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 Human - Computer Interaction Laboratory

HCI Lab Activities & Outcomes


The R&D activities and outcomes of HCI Lab are distinctively characterised by an inter-disciplinary focus to define and advance the concept of User Interfaces for All, proposed in the international bibliography as the instantiation of the principles of "Design for All" and "Universal Access" in the field of HCI.

The Lab's R&D efforts focus on advanced applocations and tools for the following key domains presented below, putting particular emphasis on a cross-domain impact:


eAccessibility, Design for All and Universal Access

The overall goal of this research direction is to support and facilitate the adoption and application of the principles of Design for All and Universal Access in the context of the Information Society and to consolidate the necessary knowledge, instruments and building blocks for ensuring that interactive applications and services are designed and developed in such a way as to preliminarily take into account the needs and requirements of diverse target user groups in diverse contexts of use.
Conducted activities
  • elaboration of methods, techniques and tools for the development of user interfaces that exhibit intelligent adaptation to the characteristics of diverse target user groups, technological platforms and contexts of use;
  • elaboration of methods, techniques and instruments for usability evaluation involving users with different characteristics and abilities;
  • consolidation of Design for All approaches and methods in diverse application domains of crucial importance in the context of the Information Society;
  • design and development of appropriate interaction techniques, supported through user interface toolkits, for user groups with specific interaction requirements, such as, for example, non visual interaction for blind users and scanning based interaction for users with upper limbs motor impairments.
Outcomes
  • Starlight (2007): a novel software platform for developing and interacting with multimodal interactive electronic textbooks that provide a Dual User Interface, i.e., an interface concurrently accessible by visually impaired and sighted persons.
  • WebToAudio (2006): a tool supporting the transformation of web content into audio through the use of speech synthesis. WebToAudio allows saving the transformed content in MP3, wav and other formats, thus provding offline audio presentation and navigation of content for blind users, users with visual disabilities and users on the move.
  • ARGO (2004): a public system that integrates a Web browser with off-screen non-visual display transformation and delivery (for blind people) and a Web browser that supports the scanning technique through the use of binary switches(for people with motor impairements).
  • Home Access (2004): a smart home control interface supporting hierarchical scanning for motor impaired users.
  • MENTOR (2004): a tool for process-oriented support of Unified User Interface Design, providing facilities for the consistency verification of the designed adaptation logic.
  • IS4ALL training course (2003): an on-line course about design approaches and methods that can be used to address the challenges of universal access in the context of Health Telematics.
  • PALIO (2003): a system that supports the provision of web-based services exhibiting automatic adaptation behaviour based on user and context characteristics, as well as the user current location.
  • Virtual Prints (ViPs) (2003): a novel, intuitive, interaction concept for supporting navigation, orientation, way-finding, as well as a number of additional functions in Virtual Environments.
  • NAUTILOS (2001): an information kiosk enabling accessibility by motor-impaired and blind users. Its interface supports the Greek language, offering Greek Braille and Greek synthetic speech, while supporting operation in dual interface mode, in which both the visual and the non-visual browsers are displayed concurrently with synchronisation of the loaded web site.
  • Fast Scanner (2001): a tool based on Microsoft Active Accessibility providing accessible interaction with interactive applications through the automatic "on-the-fly" activation of hierarchical scanning facilities.
  • Hawk (2000): a non-visual interface development toolkit that enables the programming of genuine non-visual interfaces embodying non-visual interaction metaphors.
  • FORTH Editor (2000): a text processor designed for users with motor impairment of upper limps, and users with learning or cognitive difficulties.
  • SEW Trainer (1999): a vocational training application for disabled people, specifically developed in order to provide cognitive impaired users with support for developing and enhancing the vocational skills required for table and bed linen production. For more information, see the leaflet about the SEW Trainer.
  • Canteen Manager (1999): a specifically designed application for users with learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities, providing cognitive impaired users with support for developing and enhancing the vocational skills required for the management of a refectory. For more information, see the leaflet about the Canteen Manager.
  • Unified User Interface Software architecture (1998): a novel architectural framework facilitating the development of interfaces that exhibit automatic adaptation behaviour, and best-fit dynamic interface assembly.
  • Unified User Interface Design Method (1998): a design method that facilitates the design of interfaces that exhibit automatic adaptation behaviour based on user and context related diversity factors.
  • AVANTI browser (1998): a universally accessible web browser with a unified user interface.
  • ESTIA NV Web Browser (1998): a web browser for blind users that supports a large number of special input /output devices and modalities of non-visual interaction.
  • ESTIA MI Web Browser (1998): a web browser that has been specifically designed in order to address the needs of people with severe motor difficulties of upper limps. The only interaction requirement on the part of the user is the ability to activate a binary switch.
  • Design-Aid (1998): a supporting tool environment for documenting and retrieving design rationale revealed and compiled through a scenario-based design process.
  • ScanLib (1997): an augmented version of the Windows object library with embedded hierarchical scanning facilities.
  • UVDMM (1997): the User Vocabulary Definition and Meaning Mapping Module (UVDMM) is a multilingual, multifunctional and easily extendible lexical knowledge base, intended for use in Interpersonal Communication Aids.
  • USE-IT (1996): a knowledge-based tool for automating the design of interactions at the physical level, so as to ensure accessibility of the target user interface by different user groups, including people with disabilities.
  • Sherlock (1996): a Guidelines Management System for articulating and depositing guidelines, facilitating the automatic usability inspection of tentative designs.
  • PIM (1996): the first tool reported to provide toolkit integration as a documented and reusable service. It allows proxy interface-toolkit specification and generation.
  • COMONKIT (1995): an interface toolkit for non-visual interaction, based on a specifically designed version of the Rooms metaphor.
  • The CORE shell system (1995): an Information Retrieval tool targeted to Assistive Technology actors who seek information on products and services, without being particularly aware of the organisation or structure of data residing on existing information systems.
  • CONFIG (1994): a screen reader configuration system that facilitates the customisation of non-visual environments for blind users.
  • INTERACT (1994): a user interface builder that supports the implementation of user interfaces accessible by disabled users.
  • ARITHMOULIS (1994): an educational software module developed for children with learning difficulties.
  • LOGOS (1991): an interpersonal communication system targeted to speech-motor, and language-cognitive impaired users.

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Inclusive Interaction in Ambient Intelligence Environments

Ambient Intelligence (AmI) represents a vision of the (not too far) future where “intelligent” or “smart” environments react in an attentive, adaptive, and active (sometimes proactive) way to the presence and activities of humans and objects in order to provide intelligent/smart services to the inhabitants of these environments. While a wide variety of different technologies is involved, the goal of Ambient Intelligence is to either entirely hide their presence from users or to smoothly integrate within the surrounding context as enhanced environment artifacts rather than as technological gadgets. This way, the computing-oriented connotation of technology essentially fades-out or even disappears in the environment, providing seamless and unobtrusive interaction paradigms. Therefore, people and their social situation, ranging from individuals to groups, be them work groups, families or friends and their corresponding environments (office buildings, homes, public spaces, etc) are at the centre of design.

The main goal of research in this domain is to support seamless, high-quality, unobtrusive,inclusive and fault-tolerant interaction in Ambient Intelligence Environments.In this context, the Laboratory develops novel software development frameworks and methods, and designs and develops future ambient interactive systems targeted to enabling natural and intuitive interaction of people with the intelligent environment via multiple modalities and coupled devices.
Conducted activities
  • Development of support methods and tools for the efficient, effective and error-free implementation of ambient dialogues, i.e., dynamically distributed User Interfaces, which exploit on the fly the wireless devices available at a given point in time.
  • Elaboration of methods and tools for user interface development in Ambient Intelligence.
  • Investigation scenarios and methodological approaches for universal access in ambient intelligence environments.
  • Development of prototype applications that demonstrate the potential, added value and benefits of ambient intelligence technologies to the (mobile) end-users.
Outcomes
  • AmIDesigner and AmIPlayer (2008): two combined tools which support the automatic generation of accessible graphical user interfaces in AmI environments. The tools offers a simple and rapid design-and-play approach, and the running user interfaces produced integrate non-visual feedback and a scanning mechanism to support accessibility.
  • CAMILE (2008): an interactive application that supports accessible lighting control through multiple modalities.
  • ASK-IT Home Automation Application (2008): an application which facilitates the remote overview and control of the home environment through the use of a portable device. The user interface of the applications can adapt according to user needs (vision and motor impairments), context of use (alternative display types and display devices) and presence of assistive technologies (alternative input devices).
  • Voyager (2004): a User Interface (UI) development framework, delivered as a C++ toolkit, for developing wireless dynamically composed wearable interfaces.
  • Explorer (2004): a location-aware hand-held multimedia guide for museums and archaeological sites.
  • Projector (2004): a C++ proxy-toolkit for Java Foundation Classes with split cross-platform execution.

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Universally Accessible Games

Universally accessible games are interactive computer games that follow the principles of Design for All, being proactively designed to optimally fit and dynamically adapt to different individual gamer characteristics without the need of further adjustments via additional developments. Universally accessible games can be concurrently played among people with different abilities, ideally also while sharing the same computer. They may be played on various hardware and software platforms, and within alternative environments of use, utilizing the currently available devices, while appropriately interoperating with assistive technology add-ons.
Conducted activities
  • Elaboration of methods and concepts for the development of universally accessible games.
  • Development of game engines for collaborative interaction-rich games populated by "intelligent" creatures.
  • Development of integrated development environments comprising tools for easy and effective game development
  • Conceptual and detailed design of universally accessible games, including design rationale, game mechanics, software architectures, and development process.
  • Development of software prototypes of intelligent game worlds.
Outcomes
  • Game Over! (2007): "Game Over!" is the world's first (and hopefully only) universally inaccessible game. The goal of this game is to be used as an educational tool for disseminating, understanding and consolidating game accessibility guidelines.For more information, see the leaflet about the Game Over!.
  • Terrestrial Invaders (2007): A UA-Game packed with numerous accessibility features that can be switched on and off, both off-line and on-the-fly. Actually, this game was developed in order to be able to create Game Over! For more information, see the leaflet about the Terrestrial Invaders.
  • UA-Chess (2004): a universally accessible multi-modal chess game, which can be played between two players, including people with disabilities (low-vision, blind and hand-motor impaired), either locally on the same computer, or remotely over the Internet.
  • Access Invaders (2005): a universally accessible version of the popular classic "Space Invaders" action game.
  • SENSAI (2004): (generic AI sensory system module) an open, extensible, modular approach for simulating a generic sensory system for creating intelligent creatures for computer games.
  • UnderGO (2004): a software game engine for animated 2D worlds supporting fast action and tile-based multilayer terrains.
  • BreakOut (2003): the "traditional" breakout game implemented with fully distributed wireless wearable dynamic I/O.
  • Animatic (2003): a real-time 3D file manager, and animated windows events with heuristic particle systems.

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Inclusive Online Communities

Activities in this domain concern the provision of universally accessible and usable online communities, and aim in particular to investigate new tools and services for promoting online communication and collaboration (web portals, digital libraries, eServices, etc.), as well as user needs and requirements for accessing inclusive online communities and web-based services, both with and without the use of assistive technologies.
Conducted activities
  • Development of methods, platforms and tools for supporting the accessibility of online communities to users with diverse needs, abilities and requirements.
  • Development of universally accessible web portals.
  • Investigation and design of novel visualization and navigation techniques, intuitive metaphors and user empowering concepts for online communities and web-based services.
  • Development of methods and instruments targeted towards assessing the inclusiveness of online communities and related tools.
Outcomes
  • "eGovernment Web Portal for disabled people (2008): The web applications that are available through the Portal include: (i) the Online Citizen Service Center, a one-stop-shop service for information retrieval and application submission to public administration bodies; (ii) Job Finding Service, supporting people with disabilities in searching on – line for jobs, eliminating the need for their physical presence in the workspace in order to conduct any preliminary negotiations with employers; (iii) Digital library of assistive technology product and services, addressing individual users as well as public bodies and organizations; (iv) Voice Portal, as an alternative means to access the content available through the Online Citizen Service Center with the use of telephone.
  • "EDeAN Portal (2007): a completely new adaptable portal for the support of the activities of the EDeAN Network, developed using the EAGER toolkit.
  • EAGER (2007): a development toolkit that allows Web developers to build adaptive applications using facilities similar to those offered by commonly user frameworks. It is a developer framework build over ASP.NET providing adaptation-enabled ready to use dialogs. By means of EAGER, a developer can produce Web portals that have the ability to adapt to the interaction modalities, metaphors and user interface elements most appropriate to each individual user, according to profile information containing user and context specific parameters.
  • ORIENT (2006): a tool for the walkthrough-based assessment of eServices. ORIENT is based on a new methodology which combines the evaluation of accessibility and usability, and more in general the user experience, throughtout the usage lifecycle of eSevices, taking into account different user needs and requirements and different environments of use.
  • Pages4VR (2006): a prototype web portal, including a variety of synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration tools, for the collaborative development of guidelines and standard in the domain of VR.
  • Papyrus (2004): A web-based development suite for the implementation of digital libraries of User-Interface design guidelines, supporting collaborative and distributed deployment.
  • WebFace accessibility engine (2003): tool for the dynamic transformation of web pages into personalisable and accessible versions.
  • I-doVE (2003): a digital library of design guidelines for the domain of virtual environment applications.
  • HERMES (2003): a web-based platform to enable systematic cooperation amongst members of the European Design for All e-Accessibility Network (EDeAN) and other thematic networks, stakeholders and actors in the field.
  • SEN-IST-NET web Portal (2002): a portal providing information on Information Society Technologies (IST) for Special Educational Needs (SEN), including a Virtual Library, an extensive Resource Guide and a Case Study section with examples of innovative use of ICT.
  • Digital Library of Audio Books (2001): a non-visual digital library of digitised audio books.

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Programming languages

Emphasis is put on the design and implementation of advanced domain–specific programming languages, like User Interface programming languages and decision–logic specification languages, as well as innovative general purpose languages, like dynamic object–oriented programming languages.
Conducted activities
  • Design of languages suited to the specification of adaptation–oriented decision logic to drive the dynamic assembly of software systems depending on deployment oriented parameters. The method was originated from User Interface adaptation.
  • Development of large–scale User Interface programming languages targeted for User Interface programming, with an emphasis on declarative control constructs, toolkit connectivity, physical split with the functional core, support for behavioral abstraction, and advanced hooking with C++.
  • Design of dynamic object–oriented languages, with emphasis on dynamic inheritance, dynamic operator overloading, garbage collection, dynamic loading of virtual machines and implementation of source level debuggers.
  • Formulation of new domain-oriented approaches towards the rapid development of programming languages in a way that their source code compiles as pure C++ code, while incorporating instrumentation of execution tracing and visualization.
Outcomes
  • The 'Language in a Language' suite. A set of languages rapidly implemented to compile as C++, using advanced techniques for syntactic pattern emulation, including execution tracing and visualization tools. The languages are:
    • The FLIP language (2005): imperative programming language for introduction to programming compiling as C++ code.
      Download FLIP's source. (.zip file, 9.77 Mb)
    • The JET language (2005): an assembly language compiling as C++ code. Includes tracing and visualization tools.
      Download JET's source. (.zip file, 4.47 Mb)
    • The LEAF language (2006): a functional programming language with lambda functions, closures, and lazy evaluation.
      Download LEAF's source. (.zip file, 1.45 MB)
  • I-GET (2000): a language-based User Interface Management System, offering the I–GET language supporting: multi–toolkit integration, hierarchical dialogue agent classes with declarative activation, constraints, monitors, event handler classes, virtual object classes, hooks and bridges with the C++ languages, typed channels and shared objects for linkage with the function core. The compiler generates code in the C++ language.You may freely download the source code (Windows, VS 2005 version) of I-GET (compiler, runtime, win server,examples) - the code is offered 'as it is'with no particular support.
  • DELTA (2004- on going): named from 'Dynamic Embeddable Language for Extending Applications', supporting dynamic untyped object-based inheritance, garbage collection, and dynamic operator overloading, compiles to byte code and supports dynamic code loading and execution as independent virtual machines.
  • Sparrow (2007-on going): It is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) of the Delta language, supporting extensibility in Delta (circularity) and remote deployment as a component enabling domain-specific utilisation (as in games). It includes the project manager, syntax directed editor, source level debugger with advanced tree views for watches, while it supports adaptive user profiles. Download Sparrow Installer. (.exe file, 11 MB, latest November 24, 2010)
  • DMSL (2003): a decision making specification language to define the runtime system adaptation logic, with its compiler and execution system, supporting localized named decision blocks, deployment parameters with stereotypes (macros).
  • Flying Circus: A tool for visual prototyping of software designs based on CRC cards (Classes Responsibilities Collaborators) offering: 3d visualizations with zooming and panning, rotational inspection and 3d manipulators, with optional immersive navigation through stereoscopic views. Download the tool (including source code).

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