14 July 2006

The future of human-computer interaction [ACM Queue]

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ACM Queue
Prof. John Canny of the University of California at Berkeley has published a thoughtful and in-depth article on the future of human-computer interaction in the July/August issue of ACM Queue, a publication of ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), “the world’s first educational and scientific computing society”.

He claims that “for many years [the development of] HCI has been evolutionary, not revolutionary” and that “this is about to change” because IT is moving in everywhere (e.g. PC’s outside the office, cellphones, gadgets) and there is now rapid progress in the capabilities to make these devices context-aware, socially integrated, and personalised for the user, with more sophisticated perceptual interfaces (e.g speech, vision).

The article then goes on to stress Canny’s own work in perceptual and context-aware interfaces and introduces the rest of the magazine (content not available online) which covers the state of the art in these new interfaces.

In speech interfaces, full continuous large-vocabulary recognition opens up whole new application possibilities for smart phones and may do much to break the usability barrier for these devices. Most of this technology was developed by VoiceSignal. The issue opens with an interview with Jordan Cohen, a pioneer in this field, about the growth of cellphone speech interfaces, their potential, and the challenges still remaining.

The issue’s second article looks at computer vision-based interfaces. James Crowley, who directs the GRAVIR (Graphics, Vision and Robotics) laboratory at INRIA Rhône-Alpes in France, is a leader in this area, who developed a rich model of context considering “situations” and “scenarios.”

The third article looks at context-awareness in a biology lab. Gaetano Borriello, computer science professor at the University of Washington, leads us through some field tests of the Labscape system, which is intended as an efficient but unobtrusive assistant for cell biologists.

In the final article, Jim Christensen and colleagues from IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Lab argue for human interpretation of context information. They describe two systems that exemplify this approach: Grapevine, a system that mediates human-to-human communication to minimise inappropriate interruptions; and Rendezvous, a VoIP conference-calling solution that uses contextual information from corporate resources to enhance the user experience of audio conferencing.

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