Monday, November 15, 2004

A toast to Tony's success

Long-term IDC member Tony Hall successfully defended his thesis today and was awarded the PhD!
Tony's thesis is entitled "Disappearing technology, emerging interactivity: A study of the design of novel computing to enhance children's learning experience in museums", and deals with the application of a framework inspired by Interaction Design practice to the development of educational museum exhibitions.
Tony's external examiner was Dr Lydia Plowman from Stirling University. Dr Eamonn McQuade was the internal examiner.
Congratulations to Dr. Tony Hall on his success!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Irish Electric Showers

This is really a mystery of lack of design and usability. I’ve just encountered a newly installed Centon Generation M888EP Multipoint Step Control device. It has a built-in pump to provide enough pressure to make you believe that you’re not standing outdoors on a soft day. But its thermal control just sucks. It has three settings: Low, Medium and High. In terms of water temperature, these settings result in Freezing, Cold and Scalding. This leaves you, as a user, with only a few options. You can either keep switching between Scalding and Cold, or, you set the dial to Scalding and try to put the showerhead really high and then you kneel down, hoping that the air will cool the boiling water on its way down. Alternatively, you can set the dial to cold and just suffer and shiver. Perhaps the design of Irish Electric Showers is a scheme devised by the Catholic Church. When modern times arrived and fewer people went to Mass, the Electric Shower was devised to make people realise what Hell might be like – in a very physical sense.
When will somebody teach Irish designers about continuous control and things like triacs, pulse-width modulation, control using feedback, etc…? With a small bundle of electronics, for less than 10 euro, you could easily provide constant and continuously controlled temperature of the water.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Forthcoming IDC seminar

IDC Research Seminar
Friday, November 12, at 2.00PM

Venue to be confirmed.

2.00-2.30 Ian O'Keeffe
"A Video-Driven Soundtrack Composition System Utilizing Video Stream Event Detection And Automated Music Generation"
Current soundtrack composition practice relies either on the use of a contracted composer to write from scratch or the use of music excerpt libraries to select the type of music required, with related costs linked with such an approach, royalties and musicians rights issues (IMRO). It is proposed that a new approach be taken for the generation of such incidental music, by composing or generating suitable music, probably driven by a 'wizard'-style interface or prompting method, which would be influenced by the content of the selected video stream with regard to rate of change, shot rate, and so on. After further investigation it has transpired that the alternative of applying more direct control over the marking of events would also be desirable, as would the facility to input EDL (Edit Decision List) files, these being a de-facto standard across the video industry. A number of approaches for the music generation are being investigated, the heuristic and statistical techniques being most prevalent.

2.30-3.00 Darragh Murphy
"Use of Biometrics as a database security measure" Goal of this project was to investigate the use of fingerprint recognition as a suitable
biometric measure for an authorized secured access to a database. The project entailed research into methods of fingerprint recognition and how it
has been developed and improved since its conception. While on co-operative education, Darragh was involved in Web Development and
maintenance, Developing online surveys, Software testing, Online services evaluation and he orchestrated the organizations computer auditing project.

3.00-3.30 Iride Bartolucci
"Interactive Playgrounds: how to stimulate the physical activity of children through playing, using new technologies"
Iride's role on the project was to formulate activity scenarios, with the aim to try and define necessary requirements for the implementation
of a novel playground. In particular, Iride designed a game to be implemented on the tiles-platform, that had the goal to develop the physical and cognitive
activity of children. Iride tested the game with children and also videotaped the activity to analyse the video through an ad hoc
observation grid she developed. The video-analysis activity was important to find new requirements about the prototype and to have significant data
about the physical performance and the cognitive activity of children and also about the design of the artefact.

3.30-4.30 Tony Hall
"Disappearing technology, emerging interactivity: A study of the design of novel computing to enhance children's learning experience in museums"
Museums are key sites of children's learning. However, they increasingly face competition for children's attention from other edutainment
activities and centres. In order to make their museums more appealing to children, curators and museum designers and educators are installing
computers in their galleries and exhibition spaces. However, the way in which this technology has been deployed in museums has often proven
problematic, serving to detract from, rather than enhance the interpretive experience of children. This has largely been the result of the inherent
limitations of standard computing. However, can novel computing (pervasive and ubiquitous computing), with
its potential to transcend problematic constraints of the desktop PC, be designed to enhance children's learning experience in museums? This is
the question that this thesis explores through development and evaluation of an innovative computer-supported exhibition, which was
designed to enhance children's museum learning. Emerging from the analysis of children's experience of the exhibition, the thesis firstly
proves that there are new interactive possibilities with novel computing to enhance the educational potential of museums. The thesis also
produces design guidelines, which identify the criteria of an effective computer-augmented museum educational experience for children. These
guidelines furthermore clarify the design informants and resources, which need to be consulted in order to effectively create such an

Friday, September 24, 2004

DAWN 2004 is on!

Want to try on augmented jewellery, experiment with interactive drama, experience time travel, explore wearable technology, visit an interactive art gallery, listen to electroacoustic music, and much more?

Visit DAWN 2004:

Interactive Media Exhibition: 23-25 September, 10AM-5PM in the C Block, opposite entrance to library

Music Technology concert: today, 23 September, at 3PM in CSG01, Computer Science Building

For details about the works, visit the DAWN website

DAWN04, the annual showcase of work by the Masters' students in
Interactive Media and Music Technology, is taking place at the University
of Limerick this week. The exhibition is in its fourth year and is already
known to show groundbreaking examples of what technology, media and music
might be tomorrow.

Prof. Tony Cahill, Head of the CSIS Department, officially opened the exhibition.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Congratulations to Luigina and Enrique

Major congratulations are due this week to Lui and Enrique as we have a new PhD and MSc respectively!

Here are a couple of pictures from the big day on Wednesday!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Why Wouldn't This Work?

Proposal for a University of Limerick Campus Bike Rental Scheme


In order to reduce congestion on the road network around Castletroy and to alleviate the pressure on the University car parks, it is proposed that the University initiate a student/staff bike rental scheme. This will also have attendant health and environmental benefits. After an initial investment, the scheme could become self-funding within four years.


The University of Limerick is unique in that most of the University's students live within a mile of the campus in the town land of Castletroy. Despite this, a significant number of students choose to drive to college. This has caused problems with car park allocations and contributes to the congestion on the Dublin-Limerick road. In contrast, relatively few students cycle to the University, even though no part of Castletroy is more than 10 minutes cycle from the University, and the campus road network is well suited to cyclists.

A bike rental scheme might take some of these student motorists out of the system, improving the quality of life for all.

Piloting the Scheme

The scheme could be started with 100 bikes. These should be chosen for durability and should all be identical. When purchased in bulk like this, the price works out at less than €100 per bike. The bikes should all be painted in easily recognised colours (yellow or orange for example), and each one should be assigned a unique ID number that is also painted prominently on the bike. This ID is associated with the bike's frame number. The pilot scheme outlined here would cost less than €20,000 to fund.

A support contract for the bikes can be sold to one of the bike repair shops in Limerick. This would involve a bike repair kiosk being opened in the Stables complex. This shop would carry 20 spare bikes and a stock of spare parts. Repairs would be carried out according to an established pricing structure. A bike-scheme user will not have to wait for his/her bike to be repaired. Since all the bikes are identical, they can just wheel out one of the spare bikes after paying for their repair.

The bikes will be rented to users on a per semester basis. After paying a deposit (€150), the bikes could be rented for as little as €20 per semester. This also entitles the user to discounted repairs at the bike shop. The ID number of the student is associated with the ID number of the rented bike (or the substitute bike in the case of repairs). Participants in this scheme would also be issued with locks.

Extending the Scheme

If the pilot scheme meets with success, the scheme can be extended by purchasing more bikes. This purchase can be partly funded by the rental and repair income from the pilot scheme. If the idea gathers momentum, the operation of the scheme can be handed over to the bike shop and the University can decrease its involvement if it so wishes. The scheme will gradually become self-funding.

The scheme can be further supported by the University with the establishment of more bike sheds around the college that are covered by CCTV cameras and by opening up several of the existing bike sheds to the students participating in this scheme. It might also be possible to establish a secure bike shed in Limerick city that is accessible only to users of the scheme by key card.

As the bike population of the University grows, it will lend weight to the argument that a bike path should be available between the campus and the city. If the scheme is very successful, the idea may be exported to other Irish Universities. This is something that can be franchised by the original bike shop as a business (rather like Campbell’s Catering).

Elements of the Scheme

There are a number of elements to the scheme that are independent, and would be useful even if implemented alone.

* The availability of bikes for rental.
* The establishment of a bike shop in the Stables complex.
* The provision of secure (CCTV monitored) bike sheds around the campus.
* The provision of a bike path between the city and the campus.

Potential Benefits

* Reduction in congestion in the Castletroy road network and on the N7.
* Reduction in demand for car parking around the University.
* Reduced environmental impact (due to noise and emissions).
* Students get into the habit of cycling, which has health benefits and is something that will contribute to their quality of life.
* The scheme is comparatively inexpensive to pilot and has the potential to become self-funding and eventually profitable.
* The existence of a large bike population in Castletroy will lend weight to the argument that a bike path needs to be built between the University and the city.

Potential Problems

* Insurance. It is unclear who would be liable in the case of an accident (especially if the accident is caused by poor maintenance). Either the University would have to insure the scheme, or the users would be required to sign a waiver.

* Security. Bike theft is endemic in Limerick so considerable attention must be paid to this issue. There are a number of potential solutions that might lessen the problem. The provision of secure bike parking facilities is one. There are also options that can be explored involving tracking chips or RFID (radio frequency ID) tags and bar coding.

* Lack of interest. If the pilot scheme fails, then the University’s initial investment will be at risk. However, the sum needed is relatively small, and the bikes can be sold off to students/staff second-hand to recoup some of this money.

* If the take-up is primarily from pedestrians (as opposed to motorists), then many of the benefits will be lost. However, the scheme will still improve quality of life.

* Seasonal interest. During the summer, there will be much fewer people around. However, it is possible that the bikes can be rented to the foreign students who spend the summer in Limerick.

Benficiaries/Interested Parties

* The University of Limerick. The scheme will serve as an example of the University’s commitment to improving the quality of life for its staff and students. It will also help alleviate the car parking problems of recent years.

* Limerick County Council/Corporation. Any reduction in the congestion on the roads around Limerick would be useful. The scheme might attract some seed funding from these agencies. Eventually, they might find themselves in a position to provide a bike path.

* Environmental Society of UL. Aside from the direct environmental benefits of the scheme, it also helps to promote cycling as an alternative to motorised transport.

* ULSU & PSA. This is an issue that affects the quality of life for UL students. The ULSU has previously shown itself to be interested in the car parking issue…and this is one possible solution.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Man of the Day (or possibly, the Year)

The man I'm writing about is Michael Cooke. We spent over a year on a fecking silly experiment that we designed really well (inspired by some US wanker pseudo-scientists) to show perceptual multimodal effects. Most of us (faculty) had a look at the resulting data and said "Hey this looks promising". None of us took the time to really work through the data and do the statistics propely.
Mike did.
Thanks! You've probably saved the project. We have statistical significance left, right and centre and we can probably write at least two good papers based on this.
Michael, you earned your place. Keep going. Please keep us on the straight and narrow. Please tell me to bugger off if I'm too bad.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Friday send-off

Friday afternoon we celebrated Krispin’s successful departure from UL. We wish him all the best, and that he will either come back or send us a few bob when he makes his first million. It’s been great to work with him for the last three years! Time flies when you have fun. So, this Friday, we finally managed to get him a pint of the Black Stuff, as shown below…

And we all know the result of having a nice pint…


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Congrats, Krispin!

01:47 this morning, Krispin's M.Sc. thesis passed, with full marks, the examination. His thesis work is exemplary.

Monday, August 23, 2004


After several days now of no UL email, at least not to/from the outside, I suggest we move our email to the domain (which will remain in the DMZ). By doing so, we can facilitate users with Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, Palm or whatever, instead of ITD's (the Incompetent/Incontinent/Impossible Technology Division) further slip into the Microsoft abyss. We can the request UL to forward our normal emails to our own domain...
I also suggest we start preparing some http tunnelling, to allow us to work anywhere.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

What the hell is that?

It seems that many of the IDC bloggers have gone quiet. Perhaps it's just August. Perhaps it's because we're all under pressure. I don't know. One thing I do know: if you're stuck writing what you are supposed to be writing, just write anything - like this. It might help.

I'm launching a kind of competition here. What's the image above? The winner gets to buy me a pint (and I might reciprocate!)...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Lisa and her Leprechaun

The picture below is Lisa with her new ceramic friend - the Leprechaun. Her friends in IDC contacted a serious Kerry matchmaker to find this little creature for her.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Who shot the Sheriff?

Congrats to Terence who came back from the US with interesting data on location based computing. After coming back, the local Sheriff's office made enquiries about this strange guy. Somebody had even notified Homeland Security ;-) Just imagine, if we all had joied forces, we could have really taken them to the cleaners/blown them away by buying gear in local toy and geek shops, madifying it and behaving in interesting ways.

Friday, July 16, 2004

IDC Paper

Michael Cooke has a jointly authored journal paper in the latest issue of Cognition, Technology and Work.
 John McCarthy, Peter Wright, Michale Cooke "From information processing to dialogical meaning making: an experiential approach to cognitive ergonomics."

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Bushiad - the Idyossey

Still off-topic, if you're into anti-war satire in blank verse (and who isn't), have a look at the Idyossey.

Glen Hansard in Dolan's Tonight

Slightly off-topic, but Glen Hansard (lead singer, the Frames) plays a solo gig in Dolan's Warehouse tonight. According to the blurb:

"He enthralls audiences with a strong, assertive voice that mixes emotional honesty, humility, and beauty. Whether he's playing to the accompaniment of a full band (including violin) or solo, his voice and words reach out to the listener, drawing them in as the outside world slowly fades away. "The beauty is in the projection," he says. And Hansard's one of the best projectionists around.

Namechecking Van Morrison, The Pixies, Will Oldham, and Slint as just a few of his numerous influences, Glen has a few well-known fans himself. Bob Dylan asked Glen to open six London shows after seeing a rehearsal in 1996.

Nick Cave and Will Oldham invited him onstage at the Liss Ard Festival last year. A personal highlight includes travelling with and being a friend to the late Jeff Buckley. "At its best, the song is an invocation," reflects Hansard. Please give yourself the opportunity to be drawn into Glen Hansard's music

Tickets are 20 quid and available from the Scholar's.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Game design and cancer therapy

This kid Ben Duskin, 9, is recovering from cancer and designed a game to teach other kids to fight against leukemia...The game can be dowloaded for free.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Language & music

This is a post on slashdot about the relationship between language and music, seems to give some pointers as to why tonal music makes more sense than atonal (the author thinks its structure matches that of language more closely I think...).

slashdot post

For actual research paper


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Skype project to dial real phone numbers

The Open Source Voice Over IP (VoIP) project Skype seems to finally be making moves into really useful territory with the new possibility of dialing real phones over the Internet - so long to those pesky
phone bills.

For more check out The Register -
or Skype at


Thursday, June 24, 2004

missing equipment

Hi people, I'm trying to track down power supplies and pens for some wacom graphics tablets I have here - if anybody has them (or can even given me some leads as to where they might have ended up!) please post a reply.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Partial Dutch e-voting software goes open source

Seems like the Dutch have released a limited subset of their e-voting software online under the GPL. Unfortunately its not the NEDAP system which is the one which was to have been used here in Ireland
for the elections. More on the story on the register at , the download is quite big
around 23~ Megs but should interest those who wish to examine what real voting software is like.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Bruce gets the John O'Gorman Award

Yesterday, Bruce Richardson received the John O'Gorman Award for presenting the best paper at the CSIS research conference.

John's brother Andy O'Gorman hands Bruce the cheque.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Won't someone *please* think of the children...

Further proof that you can use the emotive words "children" and "pedophile" to make people suspend any critical faculties.
Wired News: Ireland Leery of 3G Phones

Kids Educational Games Magazine

Try out a free trail...

Studentships available at IDC

Research Studentships at the Interaction Design Centre, University of
Limerick, Ireland

The Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick (Ireland) is an
interdisciplinary research group in the Department of Computer Science and
Information Systems focused on the design, use and evaluation of information
and communications technologies. The focus is on human-centred design, with
a strong interest in collaborative settings, exploring the design and use of
novel interactive and communicative artefacts to support human activities.
Several national and international research projects currently investigated
at the IDC focus on topics such as ubiquitous computing, interaction design,
haptic and auditory interfaces, interactive installations in public spaces
and computer-supported cooperative work.
The Centre is offering 2 full-time Master's research studentships on a newly
funded Science Foundation Ireland research project -"Re-Shaping Spaces in
Places for Nomadic Users of Interactive Artefacts" The project is led by
Luigina Ciolfi, IDC, and also involves Prof. Liam Bannon, Director, IDC.

Duration: 2 years, starting October 2004
Salary scale: Standard SFI Rates (approx. E17,000-E18,000 per annum
including fees, depending on experience).

The research will investigate how to take seriously the specific features of
locations - their history, architectural features, use by various groups,
changing nature over time periods, etc. can affect the provision of
location-based services for mobile workers who traverse these places. The
project will explore the work practice of nomadic users and will seek to
identify requirements for the design of mobile technologies based on
people's use and experience of place. Prototypes of interactive artefacts
will be developed and tested throughout the project.

We are seeking two candidates for the position of research assistant willing
to pursue a Masters of Science on the project.
One Masters Student will be concerned with the technical development of the
project, the exploration of mobile technologies to support nomadic workers
and dynamically adapt to a variety of workplaces. The other Masters Student
will be involved in conducting field studies, analysis, and developing
design workshops involving end-users.

Successful applicants will join a highly skilled and motivated team of
researchers in the IDC who are conducting research at the boundaries of
human-computer interaction, creating novel environments that merge our
physical and digital worlds.

Applicants should submit a full CV (electronic or paper version) by July
15th 2004 to
Ms. Anne Murphy,
Interaction Design Centre,
University of Limerick, Ireland

Each application must indicate the key area and topics that the candidate
is interested in, and describe their research background and interests in
that area and topic. Candidates should be available for interview during

Candidates are expected to have at least a 2.1 Honours Degree or equivalent
in a relevant subject. Familiarity with HCI and Interaction Design theory
and practice is an advantage. Conditional awards can be made if students
have yet to receive their final degree classification.
Candidates who wish to discuss these positions may contact Luigina Ciolfi by
email at

For more information on the Interaction Design Centre, please visit our
website at

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

MS SenseCam

A new camera from the MS Cambridge Labs packages a small digital camera with a package of sensors. It takes a snap every time a change in ambient conditions is detected (temperature, movement, light) - and stores 2000 pics on a 128Mb flash card.

One of the possible uses mentioned is that of a visual blog (which considering the amount of self-indulgent navel gazing which constitutes 99% of blog entries...may not neccessarily be a good thing) and as an aid for people suffering from memory loss.

It strikes me that it would also (when combined with a voice activated microphone) be a useful ethnographical tool.


If you're in the IDC (or related to it in some way) and you want to contribute to this...send a mail to my University account. Specify whether you want admin access.