Reality-based interaction

One of the sessions I attended at this year’s CHI conference was called Post-WIMP (WIMP = Window, Icon, Menu, Pointer). It covered recent trends in user interface design and highlighted attempts to move beyond the typical WIMP concepts we generally use today. In one of the talks, the paper Reality-based interaction: a framework for post-WIMP interfaces by Robert J.K. Jacob et al. was presented which I found particularly interesting. Specifically, the authors developed a framework which allows for the comparison of today’s emerging post-WIMP interfaces according to several aspects, based on the underlying notion of a foundation of these interfaces in the physical, real world.

For the authors, up to four themes of the physical world can be reflected in these new user interfaces:

  • Na├»ve Physics
  • Body Awareness & Skills
  • Environment Awareness & Skills
  • Social Awareness & Skills


While Jacob et al. argue that building user interfaces around these innate human skills can have several positive benefits, such as reduced cognitive workload, they also stress that designers should ideally deviate from these concepts in explicit cases. An example they give is that of walking in a virtual world. The command for walking could then be augmented by a command for flying which should remain as analogous as possible to its realistic sibling. Unless some additional power (such as flying) was gained by a command, the authors state, a designer should always use the command closest to reality.

This rationale has become a central criteria for me when judging novel reality-based interfaces, many of which have been promoted (and hyped) in online videos over the last months. I will soon post a few examples of reality-based interfaces which I have recently discovered and put them into relation with the four themes above.

CHI conference concluded

Yesterday, the CHI conference came to a close. The closing plenary was held by Bill Buxton who received the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award this year. It is the highest award by the ACM in this field and recognizes outstanding contributions to CHI. In many ways, Bill Buxton really is an exceptional person with a very wide field of interests, from human-computer-interaction, over music (he holds a Bachelor of Music degree), to mountain and ice climbing and more.

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CHI Impressions

Here are some impressions of the opening plenary of the 2008 CHI conference.

A snapshot of the conference hall:

The keynote was held by Irene McAra-McWilliam, who is the Head of the School of Design at the Glasgow School of Art. Her talk was very interesting and covered the development of different crafts such as stone cutting, painting or gold forging and how their masters have perfected their control over the respective materials over time. She argued that this is not yet the case for the digital, or virtual, material. Therefore, she stressed, that designers of digital products need to improve their skills in handling their virtual material in order to truly be able to create the same inspiring art in the digital world that had awed people centuries ago.

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Facet Folders

Facet Folders are a novel way of managing personal data using a combination of conventional hierarchies with faceted metadata. I am presenting the concept as part of a submission to the Student Research Competition at CHI. Due to popular request and positive feedback, I am providing the paper here for download:

Facet Folders (PDF)

Preparing for CHI

In one week, the ACM CHI conference starts again. I’ll be participating at the Student Research Competition so that means a lot of work to do in advance, such as creating a poster, a presentation and getting the prototypes ready. I am also working on the Qt C++ implementation of a novel widget called “FacetZoom” which will be officially presented at the conference, as well. Hopefully, the code will be ready for release by tomorrow so that I can put it up here before I leave for Italy.