This week I’ve been at CHI2012 in Austin, Texas, and have had the chance to view a number of great talks and meet some very interesting people. I wanted to share some of my favourites here.

‘Pet Video Chat’: Monitoring and Interacting With Dogs Over Distance

Jennifer Goldbeck from the University of Maryland presented some really fun research that aimed to understand if interactive ‘dog cams’ could benefit pets and owners during times of separation. Her website,, provided dogs with sounds and images to keep them entertained when their owners were absent. Subsequent interviews with pet owners revealed that this technology intrigued the dogs and some of them really enjoyed the interaction with sounds!


‘I Had A Dream And I Built It’: Power and Self-staging in Ubiquitous High-End Homes

Aviaja Borup Lynggaard and others from Denmark focused on people’s motivations to live in a smart home, interviewing homeowners who used technologies to consolidate their identity. The addition of features such as swimming pools and home cinemas emphasized who they were, and offered them the chance for social comparison.

The CommunitySourcing Vending Machine

This vending machine, whilst at a glance looks ordinary, is only useable with input from the community via knowledge transfer. People wishing to obtain food from the machine must answer a number of questions presented on a small touch-screen, giving them individual credit they can spend.

The Chocolate Machine

This machine aims to build up our ‘willpower muscle’ by training us to resist temptation. The equipment presented at CHI2012 involved the idea of a chocolate ball being dropped into the machine, and after approximately 30 minutes, the chocolate would be delivered through a tube to your desk/workspace/home. Users could either resist temptation, and put the chocolate back, or eat it. A longitudinal study was presented, which showed that the longer the participants engaged with the machine, the more likely they were to resist the treat and change their behaviour.

The Twitter Mute Button: A Web Filtering Challenge

Twitter has had a great presence at CHI this year, and one presentation described some of the pitfalls of Twitter, namely spoilers. Whilst many people use Twitter to follow current events or television shows, there is a danger that information can be revealed before they have chance to view the event. Researchers at the University of Maryland attempted to develop a filtering system to prevent spoilers for 24, Glee and the NFC.