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CHI2017: A conference of Humans, Bots and Interactions

Passionate about those little details that people tend to ignore.

The Human Factors in Human Computer Interaction 2017 conference took place in Denver, Colorado. I was lucky enough to be participating in person this year, with my first ever publication in the field of cross-device interaction with SenseBelt. It was a conference full of inspiring talks, innovative pieces of work, brilliant people and interactive demos and surprises.

CHI2017 took place in the Colorado Conference Center, a venue befitting such a grand event. The conference was four days long. Each day consisted of an inspiring keynote by recognised researchers from the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) and a wide range of talks on the field on a wide range of topics.

Their were four keynote speakers, firstly Neri Oxman with her talk on material ecology and the combination of separate disciplines in order to create new forms of technology and solutions. Next was Ben Schneiderman with the story of how the CHI community came to be. Wael Ghonim questioned whether the social media platforms we use are in fact changing the way democracy works. Lastly, Nicholas Carr argued how automation and the ease we get out of technology is great, but might actually make us forget some important skills we currently have such as navigation.

There was a plethora of incredible talks as well. I was primarily focused on talks on ubiquity and cross-device interactions, virtual and augmented reality and video conferencing. I always find it useful to attend talks outside of your core interests too. In his talk on bots and personas Bert Vandenberghe talked about creating chatbots from user research data, so that every team member can interact with and better understand user research data. It was interesting to see how much time is wasted every day and how this time can actually be used to learn new things, like languages. In terms of cross-device interactions, Improv stood out to me. It is a framework that allows users to create cross-device interactions on the spot from any device they want.

SenseBelt in late-breaking work

CHI also includes late-breaking work sessions, in which researchers could present the early stages of their work as posters. I was pleased that my work on SenseBelt attracted plenty of attention. It was great to talk to so many people and discuss SenseBelt and related ideas.

Sketching user experiences

The conference hosted a variety of great courses every single day as well. I participated in Professor Nicolai Marquardt's course on sketching user experiences. The course did a great job of teaching you ways of communicating your ideas and scenarios through sketching and it was great fun too. Highly recommended if you ever get the chance to do it.

Telepresence bots

One thing that couldn't go unnoticed was the amount of telepresence bots around the conference. Not only were there several talks about them, but remote participants could also join the conference remotely by using these bots. Remote speaking was a thing too with Evan Golub's talk on Life as a Robot (at CHI), covering the problems that telepresense bot users faced in CHI2016:


Last but not least, one of the newest additions to the conference was CHI Stories. In this session, members of the CHI community talked through their life stories and experiences behind their work and struggles. It's easy to overlook the hard work, stress and sleepless nights that go into a piece of work, so it's always good to hear stories that remind you that great achievements do not happen overnight. You can find all the inspiring stories on the CHI Stories playlist on YouTube.

CHI Stories features the personal stories of people in the field

Conclusion

All in all, CHI2017 was a great conference. I left Denver full of new research questions and realisations, feeling excited about what is yet to come.

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