Welcome to the April 2022 SIGCHI edition of ACM TechNews.

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Paralyzed patient Philip O’Keefe uses the Stentrode device to control a computer with his thoughts. Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed People to Use Computer with Their Thoughts
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Emily Mullin
March 30, 2022

A brain-computer interface developed by New York City-based Synchron, in consultation with Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) Douglas Weber, helped four paralyzed individuals with Lou Gehrig's disease in an Australian study write emails and texts, surf the Web, and perform online shopping and banking. The device, called Stentrode, is inserted through a small incision in the neck and moved via catheter into the brain's motor cortex. The matchstick-sized device, which features 16 sensors, collects brain signals and sends them to a second device implanted in the chest, which translates those signals into commands to control a laptop. The first U.S. clinical trial of the device will take place at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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Six-year-old Charlotte Abbott-Pierce is among the first people to benefit from an artificial pancreas. Hundreds Fitted with Artificial Pancreas in NHS Type 1 Diabetes Trial
The Guardian (U.K.)
Andrew Gregory
April 1, 2022

Hundreds of adults and children with type 1 diabetes in England were fitted with an artificial pancreas that monitors their glucose levels and adjusts the amount of insulin they receive, in a nationwide study sponsored by the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). The device, worn next to the body, reads blood sugar levels and uses an algorithm to determine the amount of insulin that should be administered to keep those levels steady. The trial so far has found the technology is more effective at managing diabetes than current devices, and that it requires far less input from patients than current devices do. NHS' Partha Kar characterized the device as "not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication."

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Neuroscientist Francis McGlone, says, “We know that this digital world is going to take over, but we need to find ways to ameliorate the negative consequences of not having physical contact.” Artificial Touch: Making VR More Immersive
New Scientist
Victoria Woollaston
March 16, 2022

Jasmine Lu and colleagues at the University of Chicago are generating chemically induced tactile sensations that can make virtual reality (VR) environments intensely realistic. The researchers' chemical haptics approach involves a device worn on the skin that can cause the user to feel various sensations on demand. The work builds on a VR headset that released chemicals like mint and pepper into the nose's trigeminal nerve, which caused wearers to feel cool and warm, respectively. Said Lu, "Our team began looking at all other chemically induced sensations that have been studied, expanding beyond just hot and cold." The team has experimented with sanshool to create a tingling feeling, capsaicin to mimic warmth, menthol to emulate cold, and lidocaine to induce numbness.

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How Trust, Distrust Shift During COVID-19
College of William & Mary
Joseph McClain
March 18, 2022

Researchers at the College of William & Mary (W&M), the Georgia Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and Emory University conducted surveys and interviews to assess the shift of trust and distrust among those seeking information on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. The surveys of 177 people revealed a decrease in consumption of COVID-19 information on social media during the survey period (September to December 2020), which W&M's Yifan Sun attributed to increased awareness of the level of misinformation posted on social media and a subsequent reduction in social media use overall. The researchers also found that roughly a third of participants believed authorities intentionally report inaccurate COVID-19 data, though that distrust was declining amid the release of more consistent data.

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A Coco robot making a delivery. Who Is Controlling Food Delivery Robots? It Might Be a Gen Z Gamer
Los Angeles Times
Ronald D. White
March 17, 2022

California-based startups Coco, Kiwibot, and Starship Technologies are targeting Generation Z to pilot their sidewalk food delivery robots. These pilots remotely monitor, drive, troubleshoot, and rescue the bots as they make their journeys, sometimes even completing deliveries themselves via bike or scooter. Coco's pilots, called "Coconauts," are required to have experience playing racing video games. They are trained to pilot the robots from the viewpoint of a small dog, navigating people, swinging doors, and other obstacles. Coco's Carl Hansen said, "The biggest obstructions are people trying to take selfies with the bots." Coco's delivery bots are level zero on the U.S. Department of Transportation's five-level scale for driving autonomy, meaning they must be human-controlled at all times. Starship's bots are at level 4, able to find their own ways along most routes and climb curbs, requiring human intervention only when they encounter unexpected obstacles.

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The University of Michigan researchers gave users direct control to customize the behavior of the ankle exoskeletons. Exoskeletons with Personalize-Your-Own Settings
University of Michigan News
Dan Newman
March 30, 2022

University of Michigan (U-M) researchers have developed an exoskeleton control system capable of personalized settings. "Instead of a one-size-fits-all level of power, or using measurements of muscle activity to customize an exoskeleton's behavior, this method uses active user feedback to shape the assistance a person receives," said U-M's Kim Ingraham. The researchers equipped users with Dephy powered ankle exoskeletons and a touchscreen interface showing a blank grid; choosing any point on the grid adjusts the exoskeleton's torque output, while shifting the torque's timing on the alternate axis. When tasked to find their preference while walking on a treadmill, users with no previous exoskeleton experience could verify their optimal settings in about 105 seconds on average.

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A stroke patient receiving traditional physical therapy. A Virtual Way to Rehab from a Stroke
University of Missouri
March 8, 2022

A research team found that game-based therapy resulted in outcomes similar to those of traditional therapy while requiring just 20% of the therapist hours. The researchers used a motion-sensor video game, Recovery Rapids, to help stroke patients regain their motor skills at home, combined with periodic telehealth meetings with a therapist. Recovery Rapids allows patients to take a virtual trip in a kayak; it requires them to perform arm motions that simulate paddling, rowing, and many other movements. The goal is to make rehabilitation fun and interactive while improving patient adherence to prescribed exercises. MU's Rachel Proffitt said, "As they progress, the challenges get harder, and we conduct check-ins with the participants via telehealth to adjust goals, provide feedback, and discuss the daily activities they want to resume as they improve."

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AI Can Identify Students Who Need Extra Help
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya News (Spain)
Laura Rodríguez
March 8, 2022

Researchers at Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), the Eurecat technology center, and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid found that artificial intelligence (AI) can identify remote learning students in need of extra help. The researchers studied 396 university students during the 2016-2017 and the 2020-2021 academic years who were given the opportunity to take tests with various questions adapted to their individual level before taking their final exams. Based on their performance, the students were classified as excellent, on track, or at risk. Said UOC's Laia Subirats, "Our objective is to develop a method to improve remote learning which will allow teachers to identify students who are at risk of failing so that they, as well as the students themselves, can reinforce their learning process."

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Studies suggest devices are less effective at tracking heart rate in those with darker skin tones. How Accurate Is Smartwatch Heart Data Tracking? It Depends on Your Skin Tone
March 23, 2022

Researchers at Canada's University of Alberta have found that wearable devices that measure heart rate/rhythm and monitor overall health may be less accurate for people with darker skin tones. The researchers systematically reviewed 10 previously published studies covering 469 people. Four of the studies found less-accurate heart-rate measurements by chest strap monitors, electrocardiograms, and other validated devices for darker-skinned people compared with lighter-skinned people. Another study indicated that wearable devices record fewer data points for darker-skinned individuals. Said the University of Alberta’s Dr. Daniel Koerber, "Algorithms are often developed in homogeneous white populations, which may lead to results that are not as generalizable as we would like. Ongoing research and development of these devices should emphasize the inclusion of populations of all skin tones so that the developed algorithms can best accommodate for variations in innate skin light absorption."

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A customer waits in front of a RoboBurger machine for her food. Would You Eat a Burger Made in a Vending Machine? People in New Jersey Are
USA Today
Rebecca King
March 30, 2022

An automated burger-making vending machine has started operating at the Newport Centre Mall in Jersey City, NJ. The founders of the company behind the RoboBurger “autonomous burger chef” hope to install more of the machines in various venues nationwide. RoboBurger co-founder Dan Braido calls the machine "a whole kitchen shoved into 12 square feet." Customers order standard or customized burgers via a touchscreen, and the burger is prepared inside the machine in about six minutes. RoboBurger also has a cleaning system that eliminates microbes and bacteria before food preparation, and is programmed to shut down should it malfunction.

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Young women check their social media accounts. Does Social Media Make Teens Unhappy? It May Depend on Their Age
The New York Times
Virginia Hughes
March 28, 2022

A multi-year U.K. study analyzed survey responses of more than 84,000 people to examine the relationship between social media and adolescents' feelings. The researchers identified two periods when heavy social-media use predicted lower life-satisfaction ratings in both sexes—around puberty and around age 19. Although the social media/well-being linkage was fairly tenuous, the results suggested teenagers' sensitivity to social media was highest during those periods. Cambridge University's Amy Orben said this linkage can differ depending on age, adding that the second period of social-media sensitivity was surprisingly consistent across the sexes; she noted age 19 is often a time of social upheaval that may affect their interactions with social media. The findings suggest social media use could significantly harm a small subset of teenagers.

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EPFL post-doctoral researcher Diego Paez tests the Qolo robotic wheelchair in the heart of Lausanne, Switzerland. Control for Wheelchair Robots to Mitigate Risk of Collision in Crowds
EPFL (Switzerland)
March 29, 2022

Researchers at Switzerland's EPFL are testing a robotic wheelchair at the weekly outdoor market in Lausanne, Switzerland, to assess its ability to navigate crowds. The researchers performed crash tests of the Quality of Life with Locomotion (Qolo) robot, developed by researchers at Japan's University of Tsukuba, and found that serious injuries are possible in collisions at slow speeds (under 6 km/h). The researchers modified Qolo so it can assess and react to its surroundings by adding cameras, sensors, bumpers on the front, and a LiDAR system on the front and back. Using data from the sensors and people detection and tracking algorithms, a navigation algorithm developed by the researchers enables the robot to choose, in a few milliseconds, the best path to move through the crowd.

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Calendar of Events

CHI ’22: ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
New Orleans, LA
Apr. 30 – May 6

CI ’22: Collective Intelligence
Jun. 6 - 9
Santa Fe, NM

ETRA ’22: 2022 Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications
Jun. 8 - 11
Seattle, WA

DIS ’22: Designing Interactive Systems
Jun. 13 - 17

C&C ’22: Creativity and Cognition
Jun. 20 - 23
Venice, Italy

EICS ’22: ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems
Jun. 21 - 24
Sophia Antipolis, France

IMX ’22: ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences
Jun. 22 - 24
Aveiro, Portugal

AutomotiveUI ’22: 14th International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications
Sep. 9 - 14
Seoul, South Korea

RecSys ’22: 16th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems
Sep. 18 - 23
Seattle, WA

MobileHCI ’22: 24th International Conference on Mobile Human-Computer Interaction
Sep. 23 - Oct. 1
Vancouver, Canada

UbiComp ’22: The 2022 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing
Oct. 8 – 13
Cancun, Mexico

UIST ’22: The 35th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
Oct. 16 - 19
Bend, OR

ICMI ’22: International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
Nov. 7-11
Bangalore, India

CSCW ’22: Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Nov. 12 - 16
Taipei, Taiwan


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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