Thesis topics for UU students

I’m regularly asked if I have open thesis topics, here’s some info on that.

Generally, the answer is yes.

If you think you might want to do a thesis with me, please look into what I do in my research and if these things might interest you.

There are also some thesis ideas on this page and on KonJoin. Do consider that this list far from exhaustive.

If any of these make sense, please book a time slot to have a chat.

I moved to the Netherlands

I’m happy to announce that I’m now an assistant professor at Utrecht University. I even have an UU staff page.
While getting adjusted to Nutella bread for lunch, I’m looking forward to cool research opportunities and meeting new students.
There are some great teaching and research challenges ahead.

Thesis call April 2017

Here are some thesis topics that I’ve gathered. They’re not all mine, but I’ll help you find the right person if you contact me.

In present time, out lifestyle has made us very dependent on mobile phones, not only for communication, but also to access critical services like maps, encyclopaedias, public transportation or even our bank accounts. Currently, most devices make it to the end of the day with a battery charge, but extended use of internet access, media reproduction or GPS signal might deplete the battery in a few hours and leave the user in an inconvenient situation.
We propose to approach this issue in a preventive way, by making users aware of the current state of the battery. The goal of this project is to create a ‘sense of battery’, using the traditional senses to convey this information. The project aims to investigate what would be the bests way to make this information available to the user, with which frequency and intensity. A study should be designed to evaluate how the proposed technology affects the users’ behaviour, both in the frequency in which they run out of charge, and in the frequency with which they charge their devices. It is also interesting to evaluate if this technology promotes the users to be aware of the current battery state at all times, even when the remaining charge is well above 50%. Finally, it is interesting to evaluate if this sense could replace completely the display of the battery state on the screen of the device.

Twitter use provides us with huge amounts of very diverse information. Users following multiple hasthags might find hard to keep up with their favourite thread, when this is buried among hundreds of less relevant tweets.
We propose to investigate a sense of hashtag, namely, a way of alerting the user when a relevant keyword is twitted. This would allow the user to perceive the frequency with which a selected topic is mentioned, even when he is not able to pay direct attention to his cellphone.
Our approach would consist in devising an augmented ring (or bracelet), capable of giving haptic feedback to the user and constantly connected with the user’s mobile phone via BLE.
A study of the usage of such device could provide insights on what kind of hashtags would be preferred, when the user can choose only one, and how this mean of ‘sensing’ could affect the user’s awareness of a particular topic.

Air pollution has an ever growing impact in our health, particularly in cities with geographic and socio-economic characteristics that promote the production and concentration of fine dust.
It can be argued that a critical factor to fight this problem is the awareness of the public, who through means of their votes can push their representatives to pursue policies that tackle this problem.
Creating awareness of the fine dust concentration can be challenging, since this metric is hard to perceive. Fine dust is invisible and mostly odourless, and its concentration can only be measured instrumentally.
We propose a technological approach to augment the human senses, enabling people to perceive the concentration of fine dust on real time. Our approach consists of a system that provides feedback to users, proportionally in respect to data gathered by meteorological services. A study of possible methods of feedback, as well as the design of a prototype (mobile application, using GPS), could provide valuable insights on how people would react to this kind of technology and create the foundations for a long term study on how the increment of awareness of imperceptible factors can have an impact in politics, environment and health.

The ease of access to services as Wikipedia have a strong impact in our daily lives. People consult Wikipedia about diverse facts, several times per week. On the other hand, it is arguable that the consultation of Wikipedia might have a disruptive effect in conversations and flow, since implies the user to show openly a change of focus of her attention from the interlocutor to her mobile device.
We propose to investigate a subtle approach to this issue, by augmenting a pair of glasses with a display. By means of a microphone and a yet-to-be-designed control method, the user would be enabled to choose a relevant article from Wikipedia, related to one of the last words picked up by the microphone. This would display in the glasses information about the topic in a way that would be invisible to the interlocutor, thus avoiding the disruption of the conversations flow.
For this, we plan to create a device that is able of fulfilling these feats, comprehending thus the creation of a physical prototype and the development of a control method. A strong emphasis should be focused on the way keywords are picked and selected, as well as a method for displaying information in a concise but clear way, despite the reduced available space.
A study of such a device could provide valuable insights on the seamless embedding of technology in our most human activities, particularly social interactions, as well prospective work on discrete methods of control that allow users to interact with their mobile phones or computers without anyone realizing.

The finger measure
We tend to guesstimate distances. It’s about 10 kilometres to get there. The table is about a metre wide. What if we had a more precise sense of length? Would we suddenly decide that accurate measurements matter?
This thesis is about investigating what it feels like and what are the consequences of an additional, refined sense of distance. We wonder how we could build such a sense and how we could communicate to users how to use. What if always new the distance between my two index fingers?

Social displays for running
Running is not only becoming more commonplace, but also more social. Everyday, city parks around the word are filled with people sharing the passion of a particular kind of physical exercise. Yet, most of the time, there is very little interaction between the runners, and the usual nod is the most social city runners get. While some past research explored what happens if you always know the distance to the race leader, we do not know how wearable displays can help in the social aspects of running. This thesis is about the consequences of displaying run properties such as length, pace or even the music one is listening to during training runs.

The sense of social distance
Distance relationships are the hard reality of modern living. Partners need to negotiate large distances and often struggle to maintain intimacy. While many technologies explored mediation distance relationships through spontaneous ambient interactions, we wonder if a pervasive sense of distance to the other person would help maintain a relationship. Will it enhance the feeling of presence when the person is getting close or when they are nearby? This thesis is about building a distance sense interface and exploring its social consequences.

The Advanced Learning Assistant
Students spend a great deal of time studying, reading course materials, solving homework, working on projects, and other studying activities that demand sustained attention. Consequently, after a few hours of studying students feel attentional fatigue. Human attention is prone and uninterrupted use leads to reduced ability to focus attention and increased performance error. It was shown that taking wakeful breaks allow people to return to their work more concentrated, and during studying this can improve the memory of newly learned materials. On the other hand, in real-life situations, we are so surrounded by a massive amount of distractions that it is difficult to stay focused on a task for a long time. May it be checking new incoming emails, scrolling through Facebook feeds, or writing WhatsApp messages during studying affect our learning performance. Frequently switching attention between learning and some other nonrelated tasks can badly affect concentration one’s attention on studying material and reduce memory consolidation. Therefore, a trade-off between staying focused on learning material and taking breaks is important for a performant learning process.
The aim of this work is to investigate how an assistive system that can support users in staying focused on learning material and break time management affect their studying performance. Further, it should be researched how to automatically detect break moments, and increase attention or automatically detect and discourage distracting factors. For this reason, a program should be implemented that uses several sensors (e.g. web camera) to detect fatigue and lack of attention. An evaluation of such a system could give insights how assistive learning system could affect memory and studying behavior of users on a long term.

I have a new job!

Good news. I’m thrilled to be joining the HCI group at the Institute for Visualisation and Information Systems, Univeristy of Stuttgart as a postdoc starting June 1!

Engineering Visions Intensive Programme

I was recently very glad to have been invited as a teacher to a great summer school in Switzerland. I got three days to work with some amazing students, meet other teachers and test myself. I also got to enjoy a lovely weekend in the Alps. Here are some details.

I taught two and a half days in a programme focused on “engineering visions”. The idea was simple – student from different countries are divided into groups and given a rather general theme to think about. They then develop their general vision. When they finally meet in Switzerland, they have two weeks to refine the vision and deliver a report, a presentation and a poster. Sounds easy and sounds like my design competence could come in handy, especially when a user perspective on the vision is required. Well, it wasn’t that easy.

Firstly, it turned out that all the students were at Bachelor’s level and taking an engineering degree. This is all fine, but given that I usually teach in Master’s programme, it got me thinking. I had to immediately forget all kinds of advanced science-based evidencing I thought of and concentrate making the visions concise and attractive to those attending the final presentations. The second issue was that I entered the programme when in its very middle, on a Friday afternoon. The students were quite sleepy to put it lightly.

Seeing the class was hardly responding to me talking, I decided to forget the pre-planned schedule for the rest of the day and start getting to know the people and the projects. I begun with some warm-up exercises and tried to get them talk. Slowly, but steadily, people started expressing their views and concerns and I decided to split the class into subgroups dependent on needs.

And the needs were quite varied. There were product-oriented groups that were eager to prototype, but I also saw daydreamers immersed in science-fuelled visions of an ideal future. So how do you convince dreamers that their visions need to be communicated to a wider audience to be valuable? Well, I had them tell stories of a better world. And it worked.

After all, despite the initial dissatisfaction with “that design thinking thing”, all groups managed to build a meaningful prototype and tell a convincing story about their vision. Highlights include a cardboard car dashboard with changing landscapes behind the windshield, a humanoid robot with scary voice and Dolan’s face and the biggest concept map matrix I’ve ever seen.

I certainly did not teach these guys design or problem-finding, but it seems that some classical design tools can be useful in many weird ways. I think that, at least, they will consider considering the user perspective in their many exciting engineering endeavours.

Here’s some photos of the amazing people I met in Buchs and some of their creations.
2015-09-01 10.35.14

2015-08-31 17.02.42

2015-08-31 16.43.19

2015-08-31 16.41.47

2015-08-28 15.26.14

Revamping the tabletop course

It was confirmed that I will be the official and only teaching assistant in the tabletop computing course. This will give me a great opportunity to revamp the practical part of the course and create new and, hopefully, exciting project proposals. I am working hard and looking to an eventful spring. Stay tuned.

Big data sources for CIU 280 Tutorial

There are the (big) data sources for the CIU280 tutorial on Tue, 11/11/14.

Generally, these are nice data sources.

Remember to download two sets – the one, for which you’re designing and the one you will be using.



I am soon going to spend a, hopefully, wonderful week in Helsinki. With two full papers accepted and the Doctoral Consortium, NordiCHI is loking great for me.

But this is not a bragging post. This is about the unqiue Nordic HCI community. I am extermyl lucky to be part of what we can now call an interlectual tradition that is rich and unique. We believe NordiCHI should not just be a smaller version of CHI and we are sticking to the plan. Both our papers are a bit unorthodox and I’m happy I’ll be able to present them to the diverese NordiCHI community.

This gives more hope that there is still room for HCI that investigates the space between Ps and Ns, social science and design. And that is great feeling.

Do check out our papers here and here.

Destine: The important task

This post is intended mainly for the roughly 40 students who will attend Destine starting on July 6th in Łódź. However, I think this is quite reusable, so let’s have this as a public thing and some content for my personal website.

Dear Destine attendees,

This is your most important task to be performed at home. This work will directly impact your project and this is what you bring to Poland for you teammates. Listen carefully.

We want you to dive into the problem domain in your local settings and attempt to understand the human side of your projects. To achieve that, we ask you to perform two out of three activities: observe, interview and look for inspiration.


Observing how people perform different activities will enable you to get a better understanding of how and why things happen in the real world. Start by watching this video. Then, it’s time for action. Think of a location in your neighbourhood that’s relevant for your project. If your topic is food, go to a restaurant. If you Destine adventure is about medicine, visit a GP’s office. Pick a maximum of three people to observe and try to understand the details of their activities. Remember to take field notes. This document will help you structure your observations into a format that can be shared with your friends on Trello.


Interviews are a great way to understand your users and obtain knowledge that can impact your project. Interviewing is a complex art and there are many ways to conduct interviews. Begin by reading section 3 of this document. This will provide you with an overview of what interviewing can offer. Now it’s time to plan an interview. This of an interviewee that can provide you with things you don’t know. This could be a bank clerk. This could be your mum. Section 7.4 of that book will help you plan and document your interview. Analyse your interview and write interview notes. Share these with your friends on Trello.

Look for inspiration

This task may seem easy, but it’s crucial. Look for what other people have done to understand your problem domain and what solution have already been implemented. Scientific databases such as Google Scholar or the ACM DL may be useful. Investigate if researchers tried to tackle your problem and what approaches were used. However, local and global media can be equally useful. Prepare a set of notes with at least three references for your friends to review.

We encourage you to discuss your results on Trello. However, we’re make sure you’ll spend plenty of time doing that on site. Go! Explore! Inspire!