Microsoft is making its case for better human-computing interactions at CHI 2015

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Image Credit: Surface Hub

There is a collection of researchers from Microsoft that will be attending this years AMC CHI 2015. The Microsoft researchers will present research studies as well as tools that will help shape the future of  a wide range of human-computer communications.

Academic scholars, programmers, organizations, and businesses will all gather in Seoul Korea for the annual conference this year to discuss better ways of making computing even more personal. The conference will help researchers and developers focus on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to human interaction with computing. Some examples include catering to the particular needs of surgeons in operating rooms to CEO’s and presenters in boardrooms, as well as student and teacher interactions during online courses.

Image Credit: Microsoft health

Thus far, Microsoft research has found examples of where computational management runs into a wall with human interaction. In the case of blood pressure monitoring and the Microsoft Band, the Redmond giant found that offering continuous blood pressure monitoring would be an excellent addition to the Band but would ultimately go unused for several reasons. The Microsoft Band team found that while people were interested in the feature, very few knew what to make of the data being presented. This lack of explanation often occurs with most health monitoring devices. Data and numbers without reference or clinical interpretation do very little to help maintain continued use. Another complication was that some users would be more likely to self-evaluate based on their perceived conclusions about the data. “For example, a person who got a high blood pressure reading might blame it on a recent salty meal,” said senior research on the Microsoft Band, Dan Morris. With two big hurdles that present countless issues with medical monitoring, Microsoft opted to leave the blood pressure measurement feature out of the final product. We can rest assured that the research team will address these issues at a later time when they have a better understanding how most people want or need to interact with new forms of computing.

Image credit: Bing Blog

Another area where the CHI 2015 conference and researchers can come together is in the changing landscape of search. Part of the research Microsoft is investigating into has to do with understanding a person’s intent when they search and still provide them the most relevant information pertaining to that search. Some would argue that Google and other search engines have pretty much figured this out, but they might be surprised at what research is turning up. “Although we have made tremendous strides in improving the quality and capabilities of search over the last decade, we are still just scratching the surface of what we can do,” said Susan Dumais, a distinguished scientist and deputy managing director of the Microsoft Research lab in Redmond.

Susan recommends that researchers continue to look more into large-scale behavioral data to help create algorithms and interfaces to power the next wave of search, but also to use complimentary methods to gain a complete view of search. Susan urges researchers to use approaches like field observation, laboratory studies, and panels in order to help supplement their findings and offer a greater scope of features and support for search queries. Another part of Susan’s observations belong to the growing trend of user behavior in adapting to newer technologies, particularly in mobile. People tend to search differently on mobile devices than on more traditional computing. The language used on a mobile device is shorter and more direct than on a PC per say. A sense of urgency and the adaptation to touch screens or voice input is still being learned. These are things search will have to accommodate more and more for in the future. According to Susan, “Today, people just expect search to work, and their expectations about what search can do are growing”.

Beyond search and mobile devices is an area of placing technology in the background when people want to interact with each other. Researchers at the conference will also be delving into 3D technology. 3D technology can help replicate or support the feeling people have of standing next to each other when in fact they are interacting with each other across areas. Boardroom conferencing is often an example used to tackle human and computer technology clashing. The more visual and immediate the response the better interactions people tend to get from technology. Items like the Surface Hub will help bring that level of comfort and interaction to board rooms in the future.

“For example, if two people are in one room, it uses face and clothing recognition to figure out who is at the white board at any given moment, so it can later separate out who wrote what on the board. In addition, it can distinguish between right and left hands, so you can use one as a pencil and the other as an eraser, and it lets you do things like use your finger as a laser pointer from far away.”

Microsoft will be hosting and presenting a plethora of meetings, research and meet-ups at CHI 2015. Microsoft’s presence at CHI this week also includes the following papers and presentations

  • A framework for automatically generating interactive tutorials: Researchers at Microsoft, Cornell University and the University of Washington are presenting a system that would automatically create step-by-step tutorials, which could be used for things like educational games.
  • Automatic game progression design through analysis of solution features: Researchers from Microsoft, Cornell and the University of Washington will present a system that automates the progression from one level of a game to another.
  • Mixed-initiative approaches to global editing in slideware: Researchers at Microsoft, the University of Waterloo and the University of Tokyo collaborated to create a system to improve the visual consistency of slide decks.
  • Mudslide: A spatially anchored census of student confusion for online lecture videos: Microsoft researchers have created a prototype system that allows students to give online lecturers feedback about what parts of the lecture were least clear to them, linked to particular slides in the lecture.
  • RIMES: Embedding interactive multimedia exercises in lecture videos: Microsoft researchers have created a way to make online lectures more interactive, allowing students to record audio, video and text that teachers can evaluate.
  • Accurate, Robust, and Flexible Real-Time Hand Tracking: Microsoft researchers have developed a system that can track, in real time, all the sophisticated and nuanced hand motions that people make in their everyday lives.
  • Measuring crowdsourcing effort with error-time curves: Researchers at Microsoft and Stanford University have created a data-driven model for figuring out the fair price to pay for crowdsourced jobs such as transcription and search.
  • For Telling” the present: Using the Delphi Method to understand personal information management practices: Researchers from Microsoft and five universities collaborated to come up with better systems for managing personal information such as documents and e-mails.
  • Break it down: A comparison of macro- and micro tasks: Researchers from Microsoft and Stanford worked together on a paper looking at the benefits of breaking up major jobs, such as a huge transcription project, into small tasks that can be completed by crowdsourcing. Although the “micro-task” system took longer, the researchers found that they got higher-quality results.
  • ModelTracker: Redesigning performance analysis tools for machine learning: Microsoft researchers have developed an interactive and efficient way of displaying machine learning performance while simultaneously supporting direct access to data for inspection and debugging.
  • (s|qu)eries: Visual regular expressions for querying and exploring event sequences: Researchers at Microsoft and Brown University have developed a system for non-programmers to use visual tools to find better and analyze sequences in data sets such as programs or web logs.
  • FluxPaper: Reinventing paper with dynamic actuation powered by magnetic flux: Researchers at Microsoft and Keio University in Japan have developed paper that contains a very thin magnetic layer, allowing for much more sophisticated interactions than regular paper.
  • The known stranger: Supporting conversations between strangers with personalized topic suggestions: Researchers at Microsoft, the University of Minnesota and Carnegie Mellon sought to solve an awkward problem: Talking to new people. The study used a wearable device to offer topic suggestions to strangers conversing for the first time.
  • Sangeet Swara: A community-moderated voice forum in rural India: Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington have created a system for curating audio messages for communities in developing regions to share with one another.
  • Playing the legal card: Using ideation cards to raise data protection issues within the design process: Researchers at Microsoft and University of Nottingham developed a deck of cards to help system designers comply with emerging European Union data protection regulation. The cards take a game-based approach to support more creative compliance.
  • Exploring time-dependent concerns about pregnancy and childbirth from search logs: Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Waterloo used anonymous search engine logs to create a methodology for better understanding what pregnant women and new moms are looking for at various stages of pregnancy and early parenting.
  • Health vlogs as social support for chronic illness management: Researchers at Microsoft, University of Washington and Michigan State University analyzed video blogs and user comments from people diagnosed with HIV, diabetes and cancer. They found implications for how vlogs could be enhanced to support further people managing chronic illness.
  • Gauging receptiveness to social micro-volunteering: Researchers at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon and University of Rochester created Visual Answers, a Facebook application that posts visual questions from people who are blind, to test the concept of asking friends to do small volunteer tasks.
  • Understanding data videos: Looking at narrative visualization through the cinematography lens: Researchers at Microsoft, University of Manitoba and University Toulouse analyzed data videos to understand better how to create a tool that would let more people do their data storytelling.
  • Modeling ideology and predicting policy change with social media: Case of same-sex marriage: Researchers at Microsoft and MIT analyzed four years of Twitter posts related to same-sex marriage to build models for using social media to successfully predict the outcome of proposed policy changes.
  • Designing social and emotional skills training: The challenges and opportunity for technology support: Microsoft researchers worked with Vienna University of Technology to come up with ways that human-computer interaction could help support other tools for developing better social and emotional learning.
  • Data-in-place: Thinking through the relations between data and community: Researchers at Microsoft, University of Nottingham and Newcastle University will present findings of a yearlong study on data from one street and its community.
  • The Semantic Paintbrush: Interactive 3D mapping and recognition in large outdoor spaces: Researchers from Microsoft and elsewhere collaborated on a project that can create big, 3D maps of outdoor spaces and when draw on that map with a laser pointer.
  • Digital collections and digital collecting practices: Researchers at Microsoft and Cardiff University have developed a system for classifying what constitutes a digital collection of data, and present a framework for creating more meaningful and valuable digital collections.
  • Effect of machine translation in interlingual conversation: Lessons from a formative study: Researchers at Microsoft and University of Maryland evaluated how people use a translator application and found that they naturally adapt their style of speech to accommodate the technology.
  • Voice or gesture in the operating room: Researchers at Microsoft and several universities found that, when performing cardiothoracic surgery, surgeons can benefit from having both voice and gesture control in the operating room.
  • The industry is changing, and so we must: In this case study, Microsoft researchers argue that course curriculum and training in human-computer interaction must evolve to reflect the skills required in today’s software industry.

There is no official word on this but presentations like these tend to end up on Channel 9, so keep your eyes on the channel for possible information from the conference.