Swedish Institute of Computer Science | email@example.com
Kristina Höök is the technical program chair for CHI 2012.
A Cry for More Tech at CHI!
This is a rant.
And a plea.
And an ad.
With this rant, plea, and ad, I
hope to attract more attention to
the video and interactivity submissions at CHI 2012. But that is just a
means to an end. The result I hope
for is to make our field influential
in shaping a whole new wave of
interactions through technologies,
the likes of which we have never
One day in my lab, my colleagues
told me to touch an actuator they
wanted to use. As my finger met
the surface, it suddenly became
extremely cold, and I pulled back
in surprise. It was almost painful—and very unexpected. How
could this very small surface grow
so cold, so fast? My research team
smiled at me, recognizing my reaction from their own experiences
experimenting with the Peltier element. Apparently, a small current
led through the material will make
one side cold and the other side hot.
When the current is applied in the
opposite direction, the cool side
becomes the hot side.
A week later I got to touch a
paper sensor where all you have to
do is let your finger hover above the
surface. The paper then acts as a
button being pushed.
Several months before that, two
master’s students of mine had built
a game, EmRoll, in which a breath-
ing sensor across my chest was mir-
rored in the behavior of my charac-
ter in the game [ 1]. It was only when
I breathed slowly and synchronized
my breathing with my co-player’s
that we could succeed in making
our character swim in the water,
The design opportunities with
these digital materials are endless!
But what are we going to do with
them? And what will it feel like to
interact with these new materials?
March + April 2012
New Tech—What Do We Do with It?
There is a whole wave of new
technologies and new interactive
materials just about to be launched,
including printed electronics, organic interfaces, nano-sensors, novel
textiles grown in chemical labs, and
a whole range of actuators. With
these we can, for example, know
more about our internal bodily
processes. Sensors built into our
environment can help us follow and
interact with the activities of people, pets, and household appliances,
or access location-based interactions. Actuators communicate with
us in new ways: through fine-tuned
vibrators, hot-and-cold surfaces,
and sound environments, providing
direct access to digital interactions
with objects in the world.
How HCI Has Thrived on Tech
HCI has in the past been able to
shape interactions based on a
deep, well-cultivated understanding of technological capacities.
If we go back to Doug Engelbart
and his innovation of the mouse
and graphical interface, Alan Kay
and the team at Xerox and their
point-and-click interface, Ben
Shneiderman and his understanding and contributions to direct
manipulation as visualizations,
or to Steve Jobs and his development of the Mac and the i-tools,
they were all picking up on what
software, hardware, graphics, novel
visualization techniques, and novel
interaction modalities could afford
in terms of empowering interactions. These researchers cultivated
a deep understanding of their digital materials and how to make use
of them in design.
Time to Fix the CHI/Tech Disconnect
But lately it feels as if HCI researchers and the CHI conference are
losing the connection to technology. Tabletop interaction was not
introduced at CHI—no demos, no
papers—until after it was presented
elsewhere. Kinect and Wii-motes
were not demoed at CHI, and there
are many other examples. It is my
firm belief that we need to engage