MIDAS at CHI2014

Authors: Anna Xambó and Sara Price //


This year, MIDAS has been to the CHI Conference (Computer Human Interaction) in Toronto, Canada. We were presenting the work in progress (WiP) paper Towards an integrated methodological framework for understanding embodiment in HCI. We took the opportunity to discover the latest research in one of the most prestigious worldwide conferences on Human-Computer Interaction. The first thing you realise is how big this event is, and how many different communities gather together to share cutting-edge research for a few days (e.g. computer science, cognitive science, design, education, games, healthcare, music technology, psychology, anthropology, or sociology, among others). With no doubt, it is worth attending!


Toronto skyline seen from the CN Tower.

Our poster presentation was on Tuesday 29th of April (the second day), within the cluster “Making”, during the morning and afternoon coffee breaks, in which we explained our research to those interested. We prepared a 30 second speech that summarised the poster, and which was video-recorded by the CHI conference team for the ACM archives. During the poster presentation, we informally chatted with conference attendees about our project. For instance, we were asked what do we understand by embodiment. We explained that we are currently observing 6 case studies in order to understand our participants’ perspectives of embodiment, through observing the methods they use when working with concepts of embodiment in the context of digital technology. We also found out about related work on embodiment and digital arts, which will be useful for our literature review. Moreover, we had the chance to meet other poster presenters and find out about a diverse range of interesting work.


The MIDAS poster presented at CHI2014.

The CHI conference was intense and varied, starting from the Opening Keynote. The Canadian science fiction novelist Margaret Atwood delighted us with a thought-provoking keynote, presenting her work and thoughts on past, present, and future robots, and a discussion on the role of science fiction in informing future design of technology. She also introduced and demonstrated her system LongPen, a remote device for signing books using a tablet and internet.

Papers presented at the conference were numerous and within, sometimes, 15 tracks in parallel. Here we mention the tracks/papers that we think are most relevant to MIDAS. You may find the full program and papers in the online proceedings on the ACM library.

This year there has been a compelling presence of the sensory, which is a theme that speaks to MIDAS. The track Sensory Experiences: Smell and Taste included the presentation of two papers by Marianna Obrist and colleagues on the implications for design and technology of using smell and taste. In the same session, the SensaBubble was presented, a system that generates scented bubbles and delivers multimodal information using the sensory. The track Whole Body Sensing and Interaction included projects such as Wave to me, which identifies users by gestures using arms, or Haptic Turk, which provides immersive motion experiences using a human team of ‘turkers’.

The “making” was also covered in several tracks, ranging from the poster track Making; to courses such as Designing wearable interfaces, Introduction to designing and building musical interfaces or Make this! Introduction to electronics prototyping using Arduino; to oral presentation tracks such as Hackerspaces, Making and Breaking or DIY & Hacking. In “Hackerspaces, Making, and Breaking”, the paper Emerging sites of HCI innovation provides a long-term study using of ethnography for understanding hands-on and practical-based communities. In the session “DIY & Hacking”, the paper Sketching in circuits was presented for supporting early stages of sketching the design of electronic circuits using conductive foil tape, and used workshops for evaluating the system.

Performance was also a relevant topic in this conference. We were glad to hear Steve Benford’s presentation of the TOCHI journal article Performance-led research in the wild, which proposes a perspective for understanding long-term workflows in collaborative work between practitioners and HCI researchers over the past 15 years. This presentation was held during the session Research and Deployment in the Wild. There was also a session on Enabling Interactive Performances.

In addition to courses, talks, and posters, there were interactive exhibits. This year there was a Wearable Computing Exhibition curated by Thad Starner and Clint Zeagler. It was a historical review of the last 20-30 years on wearables that explains the development of wearable technologies up to Google Glass.


Wearable Computing Exhibition at CHI2014.

The closing keynote was led by Scott Jenson, who talked about his vision on the shape of innovation, from familiarity to maturity back with revolution; or interactivity as an on demand service similar to how we interact with the browser.

Finally, next year’s conference was announced. CHI2015 will be held in Asia for the first time in the history of CHI, particularly in Seoul, Korea. The main theme will be “Crossing boundaries”: between Western and Eastern cultures, or between disciplines, among others. This theme certainly speaks to the MIDAS project, and indicates that interdisciplinarity is becoming an important approach for future research in HCI. It seems that performance arts will play a greater role next year as well, as we appreciated with a final musical performance held by a Korean artist. Can’t wait for CHI2015!


Announcement of CHI2015, to be held in Seoul, Korea.


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