DIYbio (Do It Yourself Biology) and Opportunties for HCI


Biology is becoming open source, hackable and DIY! Over the past decade, a diverse community of biologists, artists, engineers and hobbyists has emerged to pursue biology projects outside of traditional laboratories. As DIYbio continues to expand science practice beyond professional settings and into hackspaces, art studios and private homes, HCI research is presented with new opportunities and concerns. (DIY)bio workshop forthocming at DIS'12

full paper forthcoming at DIS 2012


Nurturing Natural Sensors

This work expands the current landscape of sensing to include living organisms such as plants and animals, along with traditional tools and digital devices. We present a field study of ten individuals who routinely work with living organisms such as plants, fish, reptiles and bees, and rely on these organisms as well as analog instruments and digital sensors to infer environmental conditions and inform future actions. Our findings offer a new perspective on everyday biomarkers, and we use the lens of organic and non-digital sensing to reflect on current sensing paradigms in ubiquitous computing.

full paper published at Ubicomp'11 (best paper award)


HCI, Politics and the City: a Two-Day Workshop at CHI'11 in Vancouver, Canada


Grassroots movements shape our cities, cultures and politics. Our two-day workshop "HCI, politics and the city" invites HCI researchers, activists and artists to engage with the processes, materials, challenges, and goals of grassroots communities in Vancouver, the city hosting CHI'11. Please read more about our workshop themes and visit our call for submissions.


Air Quality Balloons

Giant, super cool, glowing balloons that visualize surrounding air quality! Inside each balloon is a tri-colored LED that reacts to data from an air quality sensor, turning green, yellow or red based on low, average, and high values. Public installations and user study reveal spectacle computing as a new and exciting strategy for participatory sensing and urban activisim. This project was done with Jian Cheung, George Davis, and Eric Paulos.

step-by-step tutorial on instructables
full paper published at Ubicomp'11


Public, place-based air quality monitoring in Pittsburgh

Our low-cost GPS-enabled sensors report dust, exhaust, or VOC's (volatile organic compounds), along with temperature, humidity and light levels to a website that visualizes this data in real time. The sensors can be attached to a variety of surfaces serving as research probes to demarcate ('tag') public spaces with environmental concerns. We deploy our fully functional system with four urban communities- parents, bicyclists, homeless and activists, positioning our system as a tool for studying and supporting community togetherness and public activism. Check out our air quality data.

full paper published at CHI'11


Mentoring through Wearable Computing

Drawing from design studio culture and art therapy literature, we explore wearable computing as a creative and tangible medium (similar to markers, paints, clays, etc.) for motivating ‘at-risk’ children in hands-on making and expressive instantiation of ideas. Working with Laura Trutoiu, Kasey Kute, Iris Howley and Dan Siewiorek, we organized a series of workshops with Gwen's girls- an outreach organization for middle and high school girls. Starting with a few basic circuits and programming excercises, we helped the girls brainstorm, design and implement their own interactive projects.

full paper published at CHI'11


Authoring Public Spaces with Environmental Sensors

We ask how four different communities (parents, bicyclists, homeless, and students) approach environmental sensing in public spaces. Members of each community were given sensor probes that represent the measurement of exhaust, smog, pathogens, chemicals, noise or dust, and simulated sensor usage throughout their daily routines. Results reveal design opportunities for merging grassroots data collection with public expression and activism, suggesting low-cost sensors as instruments of social currency and political change. More on building and testing physical sensors.

full paper published at DIS 2010


WallBots: Interactive Wall-Crawling Robots in the Hands of Public Artists and Activists

Working with Eric Paulos and Mark Gross, I developed WallBots- autonomous, wall-crawling robots as as a research probe for public expression across a wide range of surfaces and hard-to-reach places, including bus stops, whiteboards, streetpoles, trashcans, and moving vehicles. Our work with individuals who contribute to public spaces through graffitti, street music, light painting, and political activism exposes a research space for technological interventions in the context of grassroots urban expression.

full paper published at DIS 2010
WallBot Interaction Techniques Demo


Persuasive Displays for Water Conservation

This project (with Eric Paulos) explores persuasive displays in the domain of water conservation and public health. Abstract and literal visualizations of personal and public water usage were deployed in public bathrooms and private homes. We reflect on persuasive displays as an approach for sustainability research in HCI.

full paper published at CHI 2010
Water Sensor and Display Demo
Upstream CHI Talk Slides


DIY Projects, Communities and Cultures

We present a large-scale study of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) communities, cultures and projects. Our survey of over 2600 individuals across Instructables, Dorkbot, Craftster, Ravelry, Etsy, and Adafruit highlights open sharing, learning, and creativity as the core values that sustain these vibrant communities. We derive design implications to embed these values into other everyday practices, and hope that our work serves to engageCHI practitioners with DIY expert amateurs. Check out our survey!

full paper published at ACM NordiCHI2010


Visualizing Public Water Use

This project aims to raise public awareness about water use. Working together with Eric Paulos I developed a low-cost water flow sensor to be installed at water facilities around the Carnegie Mellon University campus and gather data about public water consumption. This information will bevisualized in order to motivate conservative and sustainable water use.

step-by-step tutorial for making this sensor on instructables
full paper published at SIGCHI 2010
Video Submission presented at CHI DIY Workshop


Haptic Memory Cues

Many people experience difficulty recalling and recognizing information during everyday tasks. Our work explores vibro-tactile feedback as an unobtrusive aid for human memory. Working with Scott Hudson and Anind Dey, I developed a prototype that will eventually result in a context-aware wearable device that augments human memory with haptic cues.

short paper published at Pervasive 2009
CMU Communication Talk


Environmental Sensing

This is a brand new project at the Living Environments Lab with Eric Paulos. We hope to develop low-cost air quality sensors to understand how different communities approach public sensing. The project will culminate in a real-time visualization of air quality data throughout Pittsburgh. Stay tuned!