Assignment 2
Version 1.00

Research Essay

Due - Friday November 21 at 9:50 a.m.

Reserved Topics

Student Selected Topic
Thomas Brown Wearable Computing
Anna Sobiepanek Facial Expression Recognition
Cesar Gomes 3-D Interfaces
Kalsang Gyurmey Haptic Interfaces
Simon Jung
Tommy Lo Artifical Emotion
Justin Goncalves
Kevin Carl Lasconia Voice Recognition
Aaron Train Multi-Touch and Surface Computing
Denise Catherine Rigato Brain Control
James Evangelista Get New Mouse
Joshua Satish Doodnauth Natural Language Processing
Johann Manzano Home Entertainment


The purpose of the essay is for you to familiarize yourself with one topic in more detail than was presented in the course.  You will perform a search of the literature, read multiple sources, and synthesize a summary of the material presented in these sources.  These are fundamental research techniques that you will find useful throughout your career.  And, through the act of writing a document, you will gain valuable practice in the structuring and writing of medium-sized reports.

You are expected to research your topic thoroughly.  To do this, you should not only search the internet, but also read several original papers on the topic.  Whenever possible, you should download software and try it yourself.  If possible, you should design tests to determine how well or poorly the concepts actually work. 

Your presentation should be lively, entertaining, and highly informative.  You should include visuals as well as demonstrations of the technology.  If you cannot get your hands on the technology directly, show a YouTube video which demonstrates the technology.


  • a printed report, double spaced, in a 10 or 12 point font,
    • between 1600 and 2400 words in length
    • presenting
      • an introduction
      • a description of the different types of tools and techniques used in the topic
      • a description of the practical applications of the topic
      • a description of how effective or successful applications of the topic have been (if applicable)
      • a description of the current state of research in the area
      • a description of open research questions in the topic area (if applicable)
    • a well-structured document using correct grammar and well-structured document
    • a list of at least four significant references (two of which are primary sources)
  • an oral presentation of the results of 15 minutes length

Marking Scheme

The marking of the written report will be based on the following:

completeness and quality of the research 60%
document structure and quality of writing
relevance and adequateness of references


Each student should select one of the following topics to use for his or her essay.  Topics will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Multi-Touch And Surface Computing

The original work on multi-touch user interfaces began 25 years ago at the University of Toronto.  Recently, we have seen many devices using this technology, such as the iPod Touch, Microsoft TouchWall, and Microsoft Surface.  Explore this technology to review its beginnings, the devices that use it and the different ways in which it is actually implemented.  What can you do with multi-touch that you cannot do with a traditional interface?  What are its potential uses in collaboration and gaming?  How easy is it for people to use this technology?  What are the current research topics in the area?  Where is this technology going? Microsoft Touchwall

Gotta geta new mouse

The mouse has been the ubiquitous device for interacting with GUIs for many years.  Nonetheless, the traditional mouse might be replaced within 5 years.  What is wrong with the mouse as we know it?  What might replace the mouse?  Will the mouse be replaced by a 3-D mouse similar to the Wii, a touch screen, some sort of facial recognition or eye tracking, or some type of device offering force feedback?  Will variations on the joy stick replace the mouse?  Or is the mouse so loved that it will remain with us forever?

3-D Interfaces

3-D interfaces have been tried many times starting with early work in fish-eye views.  Recent hardware developments have made 3-D graphic engines available at affordable prices.  But, what are we doing with these interfaces?  Java has Project Looking Glass and Microsoft has the Vista UI.  Do they do anything really useful?  I can turn a window on its edge, but why would I want to?  I can read the back side of a window – cool, but what good is it?  Do interfaces like Tactile 3-D provide an immersive experience that is better at interacting with a computer?  Do 3-D interfaces provide a better way to present and explore data?  What about Apple’s use of 3-D, HTC TouchFlo, etc.?

Haptic Interfaces

Haptic interfaces use touch as a means of interacting with a computer.  Explore the state of the art of this technology and the types of interaction that it can foster.  What technology is currently available and how is it used?  Force feedback is one haptic technology that can provide a more realistic experience and improve the accuracy with which the human interacts with the computer. 

Voice Xml

Voice xml provides a way to construct audio interfaces for applications.  Look into the capabilities of the language, its structure, and applications

User Centered Design

Collaborative Computing

We have become a society of hermits connected by electronic devices.  We can work in our own environments, yet collaborate with others to accomplish shared goals.  This is known as computer-supported-cooperative work and many of the tools are referred to as groupware.

Home Entertainment

Home entertainment has moved from vinyl records and TV over the air to CDs and cable TV.  The next jump looks to be digital audio and video served up by your computer from its large library as well as content received over the internet.  This will make the TV and stereo the main interface to the computer.  The TV will become a multi-purpose monitor that displays video, acts as part of a computer game, and provides a convenient interface to a variety of computing services.  What will the home of the future look like?  What types of controls will be used – keyboards, mice, tablets, 3-D controllers, voice recognition?  Will this make computing so mainstream that people will fail to recognize the computer as a computer, and treat it as a home appliance?  How will this reliance on the machine affect the interface?  It will provide audio, video and what else?  What other services and interfaces will be offered to the home of the near future?

Natural Language Understanding

Natural language allows us to communicate with a computer by expressing our wishes in a language like English.  What is the state of this technology?  What kind of interfaces can be built from it?  What kind of future will it provide?

Voice Recognition

Voice recognition has long been one of the holy grails of computing.  Tremendous strides have been made in speaker independence and accuracy of recognition.  Current leaders in the field, like Dragon Systems, claim 98% accuracy or more.   Explore the basics of how voice recognition works, the current state of the art, and what the future holds.  Is the current voice recognition technology good enough to be used?  What applications are suited for current voice recognition technology?  What applications require better voice recognition?  How can voice recognition be used in interfaces?  How can this technology be used to assist the handicapped?  Will it replace the keyboard and the mouse?

Brain Control

Brain control is possibly the ultimate computer interface: being directly wired into your brain.  You think, the computer responds.  What is the current state of this technology?  How is it being used to control artificial limbs?  Is it being used to interface directly with general purpose computers?   How does this all work?  What is the state of the art and what does the future hold?

Artificial Emotion

We are taking the first steps towards producing robotic faces to act as computer interfaces as well as autonomous robots with humanoid bodies.  In both cases, developers are trying to make the robots appear more life-like by displaying a variety of facial expressions to show emotion.  Japanese products have presented personalities that the user can recognize.  Researchers have created artificial faces that try to display emotions.  Text to speech technology uses intonation to display emotions.    What are the advantages of giving machines emotions?  What is the state of the technology?  Do people communicate more effectively with a machine that displays emotion?  What are the research topics in this area?  How will the future evolve?

Facial Expression Recognition

In human conversation, facial expressions convey a wealth of information.  It has been estimated that up to 55% of the information in a conversation may be conveyed by facial expressions.  There is research under way to recognize facial expressions automatically.  How does the technology for facial expression recognition work?  What is the current state of this technology?  How can this technology be used to improve human-computer interfaces?  One potential use is in intelligent tutoring systems where the computer determines if a student has comprehended the material presented by examining the student’s face and varying the speed of the presentation accordingly.  What uses for this technology are being explored?

Wearable Computing

When we have a computer with us all the time and closely connected to our bodies, it can offer services not available in other ways.  We can use it to help us remember what we’ve been doing and where we've been.  It can extend our senses to areas where we cannot normally perceive.  It can help us communicate and can act as a general assistant.  We could meet someone and suddenly know everything about them from an online-dossier automatically retrieved.  Such technology can monitor surroundings to help the blind navigate or to monitor a person’s blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.  What is the state of the art and what is the future of wearable computing?  How will it change and impact our lives?  What is the current state of research in the area?

Ubiquitous Computing

Once upon a time, computers lived in beige boxes under our desks.  They now play our music and movies, tell the time, run our cars and do a lot of other things.  We are increasingly moving into a world where computers are everywhere and doing hundreds of tasks for us.  We now have context-aware computers whose behavior changes based on their location.  Whereas virtual reality put humans in the world of the computer, ubiquitous computing puts computers in the human world.  What is the state of research in this area?  How does or will ubiquitous computing affect our lives?  How will we interact with computers which are everywhere?  What will be the social impact of such integration of man and machine?  Where will this lead?

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