HCI

Vol. 4 No. 6 – July-August 2006

HCI

Interviews

A Conversation with Jordan Cohen

Jordan Cohen calls himself 'sort of an engineer and sort of a linguist.' This diverse background has been the foundation for his long history working with speech technology, including almost 30 years with government agencies, with a little time out in the middle to work in IBM's speech recognition group. Until recently he was the chief technology officer of VoiceSignal, a company that does voice-based user interfaces for mobile devices. VoiceSignal has a significant presence in the cellphone industry, with its software running on between 60 and 100 million cellphones. Cohen has just joined SRI International as a senior scientist. He will be working on government contracts as well as other ventures.

A Conversation with Jordan Cohen

Speaking out about speech technology

Jordan Cohen calls himself ”sort of an engineer and sort of a linguist.” This diverse background has been the foundation for his long history working with speech technology, including almost 30 years with government agencies, with a little time out in the middle to work in IBM’s speech recognition group. Until recently he was the chief technology officer of VoiceSignal, a company that does voice-based user interfaces for mobile devices. VoiceSignal has a significant presence in the cellphone industry, with its software running on between 60 and 100 million cellphones. Cohen has just joined SRI International as a senior scientist. He will be working on government contracts as well as other ventures.

We recently got Cohen to pause long enough to share his thoughts on speech technology and its potential for home, automobile, doctors’ offices, and especially, cellphones. What will make the difference for its ultimate acceptance in the marketplace?

Curmudgeon

Like a Podcast in the Sea: Mean ol' LoTech Blues

Is it just a matter of semantics?

Like a Podcast in the Sea - Mean Ol' LoTech Blues

Is it just a matter of semantics?

Stan Kelly-Bootle, Author

Mache Creeger's general pessimism1 about IT's status quo rests on his perception that HiTech (the character- and tree-saving token for High Technology, somewhat, if not totally, vitiated by this long-winded, unnecessary explanation) is not quite Hi enough. IT relies too much on dreary, evolutionary gradualism rather than on the exciting Kuhnian discontinuities that spell revolution and paradigm shifts.2

I have no qualms about Creeger's observation that the marketeers, both commercial and academic (if such categories can be distinguished in these pursy PC times), are fond of paint jobs - coloring the most modest upgrades with claims of major, must-have breakthroughs. This is an ancient and, alas, effective promotional ploy in other trades. I recall one cornflake manufacturer who was forced to confess that what was "new" about its latest product was the bold slogan "NEW" on the package.

by Stan Kelly-Bootle

Articles

Social Perception

Modeling human interaction for the next generation of communication services

Social Perception

Will videoconferencing software one day react to who's speaking?

Modeling human interaction for the next generation of communication services

James L. Crowley, INRIA Rhône-Alpes

A scenario: Bob runs a meeting

Bob manages a team that designs and builds widgets. Life would be sweet, except that Bob's team is distributed over three sites, located in three different time zones. Bob used to collect lots of frequent flyer miles traveling to attend meetings. Lately, however, business travel has evolved into a humanly degrading, wasteful ordeal. So Bob has invested in a high-bandwidth video communications system to cut down on business travel. Counting direct costs, the system was supposed to pay for itself within three months. There is a problem, however.

Bob's videoconferencing system brings together the views from up to 16 cameras to form a four-by-four mosaic of images that can be displayed by up to 16 video channels. The cameras are static, so meeting participants have to position themselves in the center of an image. Naturally, people are not careful, so often just a part of a face appears on the edge of an image. One of the cameras at each site is aimed at a whiteboard, but it is never clear which whiteboard is where. Other cameras present overhead views of individual sketchpads on which participants can draw, but it is never clear who is doing the drawing, or whether they are illustrating a point or simply making notes for themselves. The audio is a composition of up to 16 microphones, all transmitting at the same time. The first half of most meetings is spent "fooling around with the system." Conversations are frequently interrupted by statements such as "Hold on while I adjust the camera to show you." When you factor in the loss in productivity, the system is not likely to pay for itself this year.

by James L. Crowley

The Future of Human-Computer Interaction

Personal computing launched with the IBM PC. But popular computing launched with the modern WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) interface, which made computers usable by ordinary people.

The Future of Human-Computer Interaction

Is an HCI revolution just around the corner?

JOHN CANNY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

Personal computing launched with the IBM PC. But popular computing—computing for the masses—launched with the modern WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) interface, which made computers usable by ordinary people. As popular computing has grown, the role of HCI (human-computer interaction) has increased. Most software today is interactive, and code related to the interface is more than half of all code. HCI also has a key role in application design. In a consumer market, a product’s success depends on each user’s experience with it. Unfortunately, great engineering on the back end will be undone by a poor interface, and a good UI can carry a product in spite of weaknesses inside.

More importantly, however, it’s not a good idea to separate “the interface” from the rest of the product, since the customer sees the product as one system. Designing “from the interface in” is the state of the art today. So HCI has expanded to encompass “user-centered design,” which includes everything from needs analysis, concept development, prototyping, and design evolution to support and field evaluation after the product ships. That’s not to say that HCI swallows up all of software engineering. But the methods of user-centered design—contextual inquiry, ethnography, qualitative and quantitative evaluation of user behavior—are quite different from those for the rest of computer engineering. So it’s important to have someone with those skills involved in all phases of a product’s development.

by John Canny

The Invisible Assistant

One lab's experiment with ubiquitous computing

The Invisible Assistant

One lab’s experiment with ubiquitous computing

GAETANO BORRIELLO, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Ubiquitous computing seeks to place computers everywhere around us—into the very fabric of everyday life1—so that our lives are made better. Whether it is improving our job productivity, our ability to stay connected with family and friends, or our entertainment, the goal is to find ways to put technology to work for us by getting all those computers—large and small, visible and invisible—to work together. Since Mark Weiser presented the ubiquitous computing vision in 1991, we have made significant progress in creating faster, smaller, and lower-power computing devices.We have just barely begun, however, to tackle the problem of how we get these devices to interact effectively with us and with each other.

In the past, computers have been tools. We have explicitly commanded them to execute the steps to get a job done. Using them in this way inadvertently turned many of us into system administrators—loading and upgrading software, configuring networks and services, and moving and storing data. In fact, it seems that the time devoted to these activities increased more than linearly as each pair of interactions between the devices required special attention. We have tried to automate some of these tasks, but automation still has a long way to go and often creates additional compatibility issues.

by Gaetano Borriello

Too Much Information

Two applications reveal the key challenges in making context-aware computing a reality.
As mobile computing devices and a variety of sensors become ubiquitous, new resources for applications and services - often collectively referred to under the rubric of context-aware computing - are becoming available to designers and developers. In this article, we consider the potential benefits and issues that arise from leveraging context awareness in new communication services that include the convergence of VoIP (voice over IP) and traditional information technology.

Too Much Information

Users often are not comfortable with others knowing what they were doing. Context-aware applications are the wave of the future, but many challenges remain.

Two applications reveal the key challenges in making context-aware computing a reality.

Jim Christensen, Jeremy Sussman, Stephen Levy, William E. Bennett, Tracee Vetting Wolf, Wendy A. Kellogg, IBM Research

As mobile computing devices and a variety of sensors become ubiquitous, new resources for applications and services - often collectively referred to under the rubric of context-aware computing - are becoming available to designers and developers. In this article, we consider the potential benefits and issues that arise from leveraging context awareness in new communication services that include the convergence of VoIP (voice over IP) and traditional information technology.

To ground the discussion, we describe two services that IBM has developed and deployed over the past few years to help people communicate more effectively. We examine techniques that have proven effective, as well as problems that remain unsolved. The two services have a somewhat different focus. The first, called Grapevine, helps a person communicate with another individual using an aggregated and filtered set of contextual information. The second, the IBM Rendezvous Service, helps people meet and talk on the telephone. While people clearly do these things today without additional help from context-aware services, the goals of such services are to allow people to make better communication choices, engage in a richer and more valuable interaction, and waste less time in accomplishing their interactions, while providing significant cost savings to the enterprise.

by Jim Christensen, Jeremy Sussman, Stephen Levy, William E. Bennett, Tracee Vetting Wolf, Wendy A. Kellogg

Interviews

Automatic for the People

Probably the single biggest challenge with large scale systems and networks is not building them but rather managing them on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, new classes of systems and network management tools that have the potential to save on labor costs because they automate much of the management process are starting to appear.

Automatic for the People - Transcript

Transcript of interview with Rob Gingell, CTO of Cassatt

MICHAEL VIZARD: Hello, and welcome to today's edition of ACM Queuecast with your host, Mike Vizard. This edition of the show focuses on the system management issues associated with large scale computing systems and networks. Joining us today to discuss these issues is Rob Gingell, formerly a chief engineer of Sun, who today is the CTO of Cassatt, a company that makes tools for automating server management. Rob, welcome to the first inaugural-I guess that's slightly redundant-Queuecast.

ROB GINGELL: Well, thank you for having me.

Discipline and Focus

When it comes to managing and deploying large scale systems and networks, discipline and focus matter more than specific technologies. In a conversation with ACM Queuecast host Mike Vizard, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels says the key to success is to have a relentless commitment to a modular computer architecture that makes it possible for the people who build the applications to also be responsible for running and deploying those systems within a common IT framework.

Discipline and Focus - Transcript

Transcript of interview with Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.

MICHAEL VIZARD: Hello, and welcome to ACM Queuecasts. I'm your host, Mike Vizard, and joining me today to discuss large scale computing initiatives is Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon. Welcome, Werner. How are you doing?

WERNER VOGELS: Hi, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Kode Vicious

Pointless PKI

We've had problems in the past with internal compromises, and management has decided that the only way to protect the information is to encrypt it during transmission.

Pointless PKI

As prickly as he is, Kode Vicious actually enjoys reading your comments and might even respond to them in print. But it’s your programming questions that are the true lifeblood of the column. So don’t be shy, shoot off your latest humdinger to kv@acmqueue.com. If we publish it you’ll receive not only the benefit of KV’s sage advice, but also a very cool Queue coffee mug.

by George Neville-Neil