Category Archives: cognitive load

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:

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).

2013 Liberty Mutual visit to UNH ECE

Yesterday I hosted four researchers from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety: Bill Horrey, Yulan Liang, Angela Garabet, and Luci Simmons. This visit follows my recent visit to Liberty Mutual this summer.

As part of the visit, Bill gave a talk to my ECE 900 class. He discussed the wide variety of research performed at his institute, with an emphasis on the vehicle-related work that he is involved in. As part of this work Bill and colleagues conduct studies on a test track with an instrumented vehicle, which they brought along:

After the talk Tom Miller and I had a chance to show our visitors our driving simulator lab and discuss a host of research issues. It was fun – thanks Bill, Yulan, Angela and Luci.

See pictures from the visit on Flickr.


CLW 2012 report

The 2012 Cognitive Load and In-Vehicle Human-Machine Interaction workshop (CLW 2012) was held in conjunction with AutomotiveUI 2012 in Portsmouth, NH. The workshop was the second CLW in a row – CLW 2011 was held at AutomotiveUI 2011 in Salzburg, Austria.

Over 35 people from government, industry and academia attended CLW 2012.

For CLW 2012 the organizers made the decision to involve a large number of experts in the workshop, instead of only including contributions by authors responding to our CFP. Thus, the CLW 2012 program included three expert presentations, as well as a government-industry panel with four participants. Each of these expert participants discussed unique aspects of estimating and utilizing cognitive load for the design and deployment of in-vehicle human-machine interfaces.

Bryan Reimer opened the expert presentations with a discussion of the relationship between driver distraction and cognitive load. Next, Bruce Mehler discussed practical issues in estimating cognitive load from physiological measures. Finally, Paul Green discussed how cognitive load measures might fit in with the NHTSA visual-manual guidelines.

The expert presentations were followed by a government-industry panel. Chris Monk (Human Factors Division Chief at NHTSA) presented the NHTSA perspective on cognitive load and HMI design. Jim Foley (Toyota Technical Center, USA) introduced the OEM perspective. Scott Pennock (QNX & ITU-T Focus Group on Driver Distraction) introduced issues related to standardization. Garrett Weinberg (Nuance) focused on issues related to voice user interfaces.

Following these presentations, and the accompanying lively discussions, workshop participants viewed eight posters.

At the end of the workshop we asked participants to indicate their level of agreement with these four statements:

  1. I found the workshop to be useful.
  2. enjoyed the workshop.
  3. would attend a similar workshop at a future AutomotiveUI conference.
  4. This workshop is the reason I am attending AutomotiveUI 2011.

The responses of 13 participants are shown below (the workshop organizers in attendance did not complete the questionnaire). They indicate that the workshop was a success.

Next steps
Since  the conclusion of CLW 2012 co-organizers Peter Froehlich and Andrew Kun joined forces with Susanne Boll and Jim Foley to organize a workshop at CHI 2013 on automotive user interfaces. Also, a proposal for CLW 2013 at AutomotiveUI 2013 is in the works.

Thank you presenters and participants!
The organizers would like to extend our warmest appreciation to all of the presenters for the work that went into the expert presentations, the panel discussion, and the poster papers and presentations. We would also like to thank all of the workshop attendees for raising questions, discussing posters, and sharing their knowledge and expertise.

You can see more pictures from CLW 2012 on Flickr.

This report is also available on the CLW website.

Zeljko Medenica defends dissertation

Last November Zeljko Medenica defended his dissertation [1]. Zeljko explored new performance measures that can be used to characterize interactions with in-vehicle devices. The impetus for this work came from our work with personal navigation devices. Specifically, in work published in 2009 [2] we found fairly large differences in the time drivers spend looking at the road ahead (more for voice-only turn-by-turn directions, less when there’s also a map displayed). However, the commonly used driving performance measures (average variance of lane position and steering wheel angle) did not indicate differences between these conditions. We thought that driving might still be affected, and Zeljko’s work confirms this hypothesis.

Zeljko is now with Nuance, working with Garrett Weinberg. Garrett and Zeljko collaborated during Zeljko’s internships at MERL (where Garrett worked prior to joining Nuance) in 2009 and 2010.

I would like to thank Zeljko’s committee for all of their contributions: Paul GreenTim Paek, Tom Miller, and Nicholas Kirsch. Below is a photo of all of us after the defense. See more photos on Flickr.

Tim Paek (left), Zeljko Medenica, Andrew Kun, Tom Miller, Nicholas Kirsch, and Paul Green (on the laptop)



[1] Zeljko Medenica,  “Cross-Correlation Based Performance Measures for Characterizing the Influence of In-Vehicle Interfaces on Driving and Cognitive Workload,” Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire, 2012

[2] Andrew L. Kun, Tim Paek, Zeljko Medenica, Nemanja Memarovic, Oskar Palinko, “Glancing at Personal Navigation Devices Can Affect Driving: Experimental Results and Design Implications,” Automotive UI 2009

Special interest session on cognitive load at the 2012 ITS World Congress

This year Peter Froehlich and I co-organized a special interest session on cognitive load at the 2012 ITS World Congress. The session featured six experts in the field (in alphabetical order):

  • Corinne Brusque, Director, IFSTTAR LESCOT, France
  • Johan Engström, senior project manager, Volvo Technology, Sweden
  • James Foley, Senior Principal Engineer, CSRC, Toyota, USA
  • Chris Monk, Project Officer, US DOT
  • Kazumoto Morita, Senior Researcher, National Safety and Environment Laboratory, Japan
  • Scott Pennock, Chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on Driver Distraction and Senior Hands-Free Standards Specialist at QNX, Canada

Peter posted a nice overview of the session, which also includes the presentation slides.

CLW 2012 to be held at AutomotiveUI 2012

The Cognitive Load and In-Vehicle Human-Machine Interaction workshop (CLW 2012) will be held on October 17, at AutomotiveUI 2012. The workshop will be one of six workshops at the conference. Along with the Automotive Natural User Interfaces workshop, CLW 2012 is now in its second year, and hopefully to be established as a permanent workshop at the conference series.

Announced: Cognitive load and in-vehicle HMI special interest session at the 2012 ITS World Congress

Continuing the work of the 2011 Cognitive Load and In-vehicle Human-Machine Interaction workshop at AutomotiveUI 2011, Peter Fröhlich and I are co-organizing a special interest session on this topic at this year’s ITS World Congress.

The session will be held on Friday, October 26, 2012. Peter and I were able to secure the participation of an impressive list of panelists. They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Corinne Brusque, Director, IFSTTAR LESCOT, France
  • Johan Engström, senior project manager, Volvo Technology, Sweden
  • James Foley, Senior Principal Engineer, CSRC, Toyota, USA
  • Chris Monk, Project Officer, US DOT
  • Kazumoto Morita, Senior Researcher, National Safety and Environment Laboratory, Japan
  • Scott Pennock, Chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on Driver Distraction and Senior Hands-Free Standards Specialist at QNX, Canada

The session will be moderated by Peter Fröhlich. We hope that the session will provide a compressed update on the state-of-the-art in cognitive load research, and that it will serve as inspiration for future work in this field.

Further progress towards disambiguating the effects of cognitive load and light on pupil diameter

In driving simulator studies participants complete both visual and aural task. The most obvious visual task is driving itself, but there are others such as viewing an LCD screen that displays a map. Aural tasks include talking to an in-vehicle computer. I am very interested in estimating the cognitive load of these various tasks. One way to estimate this cognitive load is through changes in pupil diameter: in an effect called the Task Evoked Pupillary Response (TEPR) [1], the pupil dilates with increased cognitive load.

However, in driving simulator studies participants scan a non-uniformly illuminated visual scene. If unaccounted for, this non-uniformity in illumination might introduce an error in our estimate of the TEPR. Oskar Palinko and I will have a paper at ETRA 2012 [2] extending our previous work [3], in which we established that it is possible to separate the pupil’s light reflex from the TEPR. While in our previous work TEPR was the result of participants’ engagement in an aural task, in our latest experiment TEPR is due to engagement in a visual task.

The two experiments taken together support our main hypothesis that it is possible to disambiguate (and not just separate) the two effects even in complicated environments, such as a driving simulator. We are currently designing further experiments to test this hypothesis.


[1] Jackson Beatty, “Task-Evoked Pupillary Responses, Processing Load, and the Structure of Processing Resources,” Psychological Bulletin, 276-292, 91(2)

[2] Oskar Palinko, Andrew L. Kun, “Exploring the Effects of Visual Cognitive Load and Illumination on Pupil Diameter in Driving Simulators,” to appear at ETRA 2012

[3] Oskar Palinko, Andrew L. Kun, “Exploring the Influence of Light and Cognitive Load on Pupil Diameter in Driving Simulator Studies,” Driving Assessment 2011