St Andrews HCI Research Group


Welcome to the website for SACHI which aims to act a focal point for human computer interaction research across the University of St Andrews and beyond.

SACHI is the St Andrews Computer Human Interaction research group (a HCI Group) based in the School of Computer Science. Members of SACHI co-supervise research students, collaborate on various projects and activities, share access to research equipment and our HCI laboratory. Established in 2011, we now have a regular seminar series, social activities, summer schools and organise workshops and conferences together. Along with the above links, you can find more news about us here.

News & Events

SACHI Seminar: Jason Alexander (Lancaster University) – What would you do if you could touch your data?

Event details

  • When: 29th November 2018 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a

Title:  What would you do if you could touch your data?

Abstract: Data Physicalizations are physical artefacts whose geometry or material properties encode data. They bring digital datasets previously locked behind 2D computer screens out into the physical world, enabling exploration, manipulation, and understanding using our rich tactile senses. My work explores the design and construction of dynamic data physicalizations, where users can interact with physical datasets that dynamically update. I will describe our data physicalization vision and show our progress on designing, building, and evaluating physicalizations and discuss the many exciting challenges faced by this emerging field.

Speaker biography:  Jason is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University. He has a BSc(Hons) and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and was previously a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol. His research is broadly in Human-Computer Interaction, with a particular interest in developing novel interactive systems to bridge the physical-digital divide. His recent work focuses on the development of shape-changing interfaces—surfaces that can dynamically change their geometry based on digital content—and their application to data physicalization. He also has interests in digital fabrication and novel haptic interaction techniques.

SACHI Seminar – Professor Anirudha Joshi: The story of Swarachakra – Cracking the puzzle of text input in Indian languages

Event details

  • When: 29th October 2018 15:00 - 16:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a

Title: The story of Swarachakra – Cracking the puzzle of text input in Indian languages

Abstract: There was a time when text input in Indian languages was called a ‘puzzle’. People found it so difficult that became a barrier that prevented them from using most other technology products, from doing common tasks such as searching the web or saving a contact. As a result, Indians typed very little in their own languages. The Roman script (in which we write English) is an Alphabet. In contrast, a large majority of Indian scripts are Abugidas – a different type of scripts. In our lab, we were convinced that we need different solutions – what works for Alphabets may not work for Abugidas. Over the years we explored several designs. Our early solutions were for desktop computers. Later we developed concepts for the feature phones. We tried several creative ideas and made prototypes. We got interesting results in the lab. We published papers and case studies. But beyond that, we could not reach out and make a difference to the end-users. Then smartphones arrived, and quickly became popular. It became relatively easier to develop and deploy keyboards. Again, we tried several ideas. One solution stood out in comparison with others. We called it “Swarachakra”. Today, Swarachakra is available for 12 Indian languages and has been downloaded by about 4 million users. What was the problem, and how was it solved? And what challenges remain? Come to the talk to find out.

Speaker biography: Anirudha Joshi is professor in the interaction design stream in the IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay, India, though currently he is on a sabbatical, visiting universities in the UK. His specialises in design of interactive products for emergent users in developing economies. He has worked in diverse domains including healthcare, literacy, Indian language text input, banking, education, industrial equipment, and FMCG packaging. Anirudha also works in the area of integrating HCI activities with software engineering processes. He has developed process models, tools, and metrics to help HCI practitioners deliver a better user experience. Anirudha is active with HCI communities in India and outside. He has chaired in various roles in several conferences including India HCI, INTERACT and CHI. Since 2007, he represents India on IFIP TC13. He is the founding director of HCI Professionals Association of India since 2013. Since 2015 he is the Liaison for India for the ACM SIGCHI Asian Development Committee. Since 2016, he has been the VP Finance of the ACM SIGCHI Executive Committee. Anirudha has diverse backgrounds. He is a BTech (1989) in Electrical Engineering, an MDes (1992), in Visual Communication Design, and a PhD (2011) in Computer Science and Engineering, all from IIT Bombay.

Cultural Heritage in the Age of Technology – IUI Summer School 2018

Iain Carson attends IUI Summer School in Haifa

The old city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv, at sunset

I was recently fortunate enough to be accepted to the Intelligent User Interfaces Summer School in Haifa, Israel – a series of talks and workshops encouraging generation of ideas and collaborations in the era of IoT and smart environments, with consideration for the use of technology in cultural heritage as a focal point for the presentations and discussions.

As there is no direct flight between Edinburgh and Israel, I arrived keen yet bleary-eyed in Tel Aviv at 4.30am just a couple of days before the conference; just enough time to recover and get to grips with the country before having to check in at the workshop.

Narrow streets of Jaffa

Tel Aviv greeted me with wall to wall sunshine and a scorching air temperature of 30degC. My explorations of the ancient city of Jaffa (the oranges were really grown here, but the cakes are just riding on their fame) showed me that Israel is a country proud of both its incredible history and its technological prowess.

In Jaffa, the stone-clad, narrow streets of the old town create a winding labyrinth built on foundations of the ancient Egyptians, modifications of the Israelites, then Phoenicians, further fortifications from the Ottoman Empire, elements of destruction at the hand of Napoleon, all falling through dereliction to be processed by modern rehabilitation efforts. Amongst the art and architecture sit bakeries, a sprawling flea market and numerous falafel kiosks, many observing a strict closing at midday on Fridays to celebrate Shabbat. Somehow, these layers of a rich Arabian history embedded in the crumbling stonework sit in stark contrast to the Silicon Valley-esque ideals one may have on the origin of Israel’s numerous internationally-recognised tech start-ups, which include Waze, Wix, Viber, Gett and Cortica, and the Israeli-only but nonetheless impressive Pango.

With its rich cultural heritage and strong tech foundations, Israel is a fitting location for the IUI summer school and its focus on the use of technology in cultural heritage.

Introduction to Acre

The summer school took part in Haifa, some 90km North of Tel Aviv, at the University of Haifa. With the air-conditioning set to max, we attended a series of stimulating talks by researchers from around the world. Topics covered a broad range of technologies, not exhaustively from “smart objects” in museums (presented by Massimo Zancanaro) to blind navigation aids (Jeremy Cooperstock), robots (Cristina Gena) to relics, and city-guide drones (Jessica Cauchard) to animal interfaces (Anna Zamansky). Even with such diversity, all talks were tailored to prime our minds for the pinnacle task of the summer school – working in small groups to ideate, design and present a realistic technological research proposal. We were encouraged to consider how cutting-edge technology may improve accessibility and engagement with cultural heritage, and after an afternoon brainstorming we were left with a real feeling of excitement for the task ahead.

Acre’s ancient sea wall

The next day, an excursion to the UNESCO world Heritage site Acre demonstrated some excellent applications of technology in cultural heritage, where projectors, sound systems, interactive displays and some beautiful visual effects provided new pathways for our minds and senses to navigate between the physical and the information space. We were encouraged to think strongly about how our ideas and developments may be used in such contexts, but equally to learn from the (hit and miss) effectiveness of such technologies in the wild, which may influence our decisions.

Group presentation of SHIP – the Special Hecht Interaction Playground

It became clear that while good tech can increase engagement and enrichen the museum experience, poorly implemented interfaces can be tedious enough to elicit frustration, or so stimulating that they distract altogether from the exhibit, defeating their purpose.

With the talks and first-hand experience in mind, our group of 5, representing an age range of 30 years and spanning multiple nationalities, settled on the presentation of a series of interactive podiums and a collaborative exploration table for the Ma’agan Mikhael ancient ship exhibition

Sarona Market – not your average Arabian flea market!

A lot of work went into the presentation of the idea, and we hope to develop the foundations into a project proposal and framework for improving child engagement with non-physical or ancient exhibitions through roleplaying in a collaborative, gamified environment.

After the presentations I was left to explore the towering skyscrapers of new Tel Aviv, navigating the shopping malls and their app-powered coffee and burger chains to acquire yet another perspective on this inspiring culture.

Alongside my undeniable tan and plethora of new contact details, my week in Israel had left me with plenty to think about on my journey back to a sunny, yet undeniably chilly, Edinburgh.

My sincere thanks go to SIGCHI, School of Computer Science and the ACM for the financial and logistical assistance in travelling to and staying in Israel, enabling such an excellent experience.

Everyone at the IUI Summer School in Acre