NordiCHI ’14: Beyond the Switch and Nokia

At the moment I’m in Helsinki for NordiCHI 2014. Yesterday I was taking part in the Beyond the Switch workshop, where we discussed interactive lighting and interaction – both implicit and explicit – with light sources.

It was interesting to learn more about how people interact with light and hear about how others are using light in their own research and products. I’m hoping that I also brought an interesting point of view, as an “outsider” in this community. In our research we use interactive light as an output modality, exploiting the increasing connectivity of “smart” light sources. As new and existing light sources are developed with interactivity in mind, I think we’ll start to see others using light in new ways too.

In the first half of the workshop we presented our position papers and identified some interesting topics and challenges which arose in these presentations. After some discussion – and lots of post-it notes – we arranged these topics into themes. Two of the bigger themes which emerged in the workshop were (in my own words): semantics and “natural” interaction with light.

Lots of questions which emerged from the discussion were about what light actually means and how we can use light to represent information. This was relevant to what we do in our research as we use interactive light to encode information about gesture interaction. I think an interesting area for future research would be to understand what properties of light best represent what types of information and what makes a “good” interactive light encoding. There is already research which has started to look at some of these design challenges although more is needed.

In the second half of the workshop we thought more about “natural” interaction. I put quotes around the word natural because it, along with “intuitive”, is a bad word in HCI (according to Steve Brewster, anyway)! As the workshop was about interaction beyond the switch, however, there was a lot of interest in how else we could interact with light. We split up into teams and each focused on different aspects of interaction with light. My team looked at explicit control of light, whilst the other focused on implicit interaction with light. Overall, it was a fun workshop. Lots of really cool demos of Philips Hue, too!

Earlier today I went to visit Vuokko and give a talk about my PhD research, at Nokia Technologies in Otaniemi. After two years of working with and being funded by Nokia, it was nice to finally visit them in Finland! My slides from my talk are available here.

Now that my workshop and presentation at Nokia are finished, I have the rest of the week to enjoy the conference. I’m looking forward to exploring Helsinki more. I’ve walked quite a lot since I got here – mostly at night – and it’s been fun to see the city. Tomorrow morning is the start of the main conference program, starting with a keynote by Don Norman.