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.