My experience at MobileHCI 2018

By Mohammed Khwaja
Wednesday, 12th September 2018
Filed under: ESRBlog

I had the opportunity to attend the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI) from 3rd – 6th September in Barcelona, Spain. It was held at Universitat Pompeu Fabra’s Campus Ciutadella, right at the heart of Barcelona.

The annual event is a leading conference in the field of Mobile Computing and HCI, and is sponsored by ACM SIGCHI. It has the distinction of bringing together the best minds in the world working on HCI (with a focus on mobile based research problems) – including, but not limited to students, researchers, professors and industry professionals.

This year’s event was all the more special, as its primary sponsor was Telefonica Alpha, my host institution and one of the partners of the TEAM ITN. The conference had a significant TEAM presence: Dr Aleksandar Matic (Telefonica Alpha) and Dr David Coyle (University College Dublin) were chairs of the conference, and Dr Stephen Brewster (University of Glasgow) headed a panel. The conference also had papers from researchers at Imperial College London, my host university. This meant that I had the seemingly daunting, but pleasurable experience of representing Telefonica Alpha, TEAM ITN and Imperial College collectively.

The conference boasted of fantastic keynote speakers: Dr James Landay of Stanford University, and Dr Cynthia Breazeal of MIT Media Lab. I’ve been following Dr Landay’s research for a while, and it was a ‘fanboy’ moment when he spoke about his work on glancable displays for various behaviour change solutions. His recent project to convert office buildings in hybridised spaces that take personalised preferences into account, using sensor based solutions is inspired. Dr Breazeal’s talk was outstanding – her work in social robotics through her spin-off company Jibo (https://www.jibo.com/), to improve learning, behaviour and human interaction is exciting. Both of their talks emphasised the need to focus on design perspectives that focus on human conditions and behaviours – something that I associate with.

I attended paper sessions on areas highly relevant to my research, including notifications and attention, analysing large data sets, digital memory and emotions, design work, and understanding mobile usage. Apart from hearing about research happening at top research institutions in the world, it is also fascinating to understand the work being done at companies like Google, Microsoft and Vodafone in this space; and the harmonious manner in which industry and academia work together. 

As my PhD research falls under the umbrella of Ubiquitous Computing and Cognitive Psychology, the conference was a fantastic opportunity to interact with pioneers in this field, get their feedback and ideas, and explore potential avenues of collaboration. It was incredible to interact with students and researchers working on mobile sensing, healthcare solutions, UX design and product research; many of whom have become acquaintances and friends. Overall, I had a great time at MobileHCI this year, and I hope to attend next year as well - perhaps even have the opportunity to present my work.

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