Yesterday I attended an evening presentation session of student projects created in several courses related to HCI at UC Berkeley. The show was organized by Bjoern Hartmann and Maneesh Agrawala, and featured presentations by teams from four courses from three different disciplines: CS, SIMS, and Art/Anthropology. Each presentation took 2.5 minutes, and there were over 30 presentations total. Most of the work was around the design of mobile applications, and some creative constraints (e.g., don’t design for students; focus on specific populations) stipulated at the beginning of the projects ensured a great diversity of designs.
I cannot possibly do justice to the effort and to the results here, but fortunately all presentations and many associated videos are available online. Some presentations stood out, however, and deserve special mention.
The first presentation, called Grocery Guardian, described an iPhone app that warned people about potential allergens in products they were considering buying. To set things up, a person would create a profile that listed ingredients that he or she was allergic to (or perhaps wanted to avoid for other reasons). The app could then be used to scan barcodes associated with food products, and would use the product code to retrieve the ingredients list for the product. It would then compare the list of ingredients with each profile stored with the application, indicating which problematic allergens were found. It’s an elegant idea that many people would want to have right now. There are of course some legal issues that might need to be worked out, but I think this is an application that should be built and made available publicly.
Transporter, another compelling and useful application, allowed people to perform a range of planning and navigation tasks related to public transit. It did a great job of integrating various systems, allowed people to monitor specific route schedules, plan trips, etc. The level of integration of the data in the application is far superior to the level of integration of the actual transit systems here in the Bay Area. I think this application would be quite useful for tourism as well as for use by locals in a variety of metropolitan areas. Again, this is a great candidate for productization; one challenge would be to stay on top of changing schedule and route information.
On the more frivolous side, there was iDeck, an app for playing cards. Rather than automating the rules of some specific game or games, iDeck creates an interactive platform through which people can play whatever games they want; the system merely mediates their play. It’s a nice departure from common expectations with respect to computer card games.
The mobile web annotation project caught my eye as well. This was a prototype based on Firefox for Mobile (who knew?) that allowed people to highlight passages of web pages they were reading. Unlike some other annotation tools, this one made it possible to toggle between the annotated passages and the full document.
Several applications explored the social interaction space, covering dancing, skateboarding, rock climbing, dressing, healing animals, and scouting. I think beer drinking might also have had a social component :-)
Roll Call, Quickboards, and Coach’s Clipboard were designed to help instructors, and iBCs and MySchool Music helped children learn letters and fractions. PetTrainer and Crohnology were in the personal health space, with Viral Defense taking a humorous approach to fighting infections. Modern Singing, Mobile CAPTCHA, and iExplore reviews rounded out the set.
Then there was a whole bunch of location-aware applications:
ShareWhere and Team Tag explored more flexible means of sharing your location with others. This work reminded me a bit of a recent WWW2010 paper on the use of maps and text displays in a mobile environment. (More on that here.)
phWrap, Anthropologist, AfterImage, Berkeley Chronicles, City Fiction, Shadow Layer, PostCard, and StreetMix all looked at various aspects of blending the existing space with its history, with imagined places, as games, etc. The broad range of these efforts is encouraging, and suggests that these kinds of augmented reality applications will become increasingly more common in the future. Using augmented reality to present local history seems particularly attractive to me.
The evening concluded with three awards, the categories being something like novelty, usefulness, and creativity (although I am not sure of the exact wording used). The winners were Transporter, Grocery Guardian,and Shadow Layer. Overall, it was a great evening of ideas and energy, one that I am looking forward to attending again next time.