Coolest of CHI 2014

Every year around this time my research community has the CHI conference, both standing for Computer-Human Interaction and a pun on the greek χ, representing empirical data. Here are the projects I saw at the conference that were the coolest. I’ll update this as I read papers I didn’t get to see in person.

Haptic turk: a motion platform based on people

This was my favourite overall – to avoid the difficulty of body-size hardware for body-size haptics, this project used friends holding you while you played a game, the most prominent example using an Oculus Rift in a hang-gliding simulation. The people holding you up could shake you or lift you up or down as instructed by DDR-style visualizations. The visualizations were clever in that they gave the people holding the player (the Turkers) enough warning to react on time to effects in the environment.

Walk this Way: Musically Guided Walking Experiences

This project studied a few ways of constructing music that changed when a user navigated a space. Given a certain location, as detected by GPS, a variation of the same musical theme would play. I initially felt the topology the authors explored was overly simple — concentric circles around points of interest, and there were, for example, no long channels of the same audio character. When I asked about this, they said the project was in preparation for a sculpture garden that were commissioned to work on, so moving towards and away from singular objects is the experience they were interested in. They also pointed out, and this is pretty interesting, that it would be really easy to walk over and through an audio channel without being able to orient yourself. I’m not sure – would love to see more work on it.

WaaZam! Supporting Creative Play at a Distance in Customized Video Environments

A system for creating a shared video environment across a distance. The authors used the Kinect to make it a shared 3D environment, and played with changing scale of the people in the environment as well. It looks like they are working with Open Frameworks to clean up their networking system a bit (which is very good and useful).

Exertion in the Small: Improving Differentiation and Expressiveness in Sports Games with Physical Controls

The premise for this work is that, in sports video games, players with the same stats run equally quickly across the field. There is no opportunity for a player to exert themselves wildly and dramatically in a key moment. While some games model fatigue and stamina, it is quite simplified and doesn’t yield the tense and exciting moments we get in the real world. The game presented (Jelly Polo) uses a novel control of thumb-flicking: the faster you thumb-flick, the faster you are in the game!

And of course, MY work:
LACES: Live Authoring through Compositing and Editing of Streaming Video