Kevin Cheng  


April 30th, 2004 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

The theme of CHI 2004 was “Connect”. Unfortunately, we found many attendees had problems doing just that at the conference. Whether it was trying to find tape and paper to leave a message on the board, connecting to the rather unreliable wireless network or getting your powerpoint to show up on the projector in the opening plenary, “Connect”ing proved difficult at times.

Having said that, I think CHI 2004 was a resounding success. Keeping a group of HCI (or CHI) professionals happy is almost a no-win situation. SOMEthing is bound to be deemed unusable. The signage is bad! The program is hard to navigate! The digital proceedings are inaccessible! The croissants aren’t usable because it makes my fingers dirty!Considering all of this, we feel that the committee and volunteers did a superb job of running the show.

Jun Rekimoto of Sony Computer Science Laboratires (CSL) was the opening plenary speaker. He spoke of and demonstrated a number of prototype interfaces his team has been working on. Astoundingly, some of the concepts he demonstrated were around as early as 1997. Interesting designs included interfaces such as his Pick-and-Drop - the abilitz to move objects between computers through direct manipulation (think chopsticks) and ubiquitous personal devices such as AirTACT - a personal voice over IP phone which also could be used to retrieve and share information through any device setup with the apppropriate receptors.

The focus on CHI this year included games and HCI which as some of you know I have particular interest in. While some talks in this area were insightful or thoughtful, others seemed a bit on the shallow end. I suppose the problem here is that few people are in HCI and fewer still know the game industry in any amount of detail so the depth of the discussions and presentations can vary greatly.

Presentations of papers, panels and demos were also quite varied. With the number of concurrent talks, there was a high probability of there being something for everyone. Unfortunately, this also meant one had to choose from a number of strong options.

The closing plenary, provided by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, spoke of designing for an experience. He illustrated his philsophies of design, IDEO’s approaches, and drew from some examples of previous IDEO projects including their Prada Case Study (linked here previously).

Other new areas to CHI included the ICSID forum which discussed the collaboration of industrial design and HCI, and the student competition (congratulations to Savannah College of Art and Design on their win).

Over the next while, we wil slowly present some more in depth looks into some of the talks and interviews we attended at CHI. Until then, we’d like to hear how other attendees felt about the conference. What were your highlights and lowlights? What aspects of the conference was best for you (networking, papers, plenaries, reception, etc)?

7 Responses to “Connect”
Andrei Sedelnikov wrote:

Well, I did have a positive impression from the conference (may be just because it was my first visit to CHI :) . However some small things were noticeable in the light that it was an _HCI_ conference. My experience includes the following:

- Luckily, I was staying in the nearby hotel so I did not have to use the U-Bahn. But when in the day of my arrival I went out of my hotel, I saw no any sign of in which direction should I go, in order to get to the conference center. the first poster was visible only after I have passed the railway station.

- The printed version of my tutorial (19) firstly contained themes in the wrong sequence comparing to the order of reading them by the speaker, and secondly they did not even contained the page numbers (!). So it looks like that: Mr.Marcus starts to speaking about a new theme and everyone in the auditorium tries to quickly browse through the booklet trying to find the similar picture that is currently shown by projector. After someone finds the right place, he communicates it to his neihbours in this way “about a third way from the beginning”. That’s incredible! :)

Andrei Sedelnikov wrote:

By the way, while being on the conference I was thinking about the solution, which would allow every attender to know who is everyone else, instead of getting the headache from constantly scanning the badges.

Even if I know, how the person I’d like to meet looks like, it may still be hard to find him in the crowd. All currenty avaiable people-to-people communication technologies assume knowledge of the private contact information (like telephone number). I also think that calling to someone trying to find him, while he is actually sitting at the table behind you is somewhow ridiculous.

Are anyone aware at least of researches in this field?

Marian Steinbach wrote:

I added two notes on interesting CHI presentations on my page, one about the Haystack project, the other one about Tim Brown’s closing plenary talk.

Susan Wilhite wrote:

Today’s commic is right on. It’s 2004 - why are we still fumbling with laptop connections on posiums at conferences? And I suppose that the Austria Center was selected for its WIFI, so why the problems? And I, too, missed my flight out of Vienna because the check-in line was so long that the flight was closed by the time my place in line got me to the counter. I’ll be asking Austrian Airlines to refund the price of my ticket out on British Airways. Otherwise, the good people on the streets of Vienna are helpful, unless you want help from a service employee like a waiter or a housestaff. So I lost weight eating Odwalla Bars for lunch all week and running up and down the subway escalators. Where were the water fountains at the Center? Ok - the conference talks were mighty good otherwise. Some people I ran into a lot, others not at all. :)

KC wrote:

Laptop connection is definitely something we need to think about. One old solution is to have a computer there with all hte presentations preloaded so no computer switching needs to happen. Unfortunately, many presentations require specific software outside of just powerpoint. Rekimoto speaks of the many wires and mice on his desk. Connecting different laptops to one projector is a similar problem that nobody seems to be trying to solve.

The WiFi was provided by a company called OnStage. I’m not sure how much the Austria Center had to do with its operations. It was basically operating a really stingy DHCP so those that got on early had their leases on IPs and the later arrivals simply ended up playing IP lottery. Not optimal. I wasn’t at the previous two CHIs and I hear this is the first with any wireless at all so at least it’s a step in the right direction.

KC wrote:

Andrei said:

By the way, while being on the conference I was thinking about the solution, which would allow every attender to know who is everyone else, instead of getting the headache from constantly scanning the badges.

This feature would be a double-edged sword. On one hand, I know some people I really want to meet - people who are featured on our trading cards, for example - and would love to have a map with all the locations of the attendees in the building but then there are plenty of occasions when you may not want to be found at all.

In SxSW, each badge had an RFID chip inside for verification purposes (it contained no personal data). Including one with a unique identifier wouldn’t be difficult.

One of the much talked about benefits of definining social networks like Friendster is that you can then extend that information to situations like this. Then you have the option to “Only show my location to people within two degrees of my netwrok” or “Show my location to anyone who wants to know”.

Moira Burke wrote:

I’ve also started posting reviews of some of my favorite CHI presentations on my site ( So far, IBM/MIT’s history flow visualization for Wikipedia and CMU/IBM’s human interruption study. And I agree with Marian that Haystack is promising, especially since it allows you to sort one object into multiple collections.

As for the overall conference, I was frustrated by the lack of printed proceedings, since I didn’t bring a laptop and there was usually a line for the web cafe. But otherwise, I was impressed with the energy and efficiency of the student volunteers, the technical support available to presenters, and the choice of plenary speakers. And, my experiences in Vienna restaurants, shops, and the U-Bahn were all positive. Looking forward to CHI in Portland next year!

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?