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My View on the 15th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction

by Jerry Cavin, Senior Software Engineer

Every year, HCI International brings together thousands of people from all over the globe who are interested in the seemingly endless approaches to interaction between computers and people. This past July, that conference came to Las Vegas, and I was fortunate enough to be invited as a presenter for the poster paper I submitted titled “A HCI/AI Tool for Astronomy.”

HCI-2013-logoMore on my presentation in a moment, but first let me tell you about some of the other amazing things on display at the conference. The conference is divided into three parts: Vendor Exhibits, Poster Paper Sessions, and the parallel Paper Sessions.

Vendor Exhibits

The vendor exhibition was held in The Mirage Hotel Event Center and featured companies of virtually all sizes demonstrating countless products used in human-computer interface experiments. Some of the ones that caught my eye the most included Brain Products and Mindo, who were both displaying portable and wireless EEG monitoring devices. Others, like Smart Eye and EyeTracking Inc. were demonstrating their eye-tracking devices.

These were just some of the companies showing products for monitoring brain activity during interaction studies. But there were also a pair of publishers present that attracted my attention.

One of the publishers present was Springer Publishing, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific, technical and medical content. They’re also the publisher of my astronomy book, “The Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs.” At the Springer booth, I enjoyed visiting with their Editorial Director, Beverly Ford. She knew many of the people who were key sources for my book.

I also spent some time with CRC Press, which specializes in producing technical books for engineering, science and mathematics. Here I met with Cindy Renee Carelli, the Senior Editor of Industrial Engineering and Human Factors and Ergonomics. For anyone interested, Cindy is currently seeking writers for a wide variety of Computer Science fields.

Like many conferences, there was also access to past information from preceding events. But, because this is HCI, it was made available in a very interactive fashion. Highly interactive computer systems allowed intricate hand gestures to move backwards and forwards along a timeline to explore past HCI Conferences. Then, you could spend time reviewing pictures and events from each conference before returning to the timeline.

Poster Paper Sessions

Jerry Cavin is also an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science and Astronomy at Park University.

Jerry Cavin is also an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science and Astronomy at Park University.

The Poster presentations occurred over three days toward the end of the conference. There were over 300 poster presentations covering a vast array of topics. I was very proud to present my poster, “A HCI/AI Tool for Astronomy” alongside my son, Zac, who is very knowledgeable in Astronomy and has accompanied me on many visits to observatories across the country observing the night sky with professional astronomers. Zac presented and described the pictures and graphs illustrating the patterns of binary stars, exoplanets and variable stars, while I described how the Expert System based application could analyze the data and identify the patterns.

The conference required that the Poster Paper authors be available for an hour each day to present their topics, however, we found it very easy to spend up to three hours talking with people that stopped by our poster paper. We spoke with people from many different countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Spain, and Germany. We also spoke with biotech researchers from The University of Virginia, and engineers from Sandia Labs.

One gentlemen showed particular interest in how well Expert System-based applications would perform large data set analysis. He indicated that he was working on a project for the London Stock Exchange to design an application capable of providing real-time fraud detection. We discussed several different solutions to his problem of real-time pattern detection, and he returned to our area several times to discuss other challenges of working with “big data.”

The subject of manipulating “big data” came up several times in other conversations, as well. It’s certainly an indication that the manipulation of “big data” is becoming more commonplace in many different industries.

The Parallel Paper Sessions

The Parallel Paper Sessions were held every day of the conference in several small conference rooms outside the Event Center. During these sessions, the authors were given 10-15 minutes to present their whitepapers. One of the sessions I found particularly intriguing was, “Reconsidering the Notion of User Experience.” The session presented several papers describing how to capture subjective and objective measurements of a user interacting with an application to better document the user experience.

Other sessions I attended discussed the tradeoffs between emotions and effectiveness, expectations and efficiency of a user interface design. The objective for the session I attended focused on increasing user satisfaction, allowing the designer to create a longer product life cycle.

Finally, some ‘me’ time

When finally afforded some time to escape the conference center halls of The Mirage, I did some window shopping across the street at The Venetian Hotel. Inside The Venetian is a large shopping mall reminiscent of a small Italian village, and includes the store, Bauman Rare Books. Ahh, heaven! The store’s proprietor, Mary Olsson, shared with me a 1927 copy of E. E. Barnard’s “A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way.” The book is exceptional in that it contains 51 of Barnard’s original linen-backed silver photographic prints. There are only 700 copies of this book known to exist, and I was thrilled to turn the pages of this one. But, at $13,500, it was also a book that needed to stay in the store on this day.

I also was allowed to examine a 1929 printing of “A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae.” This is the first book in which Edwin Hubble proposed that velocities between galaxies were proportional to their distance from Earth — a principle known today as Hubble’s Law, which describes the expanding universe. Although priced a bit lower at $7,500, it too remained with the store.