Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is ubicomp research useful?

During my Ph.D. from time to time I had doubts whether the research I was doing was really meaningful. We integrated sensors into furniture [1], measured respiration through radar [2] and enjoyed sharing these ideas at ubicomp, pervasive and iswc conferences.

Just recently, a colleague pointed me to a paper that describes how to improve the interaction between human and "the worst treated animals in the worlds" (chicken) [3]. First I thought that was joke. But the reviewers at that time obviously did not manage to reject the paper as it is (1) well written, (2) novel, and (3) presents a solid evaluation. Having done something for the first time nobody else has done before may also have reason...The question for me: how can we balance between crazy ideas that open minds and trigger future developments and meaningless dump problems that just waste our time, even worse: if that work gets cited and creates an entire research stream...

[1] Antifakos, S., Michahelles, F., and Schiele, B. 2002. Proactive Instructions for Furniture Assembly. In Proceedings of the 4th international Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Göteborg, Sweden, September 29 - October 01, 2002). G. Borriello and L. E. Holmquist, Eds. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 2498. Springer-Verlag, London, 351-360.
[2] Michahelles, F.; Wicki, R.; Schiele, B., "Less contact: heart-rate detection without even touching the user" Wearable Computers, 2004. ISWC 2004. Eighth International Symposium on , vol.1, no., pp. 4-7, 31 Oct.-3 Nov. 2004
[3] Lee, S.P., Cheok, A.D., Teh, K.S.J., Goh, P.L.D., Chio, W.J., Wang, C., and Farbiz, F. 2005. A mobile pet wearable computer and mixed reality system for human–poultry interaction through the internet, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 1 (Nov. 2005), 1-17.