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Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
SMD157 Human-Computer Interaction, Projects
Period 2, 2005/6

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[General Information] [Applications] [General Design Rules] [Project Report] [Project Grading]

General Information

The project will be done in groups of four or five. You must form a group and register it by November 4, 2005. At the same time, you will need to pick your project application. In order to prevent everyone from doing the same project, only one group in each seminar section is allowed to do each application. So, you may be asked to pick another application if too many groups choose the same one. The project will be summarized in a final report, which along with a demonstration of the high-fidelity prototype forms the basis for the group portion of your grade.

Forms to register your group can be found as a Microsoft Word RTF or a PDF. All fields must be filled in. If you fill in the form by hand, print neatly.

The project will be to design an application and prototype it using the iterative development process. This process starts with a product concept and develops it by successively more exact prototypes. Because of time limits we will only go through the first high-fidelity prototype. The steps that will be carried out are:

The theme of this year's assignment is "The Universal Remote". We are postulating the existance of a PDA that incorporates an infrared transmitter for control of appliances, a short range high speed network such as Wlan or Bluetooth, a hybrid positioning system (GPS/infrared), and a 3G cell phone. The PDA has a 10x10 cm color display with a resolution of 40 pixels per cm. Its display has is touch sensitive with a sylus being part of the system. There is, of course, the telephone. This permits voice input and output via a wireless headset. The PDA itself has a reasonably large amount of onboard memory, so the applications and user's data are stored locally. The PDA also uses the 3G data link to back up the user's data and to access any large public database that may be needed for its applications. The positioning system uses the GPS outdoor, and we assume that the user's home is outfitted with an infrared transmitter in every room. In summary, the PDA:

Students should not spend too much time worrying about the exact details of the hardware. It is not important for the design project. The hardware will be simulated on a desktop computer. The simulation will use the mouse as the stylus for pointing operations and the keyboard for text entry. (However, users don't like enter lots of text so text entry should be minimized.) The display will be simulated by a 400x400 pixel window. All text in the window should be in a sans-serif font such as Arial or Verdanna, and the font should be at least 12 point.

General Design Rules

The design of the project is to be guided by a philosophy expressed by the following two design rules.

  1. Universal remote owners don't like to enter text!
  2. A universal remote is not a computer!

These rules mean that your designs shouldn't force users to enter large amounts of text or numbers. The designs should not incorporate computer constructs like hierarchical menus, pop-up functions, forms, etc. If they are present these items should be well disguised. (It's probably impossible to completely avoid hierarchical menus, for example. But, they don't need to be in a drop-down style, which might force scrolling.) Your design should not work like a web site or an application in a windowing system. One way to avoid the web/computer feeling is to carefully design transitions between states as computers usually just replace data or pop up new information instantly.

You should assume that the system is much more aware of context than current systems. For example, the system is aware where the user is located. So, a timetable will be for the local bus system when the user goes to a different city. The user won't need to select the city from a list. Similarly, a weather report would be for where the user is. But, the user's calendar is also in the PDA. So, a user who is going to London tomorrow will by default get London's weather when requesting tomorrow's weather. (Of course, it should be clear that the weather is for London.) Finally, the system knows where "home" is. Getting things like the time, weather, or bus timetable for home should be easy.


Travel Guide

Since the PDA knows the user's location and schedule, the user should be able to get assistance when traveling. This application provides timetables for both local and inter-city transportation and makes them available. It also couples to street maps, tourist guides, and service guides (such as a restaurant guide). The design problem involves making an easy to use interface that is based on the user's current position, task, and the time. Of course, there would be a planning function so users could create a tour of a city that they are/will be visiting. Once there, they would use the maps and positioning system to go to the various sites. Local transportation directions would be included. (The system might even know that the metro system is unavailable due to a strike, and only buses would be suggested.) A really deep version would use global tranportation schedules and allow e-booking of travel arrangements when the user is running late or has missed a connection.

Audio Center

The system handles audio programming. Assume that the listener has access to an audio service that combines hundreds of radio channels, listen-and-buy music, and an individualized information service (news, weather, etc.). Design an integrated interface to the audio center. The audio center is sort of a program guide with a search function. Remember the user may want to buy a song that was just played on the radio. Once a song is purchased the user may play it as often as wanted. The information service should include provisions for both push-based and pull-based information. You need to provide both a search service and a configuration for the pushed based information.

Video Controller

This is the video analog of the audio center. The PDA provides a combination program guide, VCR (disk based), video library manager with both pre-owned and purchased videos, and TV remote. The program guide should assume a large number of channels (20, 50, 100) and pay-per-view services. The library manager would have access to every TV program and movie ever made including foreign language programming with and without text. (Some movies might exist in original language and many dubbed versions.) The program guide and VCR should be integrated so that one can select a program to record from the guide. While one might need to be in the same room as the TV to control it, this wouldn't be necessary for the program guide and VCR.

Mobile Phone with personal address book, directory assistance, and yellow pages

This application is used to access the telephone function of the 3G interface. Users should be able to dial numbers directly, and of course, access them via a personal phonebook. The is also access to the directory for all telephones in the world. This is organized by name within country and telephone exchange (city/region). There are also advertising directories orgainized by service type within town (Yellow Pages). One can even imagine business-to-business directories. Entering data into the personal phonebook should require a minimum of text. Searching the directories is an important part of this application and flexibility should be supported. For example, how do I find the right David Carr when there are four in the Atlanta area? Which road service firms are near my car? What taxi company did I call 15 minutes ago and where is my taxi? Number presentation and caller filtering can be added to the design.

Home Control Center

All of the appliances, electric outlets, lights, locks, the heating, and the security system in the user's home are connected to a network and respond to commands and report status. Design an application to control the home and check its status. You must solve problems such as mapping devices to a human accessable representation, installing new devices, and replacing old devices. It must be possible to set a mode such as "away" or "returning soon". Modes would configure many devices to predetermined settings. It must also be possible to couple modes to a calendar, so that the home switches from one to the other according to a program. Finally status such as energy usage, hours of operation, and broken/functioning can be retrieved from individual devices. The user will want to be able to get detailed reports and set warning alarms.

Personal Photograph Library

It is assumed that the owner of the PDA also has a digital camera and that they need a way to manage all of their digital photographs. You can assume that storage is not a problem and that extra space is handled transparently by using either the 3G network or the home network. However, the user does need a way to upload photographs from the camera, browse the photograph collection, organize the collection, search for photographs, view individual photographs, and order prints. The interface needs to work for hundreds or even thousands of pictures. So, the problem with this application is to design an interface to manage thousands of photographs on the limited PDA display.


This option lets you design your own application. The general rules are that it must use the PDA with the limits described above. You can add a special device or capability, but it cannot expand the display or add input devices such as a keyboard. You may want to design the PDA to work for someone who is handicapped, blind, or from some other special group such as the elderly or children. Before beginning any "own" project you must meet with the examiner and receive approval.

The normal scope of the project is to design a stylus and display based prototype of your chosen application. However, to get a better grade your group may want to attempt one or both of the extra depth options below. Note, both of these options take more work and more careful design.

  1. Augment the display-based output with spoken text and audio feedback. Users should be able to record their own messages and reminders.
  2. In addition to stylus-based input, design a voice control for your application. This control can be either PDA led or a command language, or a combination where the PDA leads the user, but commands are always available. In order to do this, you will need to study how to do a "Wizard of Oz" simulation. (See Klemmer, et. al., Suede: a wizard of oz prototyping tool for speech user interfaces, Proceedings of UIST 2000, Nov. 2000, San Diego, CA, 1-10.)

Project Report

The project report must be written in English and is expected to be a comprehensive description of the project. However, it is also expected to be concise and is therefore limited to 10 pages plus the title page. The report can be submitted by e-mail in PDF or postscript format or turned in as a bound volume. A template can be found in PDF or RTF format.

It must be as organized as described below and must conform to the section layout given:

  1. Title Page: The page should contain a title that you want to give to your project. It must contain the application (from above), your seminar section number, a group name (your choice), plus the names, personal numbers, and e-mail addresses of all group members. The group name should be on the bottom or top of each page of your report.

  2. Introduction: States what the program does and gives a general outline of the philosophy of the user interface design. It defines the limit of the system with respect to other applications. The introduction should summarize the external analysis. In particular, concentrate on the functions of the system and a characterization of the users. Be sure to include a brief description of your project's primary persona.

  3. Low-Fidelity Prototypes: Briefly describe your low-fidelity prototypes. Be sure to highlight the differences between the prototypes. Note, this doesn't mean successive iterations of the same prototype, unless they were evaluated in some way.

    For each low-fidelity prototype, describe the heuristic evaluation performed with it, the results of the heuristic evaluation, and design changes as a result of that evaluation. Repeat for the cooperative evaluation. In addition, describe the users for the cooperative evaluation and how they were or were not representative. The result should be a chronology of prototype-evaluation-redesign cycles. Finally, include a representative illustration of the prototypes.

    There should be one subsection for each prototype. The final sections should include comparison of the prototypes and a justification for which was chosen to be developed into the high-fidelity prototype.

  4. The High-Fidelity Prototype: Start with a description of the high-fidelity prototype as it was before any evaluations. This should explain which functions of the proposed final product were implemented and which were not. A brief description how to operate the program illustrated with screen dumps must be included.

    Describe the heuristic evaluation and its results. Discuss any redesign done before the cooperative evaluation. Be sure to include brief descriptions of task scenarios. The users themselves should be characterized. If they were not representative of the target user, justify your choice and explain how any differences might affect test validity.

  5. Planned Design Changes: Discuss how you would improve your user interface in light of the evaluation results. (You do not have to implement them.)

  6. Conclusion: A summary of the project describing what you have learned and what is important to make a usable system.

  7. References: A list of materials and information used during the development of your project. You should not include the course textbooks and reading materials.

Below are a few tips to help you get readable text. Reports that don't follow them will probably be deemed unacceptable.

Project Grading

The project consists of two low-fidelity prototypes, a high-fidelity prototype, heuristic evaluations, cooperative evaluations, a demonstration, and a final report. The demonstration and the report are the most important parts for your grade because they are the parts formally graded.

The project will be evaluated on:

The prototype's completeness will be evaluated at the final demonstration. At this time the design will also be evaluated for usability and creativity. Together these elements will be worth two-thirds of the project grade or 40 points.

Report quality is important. Without a good quality report, how you used the iterative development process is very hard to evaluate. Good quality doesn't mean long. It means focused and concise. It is a sad fact of life that there are over 40 students in this course and only one teacher. This means lots of reports to read in a short time. So, reports that stand out will be either unusually good or unusually bad. The report itself is worth one-third of the project grade or 20 points.

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[General Information] [Applications] [General Design Rules] [Project Report] [Project Grading]

Author David A. Carr (
Modified 05-11-17