Industrial Ties NOT Industrial Development

I was recently asked by Research Councils UK ‘What are the key future challenges that UK HCI researchers can address and how can the UK research be better placed to contribute?’ Well apart from RCUK actually funding some research I thing it is by providing the research to inform industrial development; instead of often trying to build an industrial product ourselves as a demonstrator, or indeed, as the whole project.

But to do this we need better ties to industry to move our contributions into a development setting. I would say that the key challenges we face are around extreme personalisation and customisation. Adaptation of the interface and interaction, a greater focus on the intangible parts of the user experience and a move away from only lab based usability (task completion time) – all I believe have industrial outcomes and what’s more, industry wants them! But to support these outcomes we need practical experimentation along the lines of longitudinal and unobtrusive methods to let us understand what people are actually doing without bias, and a move away from questionnaires / surveys / interviews.

So we need longitudinal unobtrusive observation to understand emergent behaviour in naturalistic settings; interface de-coupling and platform agnostic interface and interaction. Foundationally, how can we start to address information overload in a society which requires more and more cognitive and intellectual effort to understand and live within it. At the moment we expect this to occur by dividing our attention in increasingly small segments, without any depth to the interaction – this cannot be sustainable.

I also finish off by saying that cross disciplinary work pulls together many different researchers with different research norms by which they judge a proposal. HCI is a cross disciplinary domain. By distributing the work to reviewers in different domains we get reviews which look inconsistent when compared to single disciplinary domains with which they are compared on the same panel; this is a problem.

How do we get increasing and strategic industrial ties? We in the UK I’m not really that sure – lots of SMEs rightly look for fast developments, and further the TSB grants place such a financial burden on the SME when interacting with a University that it doesn’t look that attractive. I’m conducting some ‘experimental industrial interactions’ now – lets see how these go…

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