SIAT - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Object sliding and beyond: Investigating object manipulation in 3D user interfaces

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-09-23
Abstract: 

3D manipulation is one of the fundamental tasks for interaction in virtual environments. Yet, it can be difficult for users to understand the spatial relationships between 3D objects and how to manipulate them in a 3D scene, as, unlike in the physical world, users do not have the same visual cues for understanding scene structure or can leverage constraints and affordances for interaction. My goal is to create better user interface for 3D manipulation platforms, with a focus on positioning objects. I designed efficient, accurate, and easy-to-use 3D positioning techniques for both desktop and virtual reality (VR) systems. My work also contributes guidelines for designing and developing 3D modelling software for desktop and VR systems, and enable 3D content designers, game designers, or even novice users to benefit from improved efficiency and accuracy for 3D positioning tasks. Much of my thesis work builds on a 3D object sliding technique, where objects slide on surfaces behind them, which helps with some positioning tasks. First, I improved 3D positioning on a desktop system, with the mouse and keyboard as input devices. I presented two new techniques that significantly outperform the industry-standard widget- based 3D positioning technique for tasks involving floating objects or objects that can be at multiple positions in visual depth. Second, I proposed a new technique that allows users to select and position hidden objects. The new technique also outperformed 3D widgets. Then, I applied my techniques in a VR system with a head-mounted display (HMD) and compared the performance of different input devices. I found that the combination of the mouse with my new positioning technique is still the best solution, even in VR. In the remainder of my thesis work, and focusing on tasks involving more distant objects, I investigated manipulation techniques in VR that do not rely on the availability of a mouse. I designed and implemented a technique that significantly improved the accuracy for 3D positioning tasks for targets that were in contact with the scene.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Wolfgang Stuerzlinger
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Perceptron Redux

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-29
Abstract: 

The Mark I Perceptron was a landmark achievement in machine learning and it remains an iconic symbol of neural networks. At the same time, the operations of the machine itself are poorly understood. This thesis describes the Mark I, drawing from a variety of published and previously obscure sources. The Mark I was highly dependent on human interaction for its operations. To fully explain the Mark I's operations also requires recovering a plausible description of the distributed cognitive system that surrounded the Mark I while it was used for experiments at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. Modern machine learning systems are largely autonomous unless they have been specifically designed for interactivity. The Mark I required human operators to function, but it was it was also designed leverage this interactivity so that researchers could explore novel techniques for training neural networks. A study of the interfaces and procedures of the Mark I provides useful interpretive tools to understand modern artificial intelligence and machine learning systems.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Steve DiPaola
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Towards more accurate immersive 3D sketching

Date created: 
2019-08-27
Abstract: 

This doctoral work aims to reduce the gap in knowledge of how users utilize immersive 3D sketching through a better understanding of what affects them while drawing in virtual reality. My first goal is to know more about the reasons behind the reduced accuracy of 3D sketches compared to 2D ones, with an eye towards potential differences between users with different skill levels. While previous research described the various challenges of immersive 3D drawing, those descriptions have focused mostly on identifying the reasons regarding why people draw worse in 3D than 2D. In this doctoral work, my goal is to understand how the perceptual and cognitive limitations of humans affect their behaviours when working in virtual environments. The second goal of this doctoral work is to develop new user interfaces that help novice users draw better using virtual reality. I aim to allow users to express their ideas more easily, through improving stroke quality and global shape likeness, without affecting their stroke expressiveness. The user’s stroke quality measures (locally) how close a drawn stroke is to an intended one and shape likeness measures how (globally) similar a drawn object is to the intended shape. Improving both of these qualities makes sketching a useful tool to share concepts and to aid the user’s memory. My work on these two goals resulted in four different projects. Each project was previously published, and I present the full text of those four studies in this cumulative format dissertation. The four projects include 1) a study of the effect of changing the viewpoint when drawing in 3D, 2) a study of the effect of the depth perception problems of stereo displays on hand pointing in peripersonal space, 3) a system called Multiplanes, and 4) a system called Smart3DGuides. In addition to these projects, I posed a critical reflection on the user interface requirements for immersive 3D drawing systems to inform the design of future interfaces. Finally, I address this dissertation to user interface designers and HCI and design researchers who are interested in using virtual reality as a new medium to sketch.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Wolfgang Stuerzlinger
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Designing for kinaesthetic experience: A somatic approach to developing soft wearable prototypes to support self-regulation

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-30
Abstract: 

This exploratory Research-through-Design thesis investigates a design for self-regulation using kinetic, textile-based feedback to mediate participants’ felt experience of stress-release. Through a somatic approach to designing for self-regulation, my thesis presents insights on how to mediate rich communicative qualities from physical movement into embodied aesthetics to cultivate and deepen a user’s kinaesthetic understanding with their emotions and body cues. The human capacity for kinaesthetic empathy, is a great resource that is underutilized. The ability to sense and train kinaesthetic cues can support greater somatic awareness for self-regulation. Not only are they rich in a meaning-evoking way, they can incite for aesthetic, meaningful experiences that can transform our physical state. This is particularly useful in situations where stress-release is needed. This thesis engaged three iterative design projects that included four design studies and the development of 19 material prototypes, 3 on-table functional tactile prototypes, and 2 upper-body soft wearable design prototypes.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Thecla Schiphorst
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Musical agents based on self-organizing maps for audio applications

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-05-28
Abstract: 

Musical agents are artificial agents that tackle musical creative tasks. Musical agents implement the technologies of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Multi-agent systems (MAS) for musical applications. Musical agent studies situate in the interdisciplinary studies of Musical Metacreation (MuMe) with a focus on the agent architectures. Metacreation and MuMe combine the artistic practice of Generative Arts with the scientific literature of Computational Creativity. We define Musical Metacreation as an interdisciplinary field that studies the partial or complete automation of musical tasks. In this work, we concentrate on an audio-based musical agent architecture with unsupervised learning while presenting the literature review of musical agents. Our review of musical agents surveys seventy-eight musical agent systems that have been presented in peer-reviewed publications. Building on our literature review, we propose a typology of musi- cal agents in nine dimensions of agent architectures, musical tasks, environment types, number of agents, number of agent roles, communication types, corpus types, input/output types, human inter- action modality. Our typology of musical agents builds on the AI terminology and agent architecture typology in MAS. In comparison to agent typology of MAS, the categories that we present in our typology address the specific phenomenon that appear in the agent-based applications of musical tasks. Our survey of musical agents indicated a possibility of research on an audio-based musical agent architecture with unsupervised learning. The implementations of musical agents that we present in this thesis utilize audio recordings with unsupervised learning because a variety of musical styles are available in the audio domain. Audio recordings are accessible; thus, the curation of a corpus for agent learning is easier. amount of work to gather the training data. To address this research possibility, we proposed an architecture called Musical Agent based on Self-Organizing Maps (MASOM) for audio applications. We were inspired by Edgard Varèse’s definition of music, which suggested that music is “nothing but organized sounds.” We put the notion of music as organized sounds into practice by combining autonomous audio latent space generation with musical structure modelling. This unique combination suggests that an audio-based musical agent architecture requires two kinds of sound organization: organizing sounds in latent sonic space to differentiate sound objects and organizing sounds in time to create temporal musical structures. We present two main real-time applications of Musical Agents based on Self-Organizing Maps: architectures for experimental electronic music with machine listening and an architecture for virtual reality applications with respiratory user interaction. Our applications exemplify the strengths and possibilities of audio-based musical agents in the artistic domain. We believe that MASOM architectures can be useful for the applications of “musical creativity as it is.” We also propose that the innovative perspective of MASOM architectures provide an exploration of the “musical creativity as it could be.”

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Philippe Pasquier
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Connecting urban commuters and communities using location-based technologies

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-05
Abstract: 

This doctoral work aims to explore how working professionals living in urban cities want to gain location-specific knowledge of their community through technology. While previous research has explored location-based systems and urban informatics, much of the work has focused on social and community life, and systems to support it. In this doctoral work, my goal is to go beyond social and community engagement by exploring organizational routines in the home, and designing a location-based technology to put community information in the context of the locations in which they occur. This includes exploring the facets of domestic life that involves community awareness and routine travel via public transit in urban cities. This dissertation is comprised of four studies presented in a cumulative format. The four studies include, 1) a mixed-methods study exploring the usability of city portals, 2) an exploratory study investigating the community information needs and routines of families, 3) an iterative design process that produced a community information system: a location-based game, City Explorer, and 4) another qualitative study that evaluated City Explorer by way of a field deployment. This work poses a critical reflection on how to design for people in urban cities and the role that mobile technology plays in people capturing, sharing, and viewing community information. Moreover, I offer a reflection on the changing definitions of community and the complexities that arise with the emergence of the Internet of Places and location-sharing. I conclude with a methodological reflection on the research methods used throughout my doctoral work. Finally, this dissertation is addressed to HCI and mobile computing researchers who are interested in designing location-based technologies to support community awareness and engagement.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Appendix G: Overview Video of City Explorer
Senior supervisor: 
Carman Neustaedter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Exploring the usage of drones to assist firefighters during emergency situations

Date created: 
2019-08-28
Abstract: 

In the near future, emergency services within Canada will be supporting new technologies for 9-1-1 call centres and firefighters to learn about an emergency situation. One such technology is drones. To understand the benefits and challenges of using drones within emergency response, I conducted a study with citizens who have called 9-1-1 and firefighters who respond to a range of everyday emergencies. Results show that drones have numerous benefits to both firefighters and 9-1-1 callers which include context awareness and social support for callers who receive feelings of assurance that help is on the way. Privacy was largely not an issue, though safety issues arose especially for complex uses of drones such as indoor flying. The results point to opportunities for designing drone systems that help people to develop a sense of trust with emergency response drones, and mitigate privacy and safety concerns with more complex drone systems.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Carman Neustaedter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Input devices in immersive environments

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-29
Abstract: 

Recently, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) head-mounted displays have become affordable. However, efficient solutions for pointing tasks and text entry in VR and AR remain a challenge. Controllers are the typical input device in VR and many AR systems, but they are not as efficient as the mouse. Here, we investigate a pen-like pointing device that matches or exceeds the mouse's performance. We performed a user study to compare several input devices and our results show that our 3D pen significantly outperforms modern VR controllers in all evaluated measures and that it is comparable to the mouse. Text entry is a challenging task in modern VR systems, yet virtual keyboards are relatively inefficient. We introduce here a keyboard on a hawker's tray worn in front of the user, which affords compact, simple, flexible, and efficient text entry solution. We ran a text entry study with standing users, involving both lower-case sentences as well as symbols. The results show that text entry rates are affected negatively by simplistic keyboard visualizations and that our video-based solution affords desktop text entry rates.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Wolfgang Stuerzlinger
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Interaction design for socially assistive robots for people with developmental disabilities

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-14
Abstract: 

Social robots, also known as service or assistant robots, have been developed to improve the quality of human life in recent years. Socially assistive robots (SAR) are a special type of social robots that focus on providing support through social interaction. The design of socially capable and intelligent robots can vary, depending on the target user groups. In this work, I assess the effect of socially assistive robots' roles, functions, and communication approaches in the context of a social agent providing service or companionship to users with developmental disabilities. In this thesis, I describe an exploratory study of interaction design for a socially assistive robot that supports people suffering from developmental disabilities. While exploring the impacts of visual elements to robot's visual interface and different aspects of robot's social dimension, I developed a series of prototypes and tested them through three user studies that included three residents with various function levels at a local group home for people with developmental disabilities. All user studies had been recorded for the following qualitative data analysis. Results show that each design factor played a different role in delivering information and in increasing engagement, and there are more aspects of HRI to consider besides robot's graphical user interface and speech, such as proxemics and robot's physical appearance and dimensions. I also note that some fundamental design principles that would work for ordinary users did not apply to our target user group. I conclude that socially assistive robots could benefit our target users and acknowledge that these robots were not suitable for certain scenarios based on the feedback from our users.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Lyn Bartram
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Modeling empathy in embodied conversational agents

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-28
Abstract: 

Embodied conversational agents (ECAs) are designed with the goal of achieving natural and effortless interactions with humans by displaying the same communication channels we use in our daily interactions (e.g. gestures, gaze, facial expressions, verbal behaviors). With advances in computational power, these agents are increasingly equipped with social and emotional capabilities to improve interaction with the users. Recently, research efforts are focused on modeling empathy, which is a human trait that allows us to share and understand each other's feelings. The emerging field of computational empathy aims to equip artificial agents with empathic behavior, which has shown great promise in enhancing the human-agent interaction. However, two issues arise in this research endeavor. Firstly, even though a variety of disciplines have extensively examined empathic behavior, there is minimal discussion on how that knowledge can be translated into computational empathy research. Second, modeling and implementing a complex behavior such as empathy poses a great challenge on fluent and automated integration of these behaviors to achieve real-time and multi-modal interaction with ECAs. This thesis aims to model and implement empathy in embodied conversational agents while focusing on both of these issues. To achieve this goal, an extensive literature review of the definitions and models of empathy from various disciplines is provided. Building upon this background knowledge, a model of empathy is presented that is suitable for interactive virtual agents, which includes three hierarchical layers of behavioral capabilities: emotional communication competence, emotion regulation and cognitive mechanisms. This dissertation further provides suggestions on how to evaluate perceived empathy of such a system, as there are no agreed-upon standards or best-practices in this novel field on evaluation metrics. Following the establishment of these theoretical foundations, levels of empathic behavior were implemented into an ECA with real-time spoken conversation capabilities that include synchronized gestural and emotional behavior. Evaluations of this system, which is called M-PATH, showed that the proposed levels of behavioral capabilities resulted in an increase in the perception of empathy as well as the perceived usefulness, human-likeness and believability of the agent. This dissertation further demonstrates that implementing empathic behaviors in artificial agents would not only improve our interaction but can also enhance our understanding of empathy by providing us with a controlled environment to implement and test our theories.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Steve DiPaola
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.