• Date: January 26th - 30th, 2015
  • Location: Les Diablerets, Switzerland


User Interfaces are everywhere. They help interact with tehnologies around us, and they also foster our communications with relatives and colleagues. Since their role is becoming increasingly influential on society, it is important to anticipate and reflect about the future of user interfaces. During this winter school, both technological progress and human factors will be discussed. The winter school aims at reflecting on the technologies of tomorrow and on the important human and societal challenges for human centered technologies, augmented, wearable, plastic, fun, ubiquitous...

Les Diablerets is a village and ski resort located in the municipality of Ormont-Dessus in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. The village lies at an altitude of 1,160 metres in the Swiss Alps. It can be accessed by train (Chemin de fer Aigle-Sepey-Diablerets) or by road from Aigle. During the lunch break, between the tutorial sessions, approx. 12:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m, participants will have the opportunity to participate in sport activities. The conference room and accomodations are located at the Eurotel Victoria. Les Diablerets is reachable by train from anywhere in Switzerland; the schedule is available at the SBB/CFF site.

Speakers and Content

  • Professor Yvonne Rogers: Yvonne Rogers is the director of the Interaction Centre at UCL and a professor of Interaction Design. She is also the PI at UCL for the Intel Collaborative Research Institute on Sustainable Connected Cities which was launched in October 2012 as a joint collaboration with Imperial College. She is internationally renowned for her work in HCI and ubiquitous computing and, in particular, for her pioneering approach to innovation and ubiquitous learning. Her current research focuses on behavioural change, through augmenting everyday, learning and collaborative work activities with interactive technologies. She is a co-author of the definitive textbook on Interaction Design and HCI now in its 3rd edition that has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide She was recently awarded a prestigious EPSRC dream fellowship rethinking the relationship between ageing, computing and creativity. She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and the ACM's CHI Academy.

    Natural, Smart or Simple Interfaces: What Is Best? - There has been a lot of excitement over the last few years about the potential of new interfaces, especially natural ones. By natural, it is usually meant enabling people to interact with a computer in the same way as they interact with the physical world, by speaking with, gesturing to, moving their bodies in front of and making facial expressions at it. Likewise, there has been a lot of hype about smart technologies and how they can adapt to our needs and wishes. The vision behind these two rhetorics is a world that is designed to work for us - easy, efficient, informative, smooth and fluid. One where we don't have to learn procedures or mappings between input and output but instead, a wave or a smile is recognized for the intent behind it. The technology (because it understands, models and predicts) will know what we want and should do - be it to turn a digital page, change a TV channel, book a table at a restaurant, show us how healthy we are and so on. We will be told in advance of potential hazards and how to avoid them, or conversely new opportunties and how to exploit them, for example, if we have exceeded our recommended calorie intake or there is an interesting person at the party we should talk to. We won't ever have to worry, be stressed or wonder what next to do. Our everyday decision-making will be guided by ubiquitous technology.

    Such utopian visions are nothing new. Tech companies, such as Apple, Microsoft and HP, have all made impressive glossy videos about future worlds, intended to inspire and direct their R&D. Mark Weiser's vision of calm technology has also been highly influential - epitomised by a world of serenity, comfort and heightened awareness, where computers would be everywhere, in our environments and even embedded in our bodies. Today, pervasive interfaces are abound that have the potential to transform how we live and connect. For example, it is now possible to detect and augment a diversity of user interactions, using low cost commercially available motion capture systems coupled with multi-modal realtime feedback. However, as Don Norman (2010) poignantly points out in his critique of how natural are natural interfaces, most gestures are not easy to learn or remember; they are also ephemeral and don't leave any trace. Waving frantically at a tap to turn the water on is a common everyday frustration. In contrast, old fashioned physical inputs, such as mice, keyboard, buttons, knobs, sliders and dials are universally understood and have proven to be easy to learn and remember for a whole range of GUI mappings and tasks. For many of us they were what we grew up with and arguably, are more natural that gesturing in thin air or speaking to a machine. In my talk, I will explore how to design and use the whole gamut of interfaces and interaction techniques to best effect. Rather than naively be guided by notions of natural or smart, I will present the case that we can learn a lot more from fundamental design principles that can be operationalized to empower and augment human capabilities beyond what we can achieve today. I will demonstrate how designing for “simple” is often key.

    Moving beyond mindless technology - This course explores further the theme of which interfaces to design and why. Whereas in the first course the discussion was about designing for natural, smart or simple interfaces, the second course will begin by examining the worrying trend towards designing ever more technologies that promote mindless interaction. By this is meant living in a digital bubble. Even when physically together - as families and friends in our living rooms, outdoors and public places - we have our eyes glued to our own phones, tablets and laptops. The new generation of 'all about me' health and fitness gadgets, that is becoming more mainstream, is making it worse. Do we really need smart shoes that tell us when we are being lazy and glasses that tell us what we can and cannot eat? Is this what we want from technology - ever more forms of digital narcissism, virtual nagging and data addiction? In contrast, the course will argue for a radical rethink of our relationship with future digital technologies. One that inspires us, through shared devices, tools and data, to be more creative, caring, playful and thoughtful of each other and our surrounding environments. It will consider how to design technologies that can help communities change their behaviour to be healthier, fitter, kinder and more mindful of others. An overview will be presented of how ambient, mobile and wearable technologies can be designed to provide situated and salient information.

  • Professor Albrect Schmidt: Albrecht Schmidt is a professor for Human Computer Interaction and Cognitive Systems at the University of Stuttgart. Previously he was a Professor at University of Duisburg-Essen. In 2006/2007 he had a joined position between the University of Bonn and the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) working in the area of Media Informatics. He studied computer science in Ulm, Germany and Manchester, UK and receive in 2003 a PhD from the Lancaster University in the UK. His research interest is in human computer interaction beyond the desktop, including interaction with simulation systems, interactive social computing, user interfaces for mobile devices and cars. Albrecht published well over 200 refereed archival publications and his work is widely cited. He is co-founder of the ACM conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction (TEI) and initiated the conference on Automotive User Interfaces (auto-ui.org). He is on the editorial board of the IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine and edits a column on invisible Computing in the IEEE Computer Magazine. In 2014 he was program co-chair of the ACM SIGCHI conference.

    Implicit Interaction and Context-Aware Interfaces - This course will introduce the basic idea of creating systems that adapt to the environment and to people's activities, see [1]. We will look at how to sense the environment and how to recognize user activity. Once knowing how to learn about the current situation we discuss different approaches of how to adapt modalities, information presentation, and functionality to fit the context. We will discuss the trade-off of adaptively and learnability. For implicit output concepts of ambient information presentation and peripheral interaction are discussed. The course is largely presentation based and includes design exercises and discussion. The first part of the course will recap some relevant concepts and from mobile human computer interaction.

    Prototyping interactive Smart Objects, Tangible Interaction, and Physical User Interface - The internet of thing (IoT) is a trend that is typically related to automation, however many of the smart objects that are envisioned and predicted are things humans interact with. In this course we look at the basic concepts and technologies driving the internet of things and how this can create a new area in interactive systems. The focus will be on approaches and tools that help to create functional prototype of embedded user interfaces and of interactive smart objects [2]. We will discuss the challenges when moving from screen based interfaces to interaction in physical space, as outlined in [3]. The course based on presentation and discussion and if the setup allows I would include a short practical exercise. To have a common starting point the course will recap some basics of tangible and physical interaction at the beginning.

    [1] Albrecht Schmidt. Context-aware computing: context-awareness, context-aware user interfaces, and implicit interaction. The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed. http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/context-aware_computing.html. [2] S Hodges, N Villar, J Scott, A Schmidt. A new era for ubicomp development. Pervasive Computing, IEEE 11 (1), 5-9. [3] Matthias Kranz, Paul Holleis, Albrecht Schmidt: Embedded Interaction: Interacting with the Internet of Things. IEEE Internet Computing 14(2): 46-53 (2010).

  • Professor Matt Jones: Matt Jones is Professor and - from January 1st 2015 - Head of the College Science at Swansea University. In addition he is an Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town. Since 1995 he has been working on mobile human computer interaction research topics, publishing "Mobile Interaction Design" in 2005 with Gary Marsden. 2014 brings a new book ("There's Not an App for That", Morgan Kaufmann) by Simon Robinson, Gary and Matt. Matt was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award in 2014 for his work on emerging markets.

    HCI and Resource Constrained Contexts - While many of us take for granted always-on, always-connected, highly resourced computing, the reality for many is very different. In many regions of the world there are challenging and interesting resource constraints: literacy, network coverage, cultural exposure, digital literacy, grid power limitations, to a name a few. In this talk, we'll look at design methods and solutions developed by researchers to address these contexts. We'll also consider the possible future technological and interaction landscape in these region and we'll think about what the rest of the world can learn from the innovations that emerging. I've worked in this area for a decade, in projects based in Africa, India and rural UK. I've made lots of mistakes and I'll share what I've learnt through all these experiences.

    HCI and Living Life to the Full - For mobile developers this is an exciting time: there can be an app for everything and it seems possible to deliver a delightful, rich user experience. But I am depressed: there must be more to mobile interaction than people with their heads-down, cut-off from each other, prodding shiny glass screens. In this talk I'll review alternative visions, highlighting research - our own and others - that questions the future we seem to be building. We'll consider how to go from touch screens to feelings; from heads-down to face-on interactions; from clinical control to messy uncertainty; how to turn from private and hidden interfaces to public and extravagant computing; and, how to build systems that promote a mindfulness in interaction. The talk will draw on our new book, "There's Not an App for that" (Morgan Kaufmann, Nov 2014).

  • Professor Thad Starner: Thad Starner is a wearable computing pioneer. He is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Technical Lead on Google's Glass. Starner coined the term "augmented reality" in 1990 to describe the types of interfaces he envisioned at the time and has been wearing a head-up display based computer as part of his daily life since 1993, perhaps the longest such experience known. Besides Glass, his projects include a wireless glove that teaches how to play piano melodies without active attention by the wearer, a game for deaf children using sign language recognition that helps them acquire language skills, recovering phrase level sign language from brain signals, recognizing speech without voicing using socially acceptable wearable devices, making wearable computers to enable two way communication experiments with wild dolphins, automatically discovering fundamental units of dolphin vocalizations (and other datasets), and wearable computers for working dogs to better communicate with their handlers. Thad is a founder of the annual ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, now in its 18th year, and has produced over 400 papers and presentations on his work. He is an inventor on over 60 United States patents awarded or in process.

    Designing Wearable Computers - Power and user attention are the scarcest resources when a user is mobile. Networking and privacy are also major considerations when designing a wearable device. Learn how to balance these trade-offs in both hardware and software applications. In doing so, discover why, after over 25 years of commercial and academic products (wcc.gatech.edu/exhibition), wearable computing is becoming "the next big thing" in Silicon Valley.

    Creating Gestural Interfaces - Avoid the traps of "gorilla arm" and false positives when creating gesture-based interfaces. Understand the different types of gestures and which to use for a given interaction. Discover different sensor technologies and their strengths and weaknesses in given contexts. Learn some sign language (swear signs taught upon request) to help think about gesture recognition and its strengths and weaknesses.


The Winter School will take place at the Hotel Victoria in Les Diablerets. All reservations for lodging, even for externals, will be made by the organizers.

All the students, researchers and professors registered at CUSO universities (i.e. EPFL, Universities of Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern and Neuchâtel) are eligible to apply. Priority will be given to students ; PostDocs and senior researchers will be selected according to their scientific activity and closeness to the field of the winter school. Those selected for participation will be notified by email and will be asked to pay a registration fee of CHF 100.

For members of the CUSO, accommodation costs for four nights in a double-room, breakfasts, coffee breaks and dinners will be paid for directly by the organizers. The Winter School will also reimburse travel costs for half-price second class SBB tickets. You will receive reimbursement instructions during the school. Midday lunch is not included and has to be paid by the participants.

For external participants, accomodations and meals are to be paid by the participants but no registration fee will be required.

Cancellation must be announced to the organizers at least 2 weeks before arrival, otherwise you will be charged for accommodation without being reimbursed (double room: 180 CHF/day, single room: 220 CHF/day). In any case, the registration fee will not be refunded.

Please register before December 1st. After this date we can not guarantee you a room in the hotel.


In addition to the following program, poster sessions will be organized for PhD students to present their research work.

Slides of the tutorials will be available here. The password will be communicated during the school.

8:30 - 11:30 a.m. 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Monday 26th - Natural, Smart or Simple Interfaces: What Is Best? (Yvonne Rogers)
Tuesday 27th Moving beyond mindless technology (Yvonne Rogers) Implicit Interaction and Context-Aware Interfaces (Albrecht Schmidt)
Wednesday 28th Prototyping interactive Smart Objects, Tangible Interaction, and Physical User Interface (Albrecht Schmidt) HCI and Resource Constrained Contexts (Matt Jones)
Thursday 29th Living life to the full (Matt Jones) Designing Wearable Computers (Thad Starner)
Friday 30th Creating Gestural Interfaces (Thad Starner) -

Organization and Contacts