Pen and Paper Computing: an old technology in a modern world

A talk by Nadir Weibel from the University of California San Diego
Monday January 30th 2012, Room RLC D1 761

Access to information is one of the most crucial aspects of everyday life. As computation becomes ubiquitous and our environment is enriched with new possibilities for communication and interaction, the existing infrastructure of science, business, and social interaction is confronted with the difficult challenges of supporting complex tasks, mediating networked interactions, and managing the increasing availability of digital information and technology. Despite the tremendous development in terms of both new digital devices and novel interaction techniques that we all witnessed during the last years, it is almost unbelievable how paper documents and pen-based interaction still represent a very important way of interacting with both physical and digital information spaces.

In an effort of re-thinking what pen and paper user interfaces (PPUI) mean in a modern world, we are studying multi-modal interactions with a range of tangible devices at the intersection of the physical and the digital worlds. We do this in a variety of settings, spanning healthcare, accessibility, observational research, social networks, augmented office environments, and communication for early education, older adults and other specific populations.

In this talk I will present my latest research around pen- and paper-computing, looking at how multimodal interaction with this “old” technology enables a range of novel affordances and supports communication and interaction. I will focus on three projects that outline the importance of paper computing in different domains. (1) I will talk about our experiences in developing a Toolkit for Authoring Pen and Paper Language Activities (TAP & PLAY) and how this allowed us to explore paper-based interfaces for communication with more than 100 people from age 3 to 105. (2) I will present how the integration of paper-based annotations and interactions as part of ChronoViz – a tool that we developed to support the visualization, navigation and analysis of large sets of time-based data – enables the exploration of new exciting methods for observational research. (3) I will discuss our vision in terms of supporting a better integration of paper documents within an augmented office environment, where we make use of depth-information, pan-and-zoom cameras, touch-, gesture-, and pen-based interactions to access and interact with information spread across physical and digital devices.

Brief Bio

Nadir Weibel is a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of California San Diego, member of both the Distributed Cognition and Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory and the Ubiquitous Computing and Social Dynamics research group. He holds a Bachelor and Master in Computer Science from ETH Zurich (Dipl. Informatik-Ing. ETH), and a Ph.D. in Computer Science also from ETH Zurich. During his Ph.D, he explored new ways of enhancing a seemingly mundane, but ubiquitous, resource such as paper to support everyday work, interaction and collaboration as a member of the Global Information Systems research group at ETH (Prof. Moira Norrie).

His current research is situated at the intersection of computer science, communication, and social sciences, studying the cognitive consequences of the introduction and the deployment of interactive multimodal and tangible devices.
His main interests ranges from software engineering to human computer interaction, including computer supported collaborative work, mobile and ubiquitous computing. In his work he is developing theory and methods, designing representations, implementing prototypes, and evaluating the effectiveness of interactive physical-digital systems in order to understand the broader design space in which they are situated. He is currently collaborating with researchers at UCSD, Stanford, Berkeley, Drexel University, Children’s Hospital in Washington DC, TU Darmstadt, INRIA Paris / Université Paris Sud and Telecom Paristech.