as for heart rate, the range of possible applications could truly herald the age of what has been called 'pervasive healthcare.'" The team notes thermal cameras can detect breathing at both daytime and nighttime without requiring special sensors while also shielding a person's identity, and enabling the device to be smartphone-compatible increases its pervasive potential, as well as the likelihood of user adoption. The device was developed under the European Union-funded UBIHEALTH project.
TastyFloats: A Levitating Food Delivery System
October 6, 2017
Researchers at the University of Sussex in the U.K. have created TastyFloats, a contactless food delivery system that uses ultrasound to levitate, transport, and deliver food directly onto the consumer's tongue. The team says TastyFloats uses two phased arrays of oppositely oriented ultrasonic transducers that generate a standing wave of ultrasound between them, so small amounts of liquids and solids can be suspended in the nodes of the wave. Shifting the phase can move the nodes three-dimensionally and drag the food contents with them, enabling transportation in three-dimensional (3D) space provided the particles remain between the arrays. Sweet morsels were found to have more intense and recognizable tastes when levitated by the array versus ingestion via pipette, while bitter tastes were harder to differentiate. The Sussex team presented TastyFloats last month at the ACM International Conference on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces (ISS 2017) in Brighton, U.K.
Innovative Material for Soft Sensor Could Bring New Tactile Tech
Purdue University News
October 23, 2017
Researchers at Purdue University have developed iSoft, a new form of pliable sensor that works in real time and can sense a variety of stimuli, including continuous contact and stretching in all directions. "The novel part of iSoft is that it does not need any wiring or electronics within the material," says Purdue professor Karthik Ramani. "The platform provides the ability to create and customize soft sensors. Even if you have no professional knowledge of electronics you can modify any object with it, including objects with complex shapes." Ramani says iSoft uses a "piezoresistive elastomer" that changes electrical resistance when touched, generating sensing data. The platform uses an electrical impedance tomography (EIT) method to calculate resistance distribution changes due to physical contact, and an algorithm named a dynamic baseline update for EIT to compensate for "rebound elasticity." Research on iSoft was presented last month at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2017) in Quebec City, Canada.
Can Good Design Be Cost-Effective?
October 18, 2017
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Ranjitha Kumar believes her team's Rico mobile-app design database will help scientists rapidly mine app designs at scale to inform the effectiveness of their own designs. Kumar says Rico contains 72,219 user interfaces (UIs) from 9,772 Android apps across 27 Google Play categories, with a searchable archive of every UI's visual, textual, structural, and interactive design properties. "Once you have all of this data you can start to build machine-learning models that can go beyond simple search interactions," Kumar notes. She says at-scale mining can uncover semantic relationships between seemingly unconnected apps, and she wants designers and researchers to make use of Rico "to build all sorts of things" with the ultimate goal of making good design sufficiently simple to make economic sense to designers. A paper on Rico was presented last month at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2017) in Quebec City, Canada.
Wearables to Boost Security of Voice-Based Log-In
University of Michigan News
Nicole Casal Moore
October 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) have developed and demonstrated VAuth, a wearable device that offers more secure voice-based user authentication. VAuth's form factor can be a necklace, ear buds, or an eyeglass attachment, and U-M professor Kang Shin says the device continuously registers speech-induced vibrations on the user's body and matches them with the sound of that person's voice to produce a unique and secure signature. Shin notes VAuth exploits the instantaneous consistency between signals from the accelerometer in the wearable security token and the microphone in the device, and voice authentication is only usable with the device when the user is wearing the security token. Shin's team built a prototype with a commercial accelerometer and a Bluetooth transmitter, and also wrote matching algorithms and software for Google Now. A study on VAuth was presented last month at the ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom 2017) in Snowbird, UT.
Calendar of Events
VRST '17: 23rd ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology
ICMI '17: International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
GROUP ‘18: 2018 ACM Conference on Supporting Group Work
Sanibel Island, FL
HRI ‘18: ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
IUI ‘18: 23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces
TEI ‘18: Twelfth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interactions
CHI '18: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
DIS ‘18: Designing Interactive Systems Conference
Hung Hom, Hong Kong
ETRA ‘18: 2018 ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications
EICS ‘18: ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems
IDC ‘18: Interaction Design and Children Conference
TVX ‘18: ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video
UMAP ‘18: User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization Conference
MobileHCI ‘18: 20th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services
AutomotiveUI ‘18: 10th International ACM Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications
RecSys ‘18: 12th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems
Ubicomp ‘18: The 2018 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing
UIST ‘18: The 31st Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
ICMI ‘18: International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
CHIPLAY ‘18: The annual symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play
CSCW ‘18: ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
Jersey City, NJ
ISS ’18: Interactive Surfaces and Spaces
VRST ‘18: 24th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology
Nov. 28-Dec. 1
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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