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Distributed Systems Seminar FS2013

Interaction in Intelligent Environments: Non-Traditional Displays, Sensors, and Interaction Technologies
Tuesdays, 11:15 - 12:45, Room CAB H 52

Otmar Hilliges, Friedemann Mattern

All seminar topics have been assigned. Students who are interested in the seminar but have no topic assigned can still participate but cannot gain credit points for the course.

Topic: Interaction in Intelligent Environments

Recent progress in sensor and wireless communication technologies as well as advancements in distributed and embedded systems have made intelligent environments more of a reality than a distant vision. We see more and more objects that are enhanced with sensing, computing and sometimes also display capabilities. These range from small appliances such as smart TVs, fridges or medical devices to larger, more complex structures such as cars, entire buildings, and transport infrastructure. As smart objects, mobile devices, and network infrastructure are getting integrated more and more seamlessly, a vast amount of information is available to and about users of intelligent environments. Traditional forms of interaction with digital information such as mouse and keyboard are unsuited in this context given the mobile, unstructured and varied nature of everyday interactions of humans in and with these environments. Furthermore, different types of data and hence data representations become important in this setting including 3D graphics and in particular information that is linked to the physical environment.

This seminar will provide an overview on the state of the art and the open research questions around interaction in intelligent environments. Of particular interest are technologies that allow interaction to expand from the screen, keyboard and mouse into our everyday life. Ultimately, all aspects of everyday life (e.g., explicit interactions such as gestures or implicit interactions such as temporal activities or location) can become the media of interaction. New kinds of user interfaces, whereby the user can interact with the computer in various ways (multi-modal interaction), will be discussed.

The first part of the seminar introduces the vision of intelligent environments and discusses specific topics such as pervasive displays and multi-user interactive systems. In the second part we will discuss mobile and projector-based augmented reality systems that directly embed visual information in our everyday environment. In the third part we will discuss technologies, algorithms and systems that enable sensing of human activities in such environments in novel ways. The next and biggest part is on emerging display technologies (such as stereoscopic, volumetric, transparent and flexible displays) that go beyond the flat, 2D desktop display. Topics in this block will also include interactive systems that make use of these emerging display technologies and allow for more direct and natural interaction with virtual information. The final block of topics will cover wearable computing platforms for interaction while the user is on the move.


The goal of the seminar is not only to familiarize students with exciting new research topics, but also to teach basic scientific writing and oral presentation skills


The seminar consists of talks given by students on selected topics and discussions led by the instructors. A tentative schedule (still subject to changes) is provided below. A maximum of 10 students will be admitted to the seminar. Priority will be given to Master students who have sufficient background knowledge in the topic but the seminar is generally open to Bachelor and Doctoral students as well.

Seminar attendees select a specific topic within the broader context of current interaction research and prepare an oral presentation. As a starting point, the students are assigned 3-4 important papers in their topic but they have to collect complementary materials and compile them together. Oral presentations must be planned for 45 minutes. Each presentation will be followed by a technical discussion as well as a short feedback session on the quality/style of the presentation.

Each student also has to write a short essay on the selected topic. Essays must be composed using a given template and must be of length 5-8 pages (including figures, tables, and references). The essay is due in 3 weeks after the presentation. The quality of this essay will be evaluated and considered for the final grade. Essays should summarize and elaborate on the assigned topic while presentations should focus on one specific paper among those provided, as indicated by the instructor.

Each student will have a tutor (typically a research assistant of the Distributed Systems Group) assigned with whom they can discuss their papers in detail and receive preliminary feedback on their presentation and their essay.

The seminar will be held in English. Presentations and reports must be in English. Attendees are required to participate in all sessions.

A list of possible reading assigments is provided below.


Please use the following templates for your presentation and for your report.


The final grade is based on:
  • the quality of the presentation;
  • the quality of the essay;
  • participation in discussions and feedback sessions after each presentation.
Students who succesfully complete the seminar will be awarded 2 credit points (ECTS).


For further information please contact Gabor Soros or Marian George.


(tentative, to be discussed)
# Date Topic Speaker(s) Materials Supervisor
  0.   19.02.2013 Administratives
Topic assignment
 Friedemann Mattern 
 Gabor Soros 

  1.   05.03.2013 Introduction to the seminar topic
How to give a talk
 Otmar Hilliges 
 Friedemann Mattern 

  2.   12.03.2013 1/A) Pervasive Displays
 Reto Achermann   slides 
 Gabor Soros 
  3.   19.03.2013 1/B) Multi-user Systems
 Alexander Grest   slides 
 Gabor Soros 
  4.   26.03.2013 2/A) Handheld Augmented Reality
 Reto Lindegger   slides 
 Marian George 
  02.04.2013 EASTER HOLIDAYS      
  5.   09.04.2013 3/A) Capturing Full Body Motion
 Antoine Kaufmann   slides 
 Marian George 
  6.   16.04.2013 2/B) Projection-based Augmented Reality
 Alexander Cebulla   slides 
 Otmar Hilliges 
  7.   23.04.2013 3/B) Capturing Gestures
 Adrian Kundig   slides 
 Otmar Hilliges 
  8.   30.04.2013 3/C) Touch Technologies
 Sara Kilcher   slides 
 Otmar Hilliges 
  9.   07.05.2013
4/A) Projection Displays
 Manuel Eichelberger    -  
 Gabor Soros 
  10.   14.05.2013 4/B) Interactive 3D Displays
 Shaban Shabani   slides 
 Otmar Hilliges 
  11.   21.05.2013 5/A) Assistive Wearable Technology
 Stephan Koster   slides 
 Marian George 
  12.   28.05.2013 5/B) Head-worn Cameras
Closing session with discussion
 Claudio Follmi 
 Otmar Hilliges 
 Otmar Hilliges 

Reading list

Papers are accessible from the ETH network for free.

Recommended books and links
ETH ZurichDistributed Systems Group
Last updated August 5 2013 10:21:43 AM MET gs