May 6, 2016

Facebook Researchers Focusing on the Future of Human Computer Interaction at CHI 2016

By: Lada Adamic, Alex Dow, Mike Massimi, Vanessa Callison-Burch, Vasanth Rajendran, Margaret Gould Stewart, Sean Keller

ACM CHI 2016, taking place in San Jose, CA this week is the premier conference for researchers exploring the field of Human-Computer Interaction. According to CHI organizers, “At any minute you might experience a new gesture interface for tablets, learn how developing countries use mobile phones for maternal health, play soccer against someone 3000 miles away, or debate the future of online education.” It’s no wonder then why up to 40 researchers from Facebook will be on hand to share their work in the areas of Virtual Space, Managing Design for Life Interactions and Social Media Engagement as well as participate on panels and workshops as they engage with the global HCI community to impact the way technology will enhance our everyday environment.

“Giving people the power to share and connect requires constant innovation. Collaborating with university researchers on real-world problems and sharing our work at academic conferences, helps Facebook researchers push the boundaries of products and science,” said Stewart Tansley, Academic Relations at Facebook.

Here is a sampling of the work being presented by Facebook researchers at CHI 2016:

Digging into the virtual space

Exploring the idea of using a human proxy to attend a class on one’s behalf when video streaming is used with a remote student is the focus of the Best of CHI Honorable Mention paper: Human Proxies for Remote University Classroom Attendance paper authored by Clarissa Ishak, Carman Neustaedter, Dan Hawkins, and Jason Procyk of Simon Fraser University and Mike Massimi of Facebook. Through an online survey and in-class participation study, their results showcase the benefits and challenges using human proxies for classroom attendance and raise an important set of design sensitivities to be further explored in the proxy space.

Also furthering research in the virtual space arena, Izabelle F. Janzen and Kellogg S. Booth from the University of British Columbia along with Vasanth Rajendra of Facebook took a deeper look at distance-to-target visual cues and binocular depth in work important to calibrating and designing interactive 3-D virtual environments. Their paper Modeling the Impact of Depth on Pointing Performance explains how modeling the Impact of Depth on Pointing Performance and comparing both the physical and virtual targets, impacts artificial binocular depth cues and whether they induce the same performance as purely physical binocular ones.

Interacting with the virtual world becomes more natural

As head-mounted displays become more commonplace and accessible, the need for a multipoint, real-time finger-tracking system becomes even more important to accurately track a user’s hands and fingers in motion. That is the problem the Finexus: Tracking Precise Motions of Multiple Fingertips Using Magnetic Sensing paper authored by Sean Kelly of Oculus Research and Ke-Yu Chen and Shwetak Patel of the University of Washington seeks to solve. Finexus, a multipoint tracking system uses a new approach in magnetic field sensing to track fine fingertip movements in real-time. This approach combined with a novel algorithm which efficiently calculates the 3D positions of multiple electromagnets from corresponding field strengths, delivers a higher level of accuracy compared against an optical tracker. They anticipate the technique being applied across a variety of human input tasks, such as writing in the air to make interaction with a virtual world more natural.

Managing design for life interactions

Facebook is a place to share and connect with friends and family. For many of us, it’s also a place to remember and honor those we’ve lost. When a person passes away, their account can become a memorial of their life, friendships and experiences.Legacy Contact: Designing and Implementing Post-mortem Stewardship at Facebook authored by Jed Brubaker of the University of Colorado Boulder and Vanessa Callison-Burch of Facebook details the design decisions made while creating the Legacy Contact post-mortem data management solution deployed at Facebook in 2015. Their work builds upon theoretical, empirical, and design research within HCI and delivers one approach to post-mortem management currently implemented on a large-scale system. The Legacy Contact design challenges the researchers faced included striking a fine balance between the needs of the account holder and the bereaved community, including honoring last requests, providing information surrounding death, and the challenge of how to best preserve the memory of the deceased in a way that reflects their wishes.

Understanding social exchange through engagement

Changes in Engagement Before and After Posting to Facebook authored by Facebook researchers Nir Grinberg, Alex Dow and Lada Adamic and Mor Naaman from Cornell details the asynchronous nature of communications on social network sites. By identifying changing needs and preferences of contributors, as well as indications of expectations for feedback from others, systems can be designed to better support users at time of contribution, deliver improvements in personalized recommendations and become more adaptive to encourage social participation.

If you are attending CHI 2016 be sure to connect with us to learn more about our work and how it’s impacting billions of people every day.