"Microsoft and Apple aren't going to open up all their stuff. But they all create programs that put pixels on the screen. And if we can modify those pixels, then we can change the program's apparent behavior," said James Fogarty, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering.
His approach hijacks the display to customize the user's interaction with the program. He will demonstrate his system April 14 in Atlanta at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
"We really see this as a first step toward a scenario where anybody can modify any application," Fogarty said. "In a sense, this has happened online. You've got this mash-up culture on the Web because everybody can see the HTML. But that hasn't been possible on the desktop."
These days a Web page might include a map from Google, an embedded video from YouTube and a list of recent headlines. This is not yet possible on the personal computer.
"Let's say I'm writing a paper in Microsoft Word but I want to listen to music at the same time," explained co-author Morgan Dixon, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering.
Right now he would have to click back and for the between Word and iTunes, but the system he helped create can simply add a few iTunes buttons to the Word toolbar.
"I'm using some program that I love," Dixon said, "and I'm going to stick in some features from some other program that I love, so I have a more unified interface."
More importantly, having more control over widely used programs would allow people to benefit from accessibility tools that have been gathering dust in academic research labs.
One example is target-aware pointing, which can make many interfaces easier for people with muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy or other motor-control disabilities. On such tool, the bubble cursor, highlights the button closest to it, making it easier for people with disabilities to click a button without having to hit it dead on. Fogarty and Dixon show the first implementation of a bubble cursor in various commercial applications.
"The human-computer interaction community has done 30 years of research on how to make computers more accessible to people with disabilities. But no one change is perfect for everybody," Fogarty said. "That's why you don't see these tools out there."
His research allows people to personalize programs based on their needs.
The UW tool, named Prefab, takes advantage of the fact that almost all displays are made from prefabricated blocks of code such as buttons, sliders, check boxes and drop-down menus. Prefab looks for those blocks as many as 20 times per second and alters their behavior.
The researchers are continuing to develop Prefab and are exploring options for commercialization.
Prefab unlocks previously inaccessible interfaces, allowing people to add the same usability tool to all the applications they run on their desktop. The system could translate a program's interface into a different language, or reorder menus to bump up favorite commands.
The authors hope Prefab will spur development of new innovations.
"If you come up with a new technology, too often it's evaluated in a test environment," Fogarty said. "This lets researchers put it into practice in something real, like Photoshop or iTunes."
Prefab can also produce more advanced effects. One demonstration that will be presented at the conference creates multiple previews of a single image in Photoshop. Behind the scenes, Prefab moves the sliders to different points, captures the output and then displays all of them on a single screen. This could save time by showing a range of effects the user frequently adjusts.
The system could also allow programs to move from computer screens to mobile devices, which do not have a standard operating system.
"It dramatically lowers the threshold to getting new innovation into existing, complex programs," Fogarty said.
Research has been funded by the Hacherl Endowed Graduate Fellowship in the UW Department of Computer Science & Engineering, a fellowship from the Seattle chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, and Intel.
For more information, contact Fogarty at 206-685-8081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about Prefab is at http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/jfogarty/research/prefab/.
Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center
Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss
18.05.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology