Bristol Interaction and Graphics

Future Seminars

Motion synthesis by spatial relationship descriptors

In the area of computer animation and robotics, synthesizing movements such as tangling limbs, passing through constrained environments, wrapping and winding cloth or ropes around objects, are considered as difficult problems. Making use of descriptors based on the spatial relationships is essential for synthesizing such movements.  In this talk, I will describe about the research done in our group for synthesizing complex movements by using spatial relationship descriptors. These include synthesizing winding and knotting movements using Gauss linking numbers, synthesizing wrapping movements using electrostatic flux, retargeting movements using Laplacian coordinates, and classifying and recognizing scenes using medial axis.  I will then describe about the future work that I am planning to do including motion planning and physical simulation based on these descriptors and physically simulating movements that involve close interactions.


Displays in our world are but a canvas to our imagination

With apologies to Henry Thoreau, the world is seeing new uses of displays all around us. These displays are on and around our body, fixed and mobile, bleeding into the very fabric of our day to day lives. Displays come in many forms such as smart watches, head-mounted displays or tablets and fixed, mobile, ambient and public displays. However, we know more about the displays connected to our devices than they know about us. Displays and the devices they are connected to are largely ignorant of the context in which they sit including knowing physiological, environmental and computational state. They don’t know about the physiological differences between people, the environments they are being used in, if they are being used by one or more people.

In this talk we review a number of aspects of displays in terms of how we can model, measure, predict and adapt how people can use displays in a myriad of settings. With modeling we seek to represent the physiological differences between people and use the models to adapt and personalize designs, user interfaces. With measurement and prediction we seek to employ various computer vision and depth sensing techniques to better understand how displays are used. And with adaptation we aim to explore subtle techniques and means to support diverging input and output fidelities of display devices. The talk draws on a number of studies from recent UMAP, IUI, AVI and CHI papers.

Our ubicomp user interface is complex and constantly changing, and affords us an ever changing computational and contextual edifice. As part of this, the display elements need to be better understood as an adaptive display ecosystem blending with our world rather than simply pixels.


Design for Peripheral Interaction

Interactive devices such as mobile phones play an important, but often needlessly obtrusive role in everyday life. This can be prevented when people could interact with these devices without focused attention. This talk will address ‘peripheral interaction design’: interaction design which can effortlessly be used as part of people’s everyday routines without inappropriately attracting attention. I will present a number of peripheral interaction design examples which were developed at the Industrial Design department at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.


Recent Seminars

Making senses: an enactive approach to interaction

The enactive movement of philosophy of mind hinges on the idea that our understanding of the world is based on our bodily interaction with the world. This idea - that we are embodied actors making sense of our surroundings directly through our actions and experiences – moves away from more traditional views of cognition. In enactivism, knowledge is constructed through sensorimotor interactions: sensorimotor skills must be acquired by active, self-initiated exploration.

In what way do sensorimotor contingencies shape our interactions, particularly when interacting with the virtual rather than the real? Can we learn new sensorimotor skills that can replace or even augment our existing senses? What is the role of neuroplasticity in interaction? And can this be harnessed in order to create more useful and meaningful interfaces? This talk will explore the current evidence and suggest avenues for exploration.


Stochastic Sampling for Signal Reconstruction, Integration and Representation

I will summarise my understanding and analysis of two classes of problems whose manifestations are encountered across various engineering disciplines, including branches of computer graphics and vision. The first of these two classes, which I will allude to as "the reconstruction problem", involves hypothesising functions over multi-dimensional domains given a limited sets of observations (or samples) of the functions. I will motivate a 'gray-box' analysis technique [1] for light transport simulation, which exploits knowledge of the underlying physical (optics) processes.

The second type of problem is numerical integration, using evaluations of the signal (integrand) at stochastically determined locations.  I will present results of my 'black-box' analysis [2,4] of numerical integration for potentially high-dimensional, non-stationary, discontinuous integrands. These analyses do not make any special assumptions about the processes that the integrand stems from.

In addition to the above, I will also briefly present some work [3] on using stochastic sampling to build alternative representations for images which lend themselves to targeted applications such as user-assisted soft-selection in images.


  1. Belcour, L., Soler, C., Subr, K., Holzschuch, N., & Durand, F. (2013). 5D covariance tracing for efficient defocus and motion blur. ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG), 32(3), 31.
  2. Subr, K., & Kautz, J. (2013). Fourier Analysis of Stochastic Sampling Strategies for Assessing Bias and Variance in Integration. ACM TRANSACTIONS ON GRAPHICS, 32(4).
  3. Subr, K., Paris, S., Soler, C., & Kautz, J. (2013, May). Accurate binary image selection from inaccurate user input. In Computer Graphics Forum (Vol. 32, No. 2pt1, pp. 41-50). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  4. Subr, K., Nowrouzezahrai, D., Jarosz, W., Kautz, J., & Mitchell, K. (2014, July). Error analysis of estimators that use combinations of stochastic sampling strategies for direct illumination. In Computer Graphics Forum (Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 93-102).

Should I Reply to this Email? Email Response Patterns as a Function of Inbox-level Cues

A common view of the email problem is that of email overload - a situation in which inboxes are full to overflowing, leaving the user feeling overwhelmed. Research has shown that rather than process their inbox in the order in which messages are received, people prioritise the order in which they deal with emails. Gmail priority inbox, VIP lists, etc all assume that people have too much email and that the triage process needs to be supported - that is, people need help quickly identifying the relevant email in their inbox to process. However, even after finding relevant email, we know that people sometimes choose to defer processing it. Previous research has made use of lab-based studies, ethnographies, diary studies and natural log analysis to shed light on the factors that influence how users prioritise emails for processing. However, each of these methods have limitations: lab studies are rather artificial; ethnographies and diary studies lack quantified measures and rely on participants having insight into their own behaviours; and whilst natural log analysis enables us to identify patterns they can be difficult to interpret. In this talk I will describe two in-the-wild experiments conducted in participants' own inboxes that systematically investigate the factors that influence how people prioritise their emails for processing.


Augmenting Communication with Multimodal Interaction and Flexible Interfaces

This talk will detail an exploratory study of remote interpersonal communication using our ForcePhone prototype. This research focuses on the types of information that can be expressed between two people using the haptic modality, and the impact of different feedback designs. Based on the results of this study and my current work, I will briefly discuss the potential of deformable interfaces and multimodal interaction techniques to enrich communication for users with impairments.


Peer-to-peer finance: Design rhetorics and the limits of financialization

While information and communication technologies (ICT) have from their earliest days been applied to banking and financial processes, the convergence of emerging ICT innovations and social media data-sharing practices is yielding a transformation of financial processes at the individual and local levels. The prevalence of mobile systems, advanced peer-to-peer cryptographic tools, and innovations in technological and financial literacy practices are enabling experimentation driven by a broad range of ideologies and business models. Citizens taking up social media’s tools and practices may be on the brink of transforming the financial system by demanding greater transparency, enabling peer to peer assessments of risk and return, and challenging top-down corporate financial information flows; or they may simply be generating data for the benefit of globalized financial institutions.

Recently, peer-to-peer (“p2p”) lending systems have emerged as a popular vehicle for unsecured consumer and small-business lending. Based on a study of Zopa Limited, a leading UK p2p lending firm, we demonstrate how design rhetorics and user experience (UX) structures created to appeal to technologically sophisticated early adopters were abandoned in order to attract a larger, more mainstream, less technologically literate user base. This study suggests that successful alternative financial ventures will likely forego systems which require significant technological and financial literacy via design rhetorics intended to convey messages of user empowerment, but rather create assemblages and messages stressing stability, trustworthiness and ease of use, by reducing transparency and streamlining the UX.

We argue that this transformation of design rhetorics and business practices, while deeply implicated in processes of financialization, reflects limitations on those processes within the contemporary UK context. Zopa’s shift away from transparency in its users toolkit and reintermediation of the firm as a locus of expertise may be seen as lessening the impact of  financialization on its middle-class lending base, by using business processes and the UX to shift knowledge burdens from the individual investor back to the firm. This analysis suggests that the “financialization of daily life” is neither uni-directional nor uniform, as firms must shape their user experience, design and marketing to reflect local levels of trust and competence with both technological and financial innovations.