Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Software uses pictures to represent info people monitor

04.04.2003


If your computer screen is covered with Web browser windows to let you monitor the news headlines, weather, traffic and stock market while you work, you might be suffering from information overload.



Computing researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology experienced this problem and have created a prototype software program to move such information from the center of your awareness to the periphery. Called InfoCanvas, the program creates an abstract pictorial representation of information people want to monitor. The canvas is displayed on a separate monitor and looks much like a painting hung on a wall or a picture frame set on a desk.

"We wanted people to be able to keep up with the stuff that’s important to them, but not have it get in the way," said John Stasko, an associate professor of computing at Georgia Tech. "And the art angle is designed to enhance their environment or make it more aesthetically pleasing."


Stasko and Ph.D. student Todd Miller will present the InfoCanvas concept at an April 7 workshop during the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) 2003 meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other students working on the InfoCanvas project are Shannon Bauman, Julie Isaacs, Jehan Moghazy, Chris Plaue and Zack Pousman.

"This project gets at the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words," Stasko explained. Ultimately, a proof-of-concept version of InfoCanvas -- funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Stasko – will allow users to design the entire scene from the background to every graphical image representing different data elements. Right now, researchers manually code these elements into the software prototype after trial users select their graphics from paper cutouts.

The researchers have developed several InfoCanvas themes -- a beach, desert, aquarium, office, view out a window, medieval fantasy and a mountain campsite. Icons on the screen represent various types of information the user monitors. The icons gradually move – but not like animation -- to indicate changes in information. Objects can appear or disappear, images change, and images can move along a path, scale up or down, rotate or populate an area (e.g., like a field of flowers) in response to data changes.

If a user is intrigued by something on their InfoCanvas, they can run their mouse over that area to get more information in a pop-up box, or in the case of a stand-alone wall display, users touch the screen to get details. Recently, Miller added actual links to the Web pages generating information in the InfoCanvas.

The researchers emphasize the ability of InfoCanvas to cater to the user’s specific interests.

For example, on Stasko’s InfoCanvas of a beach scene, a sailboat moves left to right to indicate the time of day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Clouds appear in the sky, when appropriate, to indicate the weather in his parents’ hometown. A small seagull moves up and down to indicate the temperature. A large seagull moves left to right with changes in the Dow Jones Index. A crab appears when airfare to San Diego – a forthcoming destination for Stasko – plunges below $300. A towel appears on the beach when Stasko receives email from his wife. A beach-goer’s swimsuit changes colors from green to yellow to red depending on the traffic flow on Interstate 75. And, because he’s a golfer, a sign on Stasko’s beach scene, features the latest image from a golfing Web site.

"Some people want the current news headlines, but we don’t just put text on the screen," Stasko explained. "It would be something like an airplane flying over with a banner containing headlines. If there’s text, we put it in a billboard or on a TV. The text is situated in a context so it looks like a painting. If you just put text on the screen, it just becomes like any old computer tool – for instance a Web portal like MyYahoo.com.

"That’s fine, but by making the information like a painting on the wall, users can just glance up at it while they’re working during the day," he added "…. So I can keep up with things, but it doesn’t raise my blood pressure or get me tense. It’s just a complement."

Miller hypothesizes that gathering information from InfoCanvas is quicker than scanning text on the screen. He and Stasko will test that idea with a study of users who compare InfoCanvas to a Web portal and a page of text in a Web browser. Users will be given seven seconds to view the screen and then recall what they gleaned from it.

Already, three trial users have been testing InfoCanvas in their offices for about two months. "What people picked as important to them has varied, and they have also chosen different levels of details," said Miller, whose dissertation will focus, in part, on InfoCanvas. "So there’s a lot of personalization going on."

Two trial users chose the aquarium theme with fish to indicate weather and stock market information. The third user chose the beach scene, which he personalized with a sign featuring the local weather radar image. Drinks appear on his beach when he receives email.

"Our preliminary data from these users shows they enjoy it," Miller said. "They don’t find it distracting, and they look at it frequently throughout the day."

The researchers want to achieve a balance between clever information presentation and not distracting the user. "It’s a fine line we’re walking," Stasko said. "We want to stay on the side of not being too enticing. The changes on the screen are gradual. Nothing is jumping around."

Researchers plan to test the InfoCanvas on several more users, including some working in home offices and workers who are not information technology specialists.

The project’s goal is to build a "front-end," proof-of-concept software tool to allow users to easily design their own InfoCanvas. In the meantime, Miller has created an Atlanta-based InfoCanvas that is available for download at www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/ii/infoart/downloads.html. Its information and icons are preset. Other research into software systems for monitoring information in a peripheral way has led to a Microsoft prototype called "Sideshow." It creates a sidebar on a display of a docked PDA. And another Georgia Tech research concept dubbed "What’s Happening" cycles information in a small window in the corner of a user’s screen.


For technical information, contact:
1. John Stasko, 404-894-5617 or
E-mail: john.stasko@cc.gatech.edu
2. Todd Miller, 404-385-2447 or
E-mail: tomiller@cc.gatech.edu

Georgia Tech Research News and Research Horizons magazine, along with high-resolution JPEG images, can be found on the Web at gtresearchnews.gatech.edu.

Complimentary press registration for CHI 2003 is available by emailing: mann@regmaster.com or v_gold@acm.org.

About CHI 2003

The annual CHI conference is the leading international forum for the exchange of ideas and information about computer-human interaction (CHI), also known as human-computer interaction. See www.chi2003.org.

About ACM

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), which sponsors the CHI conference, is a major force in advancing the skills of information technology professionals and students. ACM serves its global membership of 75,000 by delivering cutting edge technical information and transferring ideas from theory to practice. ACM hosts the computing industry’s leading Digital Library and Portal to Computing Literature. With its journals and magazines, special interest groups, conferences, workshops, electronic forums, Career Resource Centre and Professional Development Centre, ACM is a primary resource to the information technology field. For more information, see www.acm.org.


Jane Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers
20.07.2018 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise
18.07.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>