Welcome to the November 2018 SIGCHI edition of ACM TechNews.
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AI-Based Video System Helps Seniors Stay Safe and Independent
Folio (University of Alberta)
October 25, 2018
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada, working with colleagues at software technology firm Spxtrm AI, have developed an autonomous intelligence system that can help senior citizens stay safe at home and in care facilities. The system transfers real-time video to an autonomous computer vision lockbox. If an event such as a fall is detected, the system alerts a specified caregiver and provides a redacted video of the event. The system uses a deep learning computer vision program and motion-classification algorithms to capture events in real time, alert caregivers, and give healthcare professionals the information they need for immediate triage. Said University of Alberta's Irene Cheng, "Our algorithms are able to extract the necessary information on the fall for analysis without disclosing their physical appearance to human operators and caregivers."
Sound, Vibration Recognition Boost Context-Aware Computing
Carnegie Mellon University
October 15, 2018
Smart devices can better comprehend the situational context in which they are operating thanks to complementary methods for analyzing sound and vibration developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers presented their work last month at the ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium in Berlin (UIST 2018) on two techniques to meet these challenges. The first method, a plug-and-play sound-based activity recognition system called Ubicoustics, uses the microphones in smart devices to identify sounds associated with specific locales based on sound-effects libraries employed by the entertainment industry. The second concept, Vibrosight, can detect vibrations in specific locations in a room via laser vibrometry, or the application of light to read vibrations on surfaces. Vibrosight uses a special sensor and a low-power laser integrated with a motorized, steerable mirror; the researchers said the system can detect if a device is on or off with 98% accuracy and identify the device with 92% accuracy.
Smartwatch Algorithms Help Identify Why You Are Sleeping Poorly
October 15, 2018
Researchers at Lancaster University in the U.K. and Northwest University in China have developed algorithms that use smartwatch sensors to monitor wearers' sleep habits and offer practical advice to improve their slumber. The SleepGuard software leverages the smartwatch's accelerometer, gyroscope, and orientation sensor to read body and hand movements during sleep, while a microphone records ambient noise and a light sensor detects surrounding illumination. Tests demonstrated that SleepGuard can grade sleep quality at levels similar to consumer-grade sleep monitors. The software also can capture data about the variables underlying sleep quality and help users trace the root causes of sleep disorders. Says Northwest University's Liqiong Chang, "When compared to existing sleep monitors on the market, SleepGuard is able to report a wider range of sleep events and provide wearers with a better understanding for the causes of their sleep problems."
Virtual Reality Can Help Make People More Compassionate Compared to Other Media
October 17, 2018
A virtual reality (VR) experience developed at Stanford University has generated new insights into how immersive technology impacts users' levels of empathy. Stanford researchers said people who participated in the "Becoming Homeless" VR construct, which simulates the experience of losing one’s job and home, developed longer-lasting compassion toward the homeless versus people who explored the issue in other media. The team conducted several two-month-long studies with more than 560 participants representing at least eight ethnic backgrounds. The results showed that participants who experienced "Becoming Homeless" were more likely to have persistent positive attitudes toward the homeless than those who read a narrative or interacted with a two-dimensional version of the same scenario on a desktop computer. Said Stanford’s Jeremy Bailenson, “Experiences are what define us as humans, so it’ s not surprising that an intense experience in VR is more impactful than imagining something.”
Female Bias in Voice Technologies Reflect Societal Preferences, Experts Say
October 12, 2018
Indiana University (IU) researchers have determined both men and women favor a female voice when talking to a computer, with IU's Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez citing psychological motivations for this preference. She says setting female voices as a default for voice assistants is based on traditions of teaching women to be servants under men, a process termed "gendered servitude." Says Gonzalez-Lopez, "Technology and the Internet no doubt have become the mirror reflecting the very same expressions of social inequality that people encounter in their actual lives." IU's Yair Nieto agrees that having voice assistants default to a female voice degrades women. Gonzalez-Lopez urges tech companies to design products to mitigate the impact of gender inequality. She says, "We have been socialized to see women helping others as 'normal,' and that creates some sort of emotional comfort. (But) a woman's voice in our devices reminds us again and again—every time we push that button—of one more expression of gender inequality in our society."
Fake or Real? UC Davis Study Finds Consumers Wary of Manipulated Photos
UC Davis News Center
October 11, 2018
University of California, Davis (UC Davis) researchers found that most of the 3,476 people participating in a study could correctly identify fake images, even when they were told they came from reputable news organizations. Study participants ranging in age from 20 to 87 were shown six fake images depicting various issues from the news. UC Davis' Cuihua Shen said the researchers found "that participants' Internet skills, photo-editing experience, and social media use were significant predictors of image credibility evaluation. The results show that participants, no matter how careless or distracted they may be, can still be discerning consumers of digital images." Shen said the results of the study suggest providing more information on digital media literacy would help consumers better differentiate between fake and real images and information.
Ultra-Light Gloves Let Users 'Touch' Virtual Objects
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
October 15, 2018
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed a lightweight haptic glove that generates realistic tactile feedback when wearers "touch" virtual objects. The DextrES glove produces up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger, and is capable of running on a small battery. EPFL's Herbert Shea says DextrES is not as bulky as existing virtual reality gloves, since it is fashioned from nylon with elastic metal strips running over the fingers and separated by a thin insulator. When the user touches a virtual object, the controller applies a voltage difference between the strips and induces electrostatic attraction, producing a braking force that blocks the finger or thumb's movement. Shea said there are many potential applications for the gloves, “especially in healthcare, such as for training surgeons. The technology could also be applied in augmented reality.”
Dancing With Robots
October 10, 2018
University of Virginia (UVA) researchers are manipulating two-foot-tall robots to understand human-machine interaction, programming them to perform tasks that include dancing and playing instruments. UVA's Keith Williams leads a course teaching such interaction to first-year students, and says it is valuable for students to see what they can eventually achieve and to push them to reach for the state of the art. The Nao robots are capable of reacting to any object that passes before their eye sensors, and student teams program them to carry out a specific task. Teaching students to program the humanoid robots gives them an understanding of the subtleties required for even the simplest movements. Says Williams, "That aspect humanizes the technology, and makes it more approachable." UVA's Joanne Dugan adds, "It is a way to have a discussion about the societal implications of robot-human relationships."
Using Computer Science Methods to Discover How People Learn
U of T News
October 9, 2018
Joseph Jay Williams at the University of Toronto in Canada is using computer science methods to explore human learning and improve education. His research focuses on how people learn by explaining "why?" and by applying statistics and machine learning to simulate human thought processes. Williams has designed randomized experiments, or A/B testing, to determine what helps students learn; he says it can be particularly helpful having students generate explanations for problems themselves, such as explaining why they believe an answer is right. Machine learning algorithms are used to process, analyze, and arrive at decisions from data, to analyze A/B experiments, and to suggest better conditions to future students. Williams cites the use of A/B testing in Massive Open Online Courses, and says digital and cloud-based resources ease comparison of alternative versions and data availability; algorithms can operate dynamically to find effective techniques much faster.
Permanent, Wireless Self-Charging System Using NIR Band
October 8, 2018
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Seoul National University in South Korea have developed a permanent, wireless self-charging platform for low-power, wearable electronics by transforming near-infrared (NIR) radiation into electrical energy. The researchers say the technology can operate with flexible, wearable charging systems without requiring cables or other attachments. The platform utilizes PbS-based colloidal-quantum-dots (CQDs) within a photovoltaic (PV) module, a flexible interdigitated lithium-ion battery, and various NIR-transparent films. CQD PVs boast high quantum efficiency in the NIR band, and the resulting device is less cumbersome to wear and easier to charge than platforms that use solar irradiation to charge. Said KAIST's Jung-Yong Lee, "I believe that this platform will be a novel platform for energy conversion and that its application can be further extended to various fields, including mobiles, [Internet of Things], and drones."
Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking by Practicing in Virtual Reality
October 5, 2018
People with anxieties about public speaking can use virtual reality (VR) to help overcome them, according to researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden. Researchers tested a public-speaking training app from VirtualSpeech on 50 adults while wearing a VR headset to simulate various venues packed with virtual crowds. Participants were assigned speaking tasks to complete during a three-hour session, either at home or in a therapist's office. The study subjects said they felt more confident as public speakers after these sessions, and less nervous, sweaty, and tremulous when assigned real-life exercises such as asking questions in meetings or giving presentations. Stockholm University's Philip Lindner says the VR environment helps disprove individuals’ negative assumptions about public speaking. The researchers now aim to build a similar app in which the virtual audience engages with the user, which Lindner says "should be even more realistic and allow us to tailor the experience to the individual."
A New Interface to Simultaneously Control Various Robots
Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain)
October 1, 2018
Researchers in the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain's Robotics & Cybernetics Research Group (RobCib) have developed a virtual reality (VR) interface to optimize the workload of robot operators. The tool can place operators in a VR scenario in which robots are developing a mission, so the operators can search out the best spot to observe and accurately guide robots as they perform tasks. The interface uses machine learning to assess the relevance and risk of each robot during the mission, as it would for a human operator. RobCib's Juan Jesus Roldan said the goal was to have a single operator simultaneously control multiple robots. Results showed the VR interface improved operators' situational awareness and reduced their workload. The researchers aim to incorporate more diverse situations and robots into the system, as well as testing new methods to allow operators to easily and intuitively direct the machines.
Calendar of Events
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
HRI '19: ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
IUI '19: 24th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces
Los Angeles, CA
TEI '19: Thirteenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interactions
CHI '19: ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
TVX '19: ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video
UMAP '19: 27th ACM Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization
IDC '19: ACM Interaction Design and Children Conference
CI '19: The ACM Collective Intelligence Conference
EICS '19: ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems
C&C '19: 12th Conference on Creativity & Cognition
San Diego, CA
DIS '19: ACM Designing Interactive Systems 2019
San Diego, CA
ETRA '19: 2019 ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications
RecSys '19: 13th ACM Recommender Systems Conference
AutomotiveUI '19: 11th International ACM Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications
MobileHCI '19: 21st International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services
ICMI '19: 21st ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
UIST '19: 32nd ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium
New Orleans, LA
CHIPLAY '19: The Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play
ISS '19: ACM International Conference on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces
VRST '19: 25th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology
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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