Jan Borchers: Research

The following is a list of major projects that I am currently working on or have carried out in the last few years. More information on many of those projects is available through my publications.

iSpaces: Interactive Workspaces (since 1995) - Student openings!

After working on my first interactive workspaces project, KnowledgeNet, in the Ars Electronica Center in 1995, I joined the interactive workspaces research group at Stanford in 2001. Working with students, I have since been looking into post-desktop user interfaces for the Stanford iRoom. I started by conducting user observations in the room, and creating an Explanatory Infrastructure (link points to the web site part of it) to make it usable by non-experts. I am one of the principal investigators in the iSpace project that looks at interactive workspaces and is funded by the Wallenberg Global Learning Network.

Current projects I am looking into together with students include

a physical user interface toolkit and software framework for ubiquitous computing environments,
a collaborative brainstorming tool using a large-scale interactive wall display and personal electronic tablets to create content in a group work session,
a multi-user, multi-display, multi-device distributed graphical object manipulation library to simplify creating experiments and applications in ubiquitous computing,
an application that uses our 9-megapixel mural display to give users access to large augmented, interactive versions of Bob Horn's Argumentation Maps to explore complex issues and debates.
a middleware to allow computers to share events in a way similar to a single-system event queue, with sample applications that include MultiBrowse (easily sending URLs and documents to other users in an interactive workspace), and PointRight (extending the desktop to include multiple displays in an interactive room). The middleware runs on Mac OS X and is based on the Stanford iROS.

I am always looking for students to work on aspects of many of the above projects! The iClub video gives you an idea of what you can do with an interactive workspace...

HCI Design Patterns (since 1997) - see also hcipatterns.org

Pattern LanguagesIn my Ph.D. thesis, I developed a new pattern-based approach to model experience in HCI design, but also in software engineering and the application domain of an interactive software project. It has been nominated for the GI Dissertation Award, and has been published as a book by John Wiley & Sons in March 2001. The goal is to facilitate communication in interdisciplinary design teams through the use of an interdisciplinary pattern language. I developed the theory out of my experience from designing interactive systems, and applied it to them for validation. This is a very promising new research area that I have pioneered and that I am pursuing and developing further.

More about HCI design patterns, including my recent papers about this idea, and workshops I co-organized, can be found at my hcipatterns.org site.

Actibits: Interactive Exhibits (since 1995) - see also actibits.com

In order to ground my research in actual systems, I have been working on interactive exhibits, which we call actibits, since 1995. These are public-access systems designed to be used in museums, exhibition centers, and similar public spaces with thousands of visitors per day. The first-time, short-duration nature of the interaction, combined with the goal of getting a message across to the user, has fascinated me as a particularly challenging task for interaction design. The following projects are examples of this area.

More about these interactive exhibits can be found at my actibits.com site.

Personal Orchestra (since 1998)Personal Orchestra

Personal OrchestraI recently finished working on two new interactive exhibits for the HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA, a large exhibition center in the heart of Vienna that opened in June 2000.

The first exhibit which I designed and whose development I led, Personal Orchestra, allows visitors to conduct a life-size recording of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Users can interactively and precisely control not only the dynamics and instrumentation, but also the tempo of an original digitized video and audio rendition of this famous orchestra, using an infrared conductor's baton.

We are currently working on the next generation of conducting systems that may include continuous tempo stretching, low-tech solutions for gesture recognition, and bullet-proof tempo following algorithms.

Virtual Vienna (1998-2000)

Virtual ViennaNaviPadThe second exhibit that I designed for the HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA, Virtual Vienna, lets visitors take a three-dimensional virtual reality tour of the city of Vienna, visiting locations throughout the city that are important to its music history. Locations are presented in photo-realistic quality, with links offering background information about the events, composers, and music connected to each place. The system uses our custom-designed NaviPad as input device to navigate within and between locations, access information embedded into the VR environment, and change locations using an active city map.

The Interactive Fugue (1998-1999)

Together with a graduate student of mine, I designed and implemented an interactive exhibit that teaches people about the classical musical form of the fugue. The system lets users play their own musical motive on a virtual xylophone-like keyboard, helping them to avoid wrong notes, then uses the input as building block to create an entire piece according to Bach's rules of fugue composition. Successful compositions can be saved for subsequent exhibit visitors to listen to.

NetMusic (1998-2002)

I am currently finishing work with a graduate student of mine to add a new dimension to WorldBeat (described below): real-time musical collaboration via Internet. Using WorldBeat's improvisation support to avoid wrong notes, WorldBeat users will be able to play music together with other people around the world. Our approach is carefully designed to avoid the delay problems inherent in distant real-time musical interaction.

WorldBeat (1995-1997)

WorldBeat screenWorldBeat userMy major contribution to the KnowledgeNet project (described below) was designing a computer-based, interactive music exhibit called WorldBeat. This system, which uses infrared batons for input, lets users interact with music in entirely new ways, from playing virtual instruments, to finding pieces by humming, to improvising to a Blues band without playing wrong. It was installed as a permanent exhibit for the last four years in the Ars Electronica Center (AEC). The AEC is a "Museum of the Future" showing the possibilities of coming digital technology and their impact on information society. It developed out of the annual Ars Electronica Festival taking place in Linz since 1978. The AEC opened in Linz in September 1996.

WorldBeat has been demonstrated and exhibited at many other occasions. I described it in a CHI'97 paper and video (see publications). WorldBeat received the 1998 Multimedia Transfer Award.

I continued to work on interaction-oriented semantic models of musical information. These ideas were presented in an IEEE Multimedia Systems '97 paper, and in an 1998 IEEE Multimedia journal article (see "Publications").

VLE (1996-1997)VLE screen

To evaluate the use of VR environments for learning and working, I worked with a graduate student of mine to create VLE, the Virtual Learning Environment. It is a VRML-based multiple user environment geared specifically to support cooperative learning and working.

KnowledgeNet (1995-1996)KnowledgeNet map

During 1995 and 1996, I worked on the user experience of KnowledgeNet, an exhibition examining the future of computer-augmented working and learning environments.

The KnowledgeNet floor was designed and equipped by our group at the University of Linz for the Ars Electronica Center. Apart from my WorldBeat system, it included exhibits by our group on video actors in the user interface, gesture input, multimedia authoring, computer-supported collaborative work, interactive TV (see below), robotics, and other subject areas. I was also responsible for the KnowledgeNet online presence.

Automatic News Video Indexing (1995-1996)

As an example of future interactive TV scenarios, I designed a KnowledgeNet exhibit with a graduate student of mine that used teletext subtitles to automatically create a full-text searchable video archive of news broadcasts.

HyperSource (1995)HyperSource screen

At the University of Karlsruhe, my final diploma (M.Sc.) project HyperSource transferred Hypermedia concepts to the task of program development.

As proof of concept, I implemented an extension to the XEmacs editor, allowing program developers to insert headings, marginal notes, graphics, and hyperlinks into ordinary source code.

The system was written in LISP, using HTML as document format in a way that kept the source code compiler-readable, and is available as a free package.

mbsedit (1994)

In one of my major software projects during my studies at Karlsruhe, I implemented a graphical user interface front-end to enter, edit and manipulate three-dimensional scene models of mass point bodies and constraints for a remotely running SimuServ physical simulation software package. The application was built in C++ under IRIX, using SGI’s object-oriented Inventor API to GL and X11.

Xmtutor (1993)Xmtutor screen

During my studies in London, I wrote Xmtutor, an interactive tutorial system about teaching user interface programming with OSF/Motif.

A major advantage of its approach is that the same contents are available on-line and in print, and that example programs can be run, and their resource settings edited, directly from within the tutorial application.

Xmtutor was a 1994 European Academic Software Award finalist, and is being marketed as shareware.

Jan Borchers <borchers@stanford.edu> • Last modified Oct 7, 2002