The old year is over...

2011 was a year full of work. There was the AMiRE and the HCII (which I was too lazy to blog about; actually I just found draft postings, which I must have forgotten to post). My colleague Risto and I organized a Special Session at the ICIRA. So many more little things happened and some you may have realized through following me on Twitter and some you may not have even noticed.

To make blogging much more easier, I decided to move over to a new blog engine (again). This time it's a WordPress, hosted on my own server. This allows me to blog from everywhere with every device and not only with my laptop. I can even use my mobile to post short news. And you will have the opportunity to comment on postings.

You will find the new blog under http://ursusexplorans.de.
This old blog will stay alive, but will not be updated anymore.


Recapitulation: AMiRE2011

The International Symposium on Autonomous Minirobots in Research and Edutainment (AMiRE) is over and I'd like to tell you a bit about my experience.

Of course, it was great fun! I met wonderful people and listened to inspiring talks. Let me name some people with direct relation to my work: I met Alexander Kettler, whose Jasmin robots were a great technical inspiration for my TAOs. He presented his new model, called Wanda. Another guy I'd like to mention is Juan Gonzalez Gomez, who talked about his robots, he completely built with a rapid-prototyping printer, he built himself. You know, my TAOs are also built using such a rapid-prototyping printer, but a professional one. I was very impressed by the quality of his robot. I have never seen a product built with such a DIY-printer and I never thought that it would be possible to build parts for robots with this. Juan convinced me otherwise.

There were even more interesting people on the symposium, of course. E.g. Gilles Caprari, who presented his flying micro-helicopter CoaX. But this posting would get too long, to mention all of them. Below you can see a photo of a quick minirobot family gathering (thank you Juan for sharing!). From left to right, there are Fanny Riedo with her Thymio robot, me with two TAOs, Alexander with two of his Wanda robots and of course Juan with his 3D-printed robot.

Before I forget: Naturally I had something to present, too. The title of my talk was "Embodied Social Networking with Gesture-enabled Tangible Active Objects." I think I can say, that it definitely was a success. You can find information about the talk under this link.

Thank you to the organizers and the participants of AMiRE 2011! It was great fun! I'm looking forward to see you again sometimes.


Ohrenblicke podcast features Interactive Auditory Scatter plot

Last year Siegfried Saerberg visited us in Bielefeld (again, thank you very much for your visit and for featuring us!). Mr. Saerberg is project manager of Blinde und Kunst e.V. (society for the blind and art) and wanted to interview my supervisor Dr. Thomas Hermann and myself for the podcast Ohrenblicke (ear sights). The topic of the current issue is "About witches's brooms, graphs, and solar winds - sonification in our everyday life, arts, and sciences" and also Tony Stockman and Robert Alexander get featured. The issue covers several sonifications, including my Interactive Auditory Scatter plot (IAS).

You can find the podcast under this link (german only).



ICIRA2011: Deadline of paper submission extended

The conference secretary of the 4th International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications (ICIRA 2011) informed me that the deadline for the submission of full papers is April 30, 2011.

So you have still time to submit full papers for the ICIRA2011, including the special session "Tangibility in Human-Machine Interaction" which I organize together with my colleague Risto Kõiva.

You can find all updated important dates under: http://www.icira2011.org/index.php?id=11.

Also see the announcement about the special session: Call for Papers: "Tangibility in Human-Machine Interaction".


Call for Papers: "Tangibility in Human-Machine Interaction"

Together with my colleague Risto Kõiva I'm organizing a special session, which will take place during the International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications (ICIRA), held in Aachen from December 06 - 09, 2011. The topic of the special session is "Tangibility in Human-Machine Interaction" and addresses researchers working on (actuated) tangible user interfaces (TUIs) or robotics (tactile sensing and object manipulation with humanoid robotic hands).

Further information about the conference can be found here and information about the special sessions are provided here. The submission deadline for full papers is April 15, 2011. Accepted papers will after a peer-review be published as proceedings of ICIRA2011 in Springer's Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence (LNAI).

Hope to see you in Aachen!


"Hack a Day" writes about Interactive Auditory Scatter Plot

Thanks to the authors of Hack a Day! They posted about the Interactive Auditory Scatter Plot on their blog:

This setup helps to represent data in a meaningful way to for visually impaired people. It uses a combination of physical objects to represent data clusters, and audio feedback when manipulating those objects. In the video after the break you’ll see that the cubes can orient themselves to represent data clusters. The table top acts as a graphing field, with a textured border as a reference for the user. A camera mounted below the clear surface allows image processing software to calculate the locations for the cubes. Each cube is motorized and contains an Arduino and ZigBee module, listening for positioning information from the computer that is doing the video processing. Once in position, the user can move the cubes, with modulated noise as a measure of how near they are to the heart of each data cluster.
The team plans to conduct further study on the usefulness of this interactive data object. We certainly see potential for hacking as this uses off-the-shelf components that are both inexpensive, and easy to find. It certainly reminds us of a multitouch display with added physical tokens.

Thank you very much for mentioning this work! Just a little correction: The pitch of the “modulated noise” (a sawtooth synthesizer) is not mapped to the distance between the cluster prototype and the object, but to the local data density in the neighborhood of the object.


Interactive Auditory Scatter Plot appeared on Infosthetics Blog

The "Interactive Auditory Scatter Plot" (the paper was made freely available, recently) just appeared on the Information Aesthetics Blog:

How do you visualize complex data for people... who cannot see? Researchers at the Bielefeld University (Germany) propose a sophisticated solution [uni-bielefeld.de]: they combined a set of physical objects that can autonomously move with sonification, or the generation of data-driven sounds. This non-visual visualization method should allow visually impaired people to explore multivariate data through the alternative representation of scatterplots. Based on some past insights on multi-touch enabled visual display, this approach overcomes the obvious problems in terms of visualization and interaction.
How does it work? The researchers created a 2D transformation of the spatially distributed data into the audio-haptic domain. First, a set of cube objects physically move to locations that correspond to the most explicit data clusters on a horizontal screen. These constellations can then be perceived (i.e. felt) by users. By moving a physical object over a screen, specific sounds are emitted so that the local characteristics of the data distribution can be distinguished. Or, in other words, the frequency of a continuously emitted sonic stream corresponds to the local density of the data. When an object is released, a local data sonogram is created, yielding an audible spherical sweep through the data space at the location of the object. Still sounds too complex? Then watch a demonstration video below.

Thank you very much, Andrew [ http://infosthetics.com/ ]


Interactive Auditory Scatter Plot Paper is freely available

The paper "Tangible Active Objects and Interactive Sonification as a Scatter Plot Alternative for the Visually Impaired", presented at ICAD2010 in Washington D.C., is now freely available. You can download it under the following link:

[PDF] [BibTeX] 

Feel free to contact me through my recently updated website (more information and in the Bielefeld University's web design).



CITEC Summer School 2010 Blog is online

Hey, the first CITEC Summer School 2010 will start on Monday, 6 th of September! The topic will be "The Structure of Cognitive Motion: From Analysis to Synthesis"

To support the online community with information about what is going on here, we started a blog: https://blogfarm.uni-bielefeld.de/citec_summerschool2010/ 

Feel free to browse and share your thoughts with us. Enjoy


Video about TAOs is online

Thanks to Florian, the professional video accompanying the paper "Tangible Active Objects and Interactive Sonification as a Scatter Plot Alternative for the Visually Impaired" finally found it's way into the CITEC YouTube channel:

"In this project we present a new approach for manually exploring 2D data by using interactive sonification and tangible active objects (TAOs), capable to move autonomously on the desk. As application we enable visually impaired people to explore 2D scatter plots audio-haptically.

Specifically, TAOs represent graspable interaction probes that move autonomously towards the center of clusters in the scatter plot. When moved by the user they represent higher local density at their location as higher pitched sound, when released they trigger a spatial scan (data sonogram) sonification before they home to their initial location."

Further links: