Can't Humans and Computers Just Get Along?

Using a finger instead of a stylus on a small touch-screen device. Making Web searches for images more intuitive. Teaching computer skills to non-literate populations. Using a mouse in mid-air as a pointing device. These innovative technology pursuits are among hundreds of research projects being presented this week at the international Computer/Human Interaction (CHI) 2007 […]

Using a finger instead of a stylus on a small touch-screen device. Making Web searches for images more intuitive. Teaching computer skills to non-literate populations. Using a mouse in mid-air as a pointing device.

These innovative technology pursuits are among hundreds of research projects being presented this week at the international Computer/Human Interaction (CHI) 2007 Conference, which goes into full swing today at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. They also represent a small sample of the work that Microsoft Researchers are doing to enrich people’s lives by making technology more user-friendly.

Microsoft Researcher Patrick Baudisch, for example, believes that the best technologies are the ones we don’t even notice. By Baudisch’s way of thinking, a technology that’s simple, intuitive and unobtrusive is a technology that people will use liberally to enhance their everyday lives. Some of the latest projects that Baudisch has been working on fit this description, including Shift, an intriguing new technology that lets a person accurately operate a stylus-based device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) or ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), with his or her fingers.

Shift technology makes it possible to use a pointer on a PDA that can be guided by finger motion -- once the pointer is in position, the user simply lifts his thumb or finger to select the target.
Shift technology makes it possible to use a pointer on a PDA that can be guided by finger motion -- once the pointer is in position, the user simply lifts his thumb or finger to select the target.
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This week, Shift technology is getting noticed, and in a big way. A research paper discussing Shift won a Best Paper Award at CHI 2007. Titled “Shift: A Technique for Operating Pen-Based Interfaces Using Touch,” the paper was written by Baudisch, a research scientist in human-computer interaction (HCI) in the Adaptive Systems and Interaction Research Group at Microsoft Research, in collaboration with University of Toronto researcher Daniel Vogel during Vogel’s internship at Microsoft Research.

The Shift paper is one of three Microsoft Research submissions being honored at CHI, which is celebrating its 25th year as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the HCI discipline. A second paper, titled “What Are You Looking For? An Eye-Tracking Study of Information Usage in Web Search,” earned a “Best of CHI” Honorable Mention for Microsoft Researcher Ed Cutrell, who wrote it in collaboration with Zhiwei Guan of the University of Washington. In addition, a paper titled “Do Life-Logging Technologies Support Memory for the Past? An Experimental Study Using SenseCam” won a “Best of CHI” Honorable Mention for a group of researchers from Microsoft’s Cambridge lab in the United Kingdom, including Abigail Sellen, Andrew Fogg, Steve Hodges, Carsten Rother and Ken Wood, working with Mike Aitken of the University of Cambridge.

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