Student Rahul Arora Awarded by U of T Libraries Graduate Student Exhibition

Rahul Arora, a PhD candidate and current DGP student, was awarded at this year’s U of T Libraries Graduate Student Exhibition Competition. His work titled “User-Centric Structural Optimization in Three Dimensions” is on display on the first floor of Robarts Library through the month of February.

Of his research, Arora explains, “We wanted to build a structural optimization method which helped users control optimized structures intuitively and efficiently. For this purpose, we built a novel truss-optimization algorithm inspired by hexahedral meshing research in the geometry processing community. While the algorithm itself is an end goal, the hope is that out work also inspires more research into improving the end-user experience for computational structural optimziation tools.”

Arora holding his award in front of his exhibit (photo by Paul Terefenko/University of Toronto Libraries)
Arora has given a short technical talk about his research.

For more information about the exhibit, Arora has provided a link to his research:

To find out more about previous publications and work that Arora has done, please visit his website:

UofT News has a write up here:

UofT Libraries has another write up here:

DGP Talk: Quo Vadis Mixed Reality?

We are delighted to welcome Prof. Otmar Hilliges from ETH Zurich to talk about his recent research about Virtual and Mixed Reality.


Quo Vadis Augmented Reality?


Virtual and Mixed Reality (XR) holds the promise to significantly change the ways we interact with digital information. Despite much progress from both research and industry there are still many challenges to be mastered before XR can become a mainstream interaction paradigm. In this talk I will review where we are as a field, outline some of the challenges ahead and talk about some of the recent research from our lab in this space. In particular, I will discuss new ways to capture rich user input, including full-body pose and detailed hand pose configurations without the need for environment mounted cameras or other tracking systems, enabling rich sensing of human activities in on-the-go scenarios. In the second half of the talk I will discuss novel light-weight approaches to haptic feedback for XR and adaptive UIs that control what information to display where, depending on the user’s internal state.


Otmar Hilliges is currently an Associate Professor of computer science at ETH Zurich, where he leads the AIT lab. His research is at the intersection of machine learning, computer vision and human computer interaction (HCI). The main mission is to develop new ways for humans to interact with complex interactive systems (computers, wearables, robots), powered by advanced algorithms and technologies in machine perception, planning and data driven user modelling. Prior to joining ETH he was a Researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge (2010-2013). His Diplom (equiv. MSc) in Computer Science is from Technische Universität München, Germany (2004) and his PhD in Computer Science from LMU München, Germany (2009). He spent two years as a postdoc at Microsoft Research Cambridge (2010-2012). He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers in the major venues on computer vision, HCI and computer graphics and received an ERC starting grant in 2017 for computational approaches to sensing based human-computer interfaces. Finally, 20+ patents have been filed in his name on a variety of subjects from surface reconstruction to AR/VR.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Ron Baecker on 27th March, 2018

Ron Baecker:

AI Deployments Accelerate Without Sufficient Intelligence: Opportunities for HCI Research

2018-03-27 12:30 at DGP: BCIT, 5th Floor


After 35 years of ups and downs, AI finally achieved in the last two decades triumphs over the worlds best humans in chess, Jeopardy, Go, and poker.  Accelerating advances in deep leaning technology now bring actual or promised deployments in speech and face recognition, judgments of human potential, medical image processing, driverless cars, and automated warfare.  But are these systems truly intelligent?b Replacing simplistic definitions of intelligence with the more nuanced descriptions of Sternberg and Gardner suggests that the answer is no. Thinking about what we should expect of intelligent agents, we must acknowledge the lack of algorithms that can explain the logic behind their actions so that we can understand their behaviour.  This is required so that we can trust them, delegate responsibility for actions and accountability for errors, and expect their decisions that are just.  Removing these limitations will require a healthy dose of HCI research and user experience innovation.  My goal with this talk is to encourage audience members to work on these issues.

Note: Ideas in this lecture are based in part on Chapter 11 of the forthcoming text: Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives, by Ronald M. Baecker, Oxford University Press, 2019.


Ronald Baecker is Director of the Technologies for Aging Gracefully Laboratory  (TAGlab), Professor of Computer Science, and Bell Universities Laboratories Chair in Human-Computer Interaction.

The focus of TAGlab activities is R&D in support of aging throughout the life course including cognition, communication, and social interaction. Collaborators include individuals from Baycrest, Columbia Medical School, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

He is also Affiliate Scientist with the  Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit  of  Baycrest  (formerly, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care), Adjunct Scientist with  Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and founder of the  Knowledge Media Design Instituteat the  University of Toronto. He has been named one of the 60 Pioneers of Computer Graphics by ACM SIGGRAPH, has been elected to the  CHI Academy  by ACM SIGCHI, and has been given the  Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award  in May 2005. His B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professor Baecker is an active researcher, lecturer, and consultant on human-computer interaction and user interface design, user support, software visualization, multimedia, computer-supported cooperative work and learning, the Internet, entrepreneurship and strategic planning in the software industry, and the role of information technology in business. He has published over 175 papers and articles on topics in these areas. He is also the author or co-author of two published videotapes and of four books:

  • Reading in Human-Computer Interaction: A Multidisciplinary Approach,
  • Human Factors in Typography for More Readable Programs ,
  • Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Facilitating Human-Human Collabortation , and
  • Reading in Human-Computer Interaction: Towards the Year 2000 .

He is the co-holder of 2 patents. Professor Baecker was the founder, CEO, and Chairman of HCR Corporation, a Toronto-based UNIX contract R&D and technology development and marketing firm, sold in 1990 to a U.S. competitor.   He was also the founder of Expresto Software Corp, a firm specializing in structured visual communication explaining software and other complex technology. Expresto Software was sold in 2002 to Caseware International.   Another entrepreneurial venture was a virtual non-profit foundation within the University of Toronto to distribute and support the open source  ePresence Interactive Media  rich media webcasting and archiving system, which then led to the formation of a start-up delivering ePresence products, services, and solutions, recently sold to Desire2Learn. Most recently, he was instrumental in the founding of  MyVoice.

More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Marcelo Coelho on 13th March, 2018

Marcelo Coelho: Materializing Interaction

2018-03-13 12:30 at MaRS


As technology advances and we progress towards a world imbued with computation, how will we create programmable objects and spaces that are responsive and can take full advantage of our senses?

In this talk, Marcelo Coelho will present his design and research practice, and how the capabilities of computers and materials can be intertwined to create new aesthetic experiences. He will present examples of wearables, interactive installations, live performances, and nano- to stadium-sized sculptures, which present new opportunities and challenges in design, fabrication, and assembly. 


Marcelo Coelho is a Brazilian/American computation designer working on objects, installations, and live experiences. Spanning a wide range of media, processes, and scales, his work explores the boundaries between matter and information, fundamentally expanding and enhancing the ways in which we interact and communicate. Marcelos creative work has been exhibited internationally, including places such as the Rio 2016 Paralympics Ceremonies, Ars Electronica, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Design Miami, and can be found in private collections including the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art and The Rothschild Collection. Recognition for his work include two Prix Ars Electronica awards, VIDA 16.0 Award, and the W Hotels Designer of the Future Award. In addition to his practice, Marcelo is also a Lecturer at the MIT Department of Architecture and Head of Design at Formlabs. Prior to his practice, Marcelo Coelho received a Doctorate in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab.

More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Ishtiaque Ahmed and Fanny Chevalier on 27th Feb, 2018

Ishtiaque Ahmed and Fanny Chevalier:
“Designing for Voice” and “Make our society think again: Cultivating critical thinking through visualization education”

2018-02-27 12:30 at DGP: BCIT, 5th Floor




Ishtiaque Ahmed


Voice refers to a person’s ability to express their rightful opinions. This has long been a central concern for many sociologists, political scientists, and human- right activists, among others. Voice has also got the attention of the Computer Scientists, especially of some researchers of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information and Communication Technology and Development (ICTD), in recent years, and various computing systems have been built to help people raise their voices in various contexts. However, the core challenges for designing appropriate computing technologies to support the voices of marginalized communities have mostly been unexplored. In this talk, I will be presenting my work in Bangladesh and India on studying and designing computing technologies for ‘access’, ‘freedom’, ‘infrastructure’, and ‘visibility’ which constitute the idea of ‘voice’. 


Dr. Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. He leads the “Third Space” research group here. He conducts research in the intersection between Human- Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information and Communication Technology and Development (ICTD). He received his PhD from Cornell University in 2017. His PhD research focused on the design challenges around ‘voice’ which he defines through access, autonomy, and accountability. Most of his research is situated in Bangladesh and India, where he has had conducted ethnography and design with many underprivileged communities including readymade garments factory workers, evicted slum dwellers, rickshaw drivers, mobile phone repairers, and victims of sexual harassment. His work often engages with postcolonial computing, infrastructural politics, feminist HCI, and subaltern informatics.

Dr. Ahmed established the first HCI research lab in Bangladesh in 2009. He also launched the first open- source digital map-making initiative in Bangladesh in 2010. Very recently, he and his colleagues started an “Innovation Lab” in Bangladesh to promote grass-root level innovation in Bangladesh. Dr. Ahmed received the prestigious International Fulbright Science and Technology Fellowship in 2011. He also received Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing graduate fellowship in 2015. His research has been supported by National Science Foundation of USA, Intel, Microsoft Research, IBM Research, Samsung Research, World Bank, and National Institute of Mental Health of Bangladesh. He also has received multiple awards for his publications including a Best Paper award in ICTD and a Best Paper Honorable Mention Award in ACM CHI.


Fanny Chevalier


Data, “the oil of the digital era”, has came to be the most valuable resource of our modern society. As a scientist, I find it exciting to see news outlets using more and more data graphics to communicate facts, stakeholders increasingly rely on data analytics to gain insight into our world and make informed decisions, and governments increasingly promote and engage in open data. In the meantime, it is also daunting to witness how destructive fake news, rumours and falsehoods can be to a general population poorly prepared to engage in evidence-informed reasoning.

In this talk, I will discuss one of the most important societal challenge of our times: data literacy, defined as the ability to understand, find, collect, interpret, visualize, and support arguments using data. Through a sample of my recent research projects focusing on visualization creation, visual communication and visualization education, I will share my reflections on how we can cultivate an informed citizenry capable of critical thinking, reasoning, and knowledge-based decision making.


Fanny Chevalier is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Statistical Sciences at University of Toronto, where she conducts research in data visualization and human-computer interaction. In particular, she has been interested in methods and tools that support visual analytics and creative activities, with a primary focus on interactive tools for the visual exploration of rich and complex data, visualization education, the design and perception of animated transitions, and sketch-based interfaces. Before joining UofT, she was a Research Scientist at Inria, France, and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD-U), and Inria-Microsoft joint center in Paris. She obtained her PhD in Computer Science from the Université de Bordeaux. She is the recipient of an Inria grant for scientific excellence (PEDR) and her research papers have received awards at the premier venues in Human-Computer Interaction (ACM CHI, ACM UIST). 


More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Mary Lou Maher on 13th Feb, 2018

Mary Lou Maher:
Designing for Gesture and Tangible Interaction

2018-02-13 12:30 at MaRS




Interactive technology is increasingly integrated with physical objects that do not have a traditional keyboard and mouse style of interaction, and many do not even have a display. These objects require new approaches to interaction design, referred to as post-WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointer) or as embodied interaction design. This presentation provides an overview of the design opportunities and issues associated with two embodied interaction modalities that allow us to leave the traditional keyboard behind: tangible and gesture interaction. The presentation starts with an overview of four design projects which explore the design of tangible interaction with a reconceptualization of the traditional keyboard as a Tangible Keyboard, the design of interactive 3D models as Tangible Models, the design of gesture-base commands for a Walk-up-and-use Information Display, and the design of a gesture-based dialogue for the willful marionette art installation. These projects provide a foundation for design principles for tangible and gesture interaction and a call for research on the cognitive effect of these modalities.


Mary Lou Maher is Professor and Chair of Software and Information Systems at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Maher’s current research interests include: cognitive effects of embodied interaction modalities, computational and cognitive models of creativity and curiosity, and design patterns for active learning strategies in CS education. At UNC Charlotte she has expanded the HCI program to include an undergraduate and graduate concentration in the CS and MSIT degrees, and she has established a Graduate Certificate in HCI. While at the University of Sydney, she created a new undergraduate degree called a Bachelor of Design Computing. While a Program Director at NSF, she started a funding program called CreativeIT.  She is the author or editor of 10 books and over 180 publications. Her most recent book, published in 2017 is Designing for Gesture and Tangible Interaction:


More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Jay Vidyarthi on 30th, Jan 2018

Jay Vidyarthi:

The Role of Mindfulness in Design Activism

2018-01-30 12:30 at DGP: BCIT, 5th Floor


In the past few years, we’ve witnessed powerful unintended consequences of modern technology. Researchers and journalists have been publishing about the pitfalls of an attention economy, the internet as an echo chamber, social medias effects on mental health, a lack of inclusive design, and more. The hype around an internet utopia seems to be fading. As technologists, its becoming more important for us to acknowledge how our context, values and perspectives manifest in the ideas, products, systems, and services we create.

Ive worked as a specialist in user experience and human-computer interaction in a wide range of contexts, including startups, academic research, hospitals, governments, and fortune 500 companies. 7 years ago, I realized that aligning my personal values was the key to my best work, so I quit my job as a UX mercenary and began to specialize in the intersection of mindfulness, mental health, and technology. It is in this space that Ive not only done my best work, but Ive also shifted my perspective about the role of human-computer interaction and user experience specialists. 

Design activism is not just a side hustle, its part of the job. Good design is not just about usability, engagement and instant gratification. Modern organizations with lofty missions to improve the world rely on researchers and designers to understand context, but its up to us to ensure a holistic approach. The commodification of human attention has enabled todays technologies to covertly influence our identities, our politics, our relationships, and our health. This is why mindfulness a practice which has been scientifically shown to train attention and help manage mental health must play a role in shaping the way we design and use technology in the future.


Jay Vidyarthi is an award-winning experience designer and researcher focused on projects related to mindfulness and well-being. He guides teams through a human-centered approach to creating useful products, systems, and services.

Forbes recently named Jay in a list of 10 world renowned meditation tech experts. He used a lean, iterative process to design Muse: the brain sensing headband, a successful consumer product experience which gives you feedback on your brain while you meditate. His related academic work on a persuasive technology for mindfulness called Sonic Cradle has been published and well-cited in the literature on human-computer interaction. Jay also leads UX projects for major international clients in a wide range of other sectors.

Jay helped launch A Mindful Society an annual conference which attracts 500+ leaders in healthcare, education, business and government where he takes a unique design thinking approach to co-create each event directly with the audience.

More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website.

Upcoming Tux Talk By Sara Diamond on 16th January, 2018

Sara Diamond:
Data Visualization €“ Fundamental 21st Century Knowledge

2018-01-16 12:30 at MaRS


I side-stepped into data visualization two decades ago, as an artist trying to answer a series of related questions about IRC chat that had arisen for me as a user and through my dialogues with other users, Why can’t IRC chat be more dynamic, less linear, relational? How can we manage flaming, lurking and other behaviors that discourage users? What strategies, like play, might resolve conflicts? Over a number of years I led the creation of the CodeZebraOS which was a playful, non-linear visual chat environment that applied basic affective computing to text analytics. Now a decade later I lead the Visual Analytics Laboratory at OCAD University a group of researchers who are committed to bringing together visualization design and data analytics.  Times have changed and with them the recognition that big data requires analytics tools to be usable. Visualization systems are built into many software packages and info graphics are everyday fare. The Visual Analytics Laboratory works in partnership with data owners and sources, some with their own analytics capacities, others who rely on the VAL to analyze as well as represent the data.  Over the course of the lecture I will present a glimpse of my early work and provide a history of VAL projects, addressing differing strategies for making meaning from data.  Projects include public displays of data, artistic data presentations, media analytics, urban planning, public data analytics, social media analytics, etc. Researchers in the VAL also raise questions about the use of data and the need for critical literacy regarding data sources and visualizations.


Dr. Sara Diamond is the President of OCAD University, Canada’s, University of the Imagination. She holds a PhD in Computing, Information Technology and Engineering, a Masters in Digital Media and Honours Bachelors of Arts in History and Communications. She is an appointee of the Order of Ontario and the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists and a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada.  She is the winner of the 2013 GRAND NCE Digital Media Pioneer Award, recognized as one of Toronto Life’s Top Fifty and. she is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto. She was recently honored as one of Canada’s 150 leading women. Since her appointment in 2005 she has led OCAD University’s evolution to a full university, helping to build its transdisciplinary and research-creation research capacity and infrastructure, integrate STEM subjects, create its Digital Futures Initiative, launch the Indigenous Visual Culture Program, strengthen its approach to inclusion, and grow its undergraduate and graduate programs in studio art and design.  Diamond is a researcher in media arts history and policy, visual analytics and has created wearable technologies, mobile experiences and media art. Diamond was honoured with a 1992 retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada, represented Canada in festivals and biennials, and her works reside in collections such as the MoMA in New York City, National Gallery of Canada and Vancouver Art Gallery.

More information about the 2017/2018 Tux presentation series is available on the official Tux website

Upcoming Tux Talk By Christopher Collins on 5th Dec, 2017

Christopher Collins:
Finding What to Read: Visual Text Analytics Tools and Techniques to Guide Investigation

2017-12-05 12:30 at DGP: BCIT, 5th Floor




Text is one of the most prominent forms of open data available, from social media to legal cases. Text visualizations are often critiqued for not being useful, for being unstructured and presenting data out of context (think: word clouds). I argue that we should not expect them to be a replacement for reading. In this talk I will briefly discuss the close/distant reading debate then focus on where I think text visualization can be useful: hypothesis generation and guiding investigation. Text visualization can help someone form questions about a large text collection, then drill down to investigate through targeted reading of the underlying source texts. Over the past 10 years my research focus has been primarily on creating techniques and systems for text analytics using visualization, across domains as diverse as legal studies, poetics, social media, and automotive safety. I will review several of my past projects with particular attention to the capabilities and limitations of the technologies and tools we used, how we use semantics to structure visualizations, and the importance of providing interactive links to the source materials. In addition, I will discuss the design challenges which, while common across visualization, are particularly important with text (legibility, label fitting, finding appropriate levels of ‘zoom’).


Dr. Christopher Collins is the Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization and an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). His research focus is interdisciplinary, combining information visualization and human-computer interaction with natural language processing to address the challenges of information management and the problems of information overload. His work has been published in many venues including IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, and has been featured in popular media such as the Toronto Star and the New York Times Magazine. Dr. Collins is a past member of the executive of the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee and the IEEE VIS Conference Organizing Committee, and received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Toronto.


Upcoming Tux Talk By Bill Buxton on 21st Nov, 2017

Bill Buxton:
Ubiety: On Design, Place and the Importance of Manners

2017-11-21 12:30 at MaRS


It is a paradox that the better we get at producing useful, affordable, desirable, usable technologies, the more we are confronted by complexity and lack of overall satisfaction. This is partially, or even mainly, due to the demands for economies of scale. Hence, we are deluged by digital do-dads apps, services and gadgets which on their own may be wonderful, but collectively create an overly complex ecosystem of baubles. What is missed is that the cumulative complexity of enough such baubles crosses the barrier, above which the ecosystem becomes inscrutable. Lying behind this is that things simply do not work together. In a world dominated by social computing, there are virtually no social relationships amongst the technologies themselves. Weisers label, Ubiquitous Computing, holds. But the result has little or anything to do with what he or the rest of us on the team envisioned or intended.

My argument is that he used the wrong word. Ubiquity, i.e, technology everywhere, all the time, etc. is no panacea. Rather, the word that fits far better is Ubiety a closely related term, but one which has at its core the notion of place. Hence, it points towards the right technology at the right place extended (in my usage, at least) to encompass place in the physical sense, but also time, social, cultural, temporal, absolute, relative, etc. Furthermore, if we layer the notion of mobility of human action on this framing, what emerges is an enhanced sense of the importance of transitions, and adaptation. This, by way of Piaget, leads us to perhaps a different way of thinking about intelligence of human and machine and how intelligent design may pave the way to wrestling the ever-growing complexity to the ground, thus enabling us, and our technologies, to meet our true and worthy potential.


Bill has been walking the path between where people and technology meet for over 40 years as a designer, musician, lecturer, writer, teacher, critic and researcher. His focus has always been on the human, and his work reflects a particular interest in the creative disciplines. He believes that appropriate design is that which enhances human intelligence and creativity, not replaces it. As a practicing skeptimist, he is a devotee of Melvin Kranzbergs first law: Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral. His corollary to this is, without informed design, it is more likely to lean to the bad than the good. It is towards becoming thus informed, and enlisting others to do so as well, that both his work, and this talk, are directed.