UNH IRES: HCI summer student research experience in Germany

HCI Lab, Stuttgart

UNH ECE professor Tom Miller and I were recently awarded an NSF International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) grant. Our IRES grant will fund students conducting research at the University of Stuttgart in Germany.

Albrecht Schmidt

Under our NSF IRES grant, each summer between 2014 and 2017, three undergraduate and three graduate students  will conduct research for just under 9 weeks at the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab of Professor Albrecht Schmidt at the University of Stuttgart. Professor Schmidt and his lab are among the world leaders in the field of HCI.

Student research will focus on two areas: in-vehicle speech interaction and speech interaction with public displays. For in-vehicle speech, students will relate the benefits and limitations of speech interaction with in-vehicle devices with real-world parameters, such as how well speech recognition works at any given moment. They will also work to identify why it is that talking to a passenger appears to reduce the probability of a crash, and how we might be able to use this new information to create safer in-vehicle speech interactions. Similarly, students will explore how speech interaction can allow smooth interaction with electronic public displays.

Stuttgart Palace Square (Stefan Fussan: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derfussi/)

Successful applicants will receive full financial support for participation, covering items such as airfare, room and board, health insurance, as well as a $500/week stipend. The total value of the financial package is approximately $8,500 for 9 weeks.

Details about the program, including applications instructions, are available here. Please note that this program is only available to US citizens and permanent residents. If you have questions please contact Andrew Kun (andrew dot kun at unh dot edu) or Tom Miller (tom dot miller at unh dot edu).

Fulbright visit to Western Hungary

Győr: Széchenyi tér

At the beginning of April Fulbright Hungary organized a tow-day trip for grantees to Western Hungary. Here are some of my impressions from this trip:

Győr: Our first stop was the Győr campus of the University of West Hungary. University faculty introduced us to their activities in teacher training, language education, art, hospitality management, and leisure management. As it turns out, leisure management is a relatively new idea for Hungary, and the faculty at Győr are leaders in the field.

In the afternoon we went sightseeing. Győr is a fascinating town with beautiful baroque architecture. We had a chance to visit a pharmacy founded in the 1600, which still operates on Széchenyi tér. Fortunately they’ve updated their list of offerings and leaches are no longer available.

Szigetköz: Szigetköz is a beautiful area of islands created by the Danube and its branches. We toured Szigetköz by bus on both days. I really liked our stop on the banks of the Danube just across from Slovakia. I hope to go back to Szigetköz before we return to New Hampshire and spend some time hiking.

Touring Szigetköz – view from our bus

Lipót: Our hotel was in the village of Lipót. Here we also visited a bakery called the Lipóti Pékség. I’m a big fan of bread in general, and of Lipóti Pékség in particular. They have a number of stores in Budapest.

Mosonmagyaróvár: On day two of our trip we visited the Mosonmagyaróvár campus of the University of West Hungary. This visit included an engaging introduction to a food safety lab. One fun fact about Mosonmagyaróvár: it has the highest number of dentists per capita in the world. Many Austrians and other Europeans come here to receive high quality dental treatment at an affordable price.

Having fun at Futura

Futura Science Museum: Our final stop was the Futura Science Museum, which was a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. My favorite exhibit was a long, suspended spring, which can be manually excited to form mechanical waves. The waves propagate along the spring, reflect at the end of the spring, and the reflections travel back to the source. The engineer in me was thrilled. At another neat exhibit visitors pedal stationary bikes and thus generate the electricity to operate race cars zipping around a track in front of them.

As you might imagine our two days flew by very quickly. The person in charge of organizing every detail of this incredibly full and exciting trip was Fulbright Hungary’s Annamária Sas. Thanks Annamária!

You can see more photos from the trip on Flickr.

2014 Visit to National University of Public Service

Last week I visited the Hungarian National University of Public Service. I was there at the invitation of Zoltán Székely. Zoltán is a major in the Hungarian Police, a lawyer, and an instructor at the University. I met Zoltán through Bálint Kiss, who is my host at BME during my Fulbright scholarship in Hungary.

Zoltán Székely introduces the proposed “Application of Robotics for Enhanced Security” effort

Zoltán is leading an effort to make robots part of law enforcement work in Hungary, and beyond. He invited me to the kick-off meeting for this effort, where I gave a talk sharing some of our experiences at Project54. The Project54 effort at UNH addressed ubicomp in the law enforcement setting.

Zoltán has brought together a diverse and talented group of researchers and practitioners for this effort. I am looking forward to seeing the results of their efforts.

You can see pictures from my visit on Flickr. My favorite is this one of the beautiful University building where the meeting was held:

National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary

2014 Fulbright visit to Szeged

On Wednesday I joined Fulbright Hungary‘s Executive Director Károly Jókay, Director Emeritus Huba Brückner, and fellow Fulbrighters, on a visit to the University of Szeged. Fulbright Hungary is recruiting applicants for Fulbright scholarships from all corners of Hungary, and Wednesday they targeted Szeged.  Our visit was very enjoyable; it included ample time to talk to our hosts, as well as to see the beautiful town of Szeged. You can see photos from the visit on Flickr.

2014 visit to University College London

Last week I travelled to London to give a talk at University College London (UCL). My host was Duncan Brumby, who also recently visited us at UNH. My talk introduced our work on in-vehicle human-computer interaction, touching on subjects from Project54 to driving simulator-based experiments.

It was great to talk to Duncan again, and it was really nice to meet some of his colleagues, including Anna Cox, Paul Marshall, and Sandy Gould. Thanks to all for hosting me.

While my trip was brief, I did get a chance to also visit the British Museum. This is one of my favorite places in the world, and here’s a photo of my favorite artifact from the museum’s vast collection, the Rosetta Stone:

You can see more pictures from my trip on Flickr.

 

 

 

First lecture in BME autonomous robots and vehicles lab

Today was my first lecture in BME‘s Autonomous Robots and Vehicles Lab (Autonóm robotok és járművek laboratórium). This lab is lead by Bálint Kiss, who is my host during my Fulbright scholarship at in Hungary.

Today’s lecture covered the use of eye trackers in designing human-computer interaction. I talked about our work on in-vehicle human-computer interaction, and drew parallels to human-robot interaction. Tomorrow I’ll introduce the class to our Seeing Machines eye tracker, and in the coming weeks I’ll run a number of lab sections in which the students will conduct short experiments in eye tracking and pupil diameter measurement.

If you speak Hungarian, here’s the overview of today’s lecture (I’m thrilled to be teaching in Hungarian):

Szemkövetők használata az ember-gép interakció értékelésében

A University of New Hampshire kutatói több mint egy évtizede foglalkoznak a járműveken belüli ember-gép interfészekkel. Ez az előadás először egy rövid áttekintést nyújt a rendőr járművekre tervezett Project54 rendszer fejlesztéséről és telepítéséről. A rendszer különböző modalitású felhasználói felületeket biztosít, beleértve a beszéd modalitást. A továbbiakban az előadás beszámol közelmúltban végzett autóvezetés-szimulációs kísérletekről, amelyekben a szimulátor és egy szemkövető adatai alapján becsültük a vezető kognitív terhelését, vezetési teljesítményét, és vizuális figyelmét a külső világra.

Az előadás által a hallgatók betekintést nyernek a szemkövetők használatába az ember-gép interakció értékelésében és tervezésében. Az ember-gép interakció pedig egy központi probléma az autonóm robotok sikeres telepítésében, hiszen az autonóm robotokat nem csak szakértők fogják használni. Ellenkezőleg, ezek a robotok a társadalom minden részében felhasználókra találnak majd. A robotok ilyen széleskörű telepítése csak akkor lehet sikeres, ha az ember-gép interakció elfogadható a felhasználók számára.

Fulbright 2014: Exploring art nouveau in Budapest

On Friday Jennifer and I participated in a tour exploring art nouveau in Budapest. The tour was organized by Fulbright Hungary.

We saw a number of beautiful buildings, including the Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary, pictured above. In fact, we had a chance to go inside the Institute building and admire its architecture. Later we also visited the Four Seasons hotel, which is located in the art nouveau Gresham Palace.

Thanks to Annamária Sas of Fulbright Hungary for organizing the tour. You can see more pictures from the tour on Flickr.

U.S. should put higher priority on NSF funding

The NSF’s FY 2015 Budget Summary Brochure is out, and it shows that the agency’s request for the next fiscal year is $7.3 billion. I’m disappointed that the number is this small. Consider the following:

NSF FY 2015 budget request $7.3 billion
2013 NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL player salaries >$10 billion
2013 Fedex sales: US overnight mail $8.2 billion
2014 Facebook purchase of WhatsApp $19 billion

In other words, we as a nation spend the same on NSF’s crucial research [1], as on professional player salaries [2, 3, 4, 5, 6], as well as on overnight mail (actually this is Fedex only, not all overnight mail) [7]. At the same time, a corporate giant spends more than twice as much on a single product, than the entire annual budget of the NSF. I have no problem with player salaries (who else can entertain us like they can?), on overnight package costs (I’m looking forward to delivery by drones too), or with corporate decision-making (no expertise on that one). I’m only mentioning these numbers to put into perspective how little we as a nation, with a $16 trillion economy [8], spend on NSF’s research programs.

References (accessed 3/6/14)

[1] FY 2015 Budget Summary Brochure (pdf)
[2] 2013 NBA salaries: http://hoopshype.com/salaries.htm
[3] 2013 NHL salaries: http://www.capgeek.com/payrolls/
[4] 2013 NFL salaries: http://www.besttickets.com/blog/unofficial-2013-nfl-census/
[5] 2013 MLB salaries: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/salaries
[6] 2013 NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL salaries: http://sportslistoftheday.com/2013/04/02/mlb-nfl-nba-and-nhl-2013-team-payrolls/
[7] Fedex Annual Report 2013 (pdf)
[8] US GDP estimate from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

Is study abroad for you? A conversation with BME freshmen.

Today I discussed the benefits of studying abroad with freshmen at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics (VIK) of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME). VIK is my home during my Fulbright scholarship in Hungary.

My host was Gergely Suba, VIK PhD student. Gergely runs a course that helps freshmen acclimate to university life. In the roughly 90 minutes at our disposal, I made two main points to the 13 students in attendance. First, studying abroad allows students to gain the “human experience” that Steve Jobs mentioned in his interview with Wired:

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”
~Steve Jobs in Wired, February, 1996

My second point was that we all need to carefully plan how we use our time. Time is a perishable, non-renewable resource. If Gergely’s students wish to study abroad, it’s best to start planning early.

You can see Gergely’s photos from the event on Flickr.

2014 Visit to Prezi

Prezi is a new presentation tool developed in Hungary. One of the distinguishing features of the tool is the use of zooming animation to engage the viewer. Yesterday, I visited the company to discuss a  collaboration exploring how people consume Prezis. My hosts were Prezi’s Lead UX Researcher László Laufer and his colleague Eszter Józsa.

László gave me a tour of the Prezi facility, which is truly impressive. I really liked the bright, open area in the picture above, where much of the development work is done. See more of my pictures of Prezi on Flickr.

My collaboration with Prezi is made possible by my Fulbright scholarship in Hungary. I will post updates on our progress in the coming months.

Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of New Hampshire