Here is a collection of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research projects and software development projects proposed by researchers in the Interaction Design Lab. These projects are available to all masters students and especially relevant to students undertaking the HCI stream of the Master of Information Technology. For more details about a particular project, students should contact supervisors directly.
Messaging and Displays
Supervisor: Dr Ryan Kelly
- Personalised Awareness Displays for Supporting Communication in Shared Workspaces
People in shared office spaces often want to make their colleagues aware of their status and availability during working hours. For example, a person may email their officemates to say that they are away at an all-day meeting, or that they are working from home because they are unwell. In this project, you will investigate the potential to support these kinds of informal workplace communications through lightweight awareness display technologies, eg, small screens or other technologies that can be used to convey information about a person's status in a lightweight manner. A particularly interesting angle would be to design awareness displays that enable a degree of personalisation and self-expression within the workplace. The project will involve literature review alongside the design, implementation and evaluation of an awareness display technology. The system you design could be web-based, or could be implemented using Arduino and physical sensors.
Expected background: To undertake this project you should have an interest in user-centred design, human-computer interaction and skills in web development / Java.
- Digital Messaging Apps to Encourage Effortful Communication
Many of the communication apps that people use to communicate with their friends, family and romantic partners are designed to be easy-to-use. This makes these apps excellent for supporting lightweight communication that is cheap and efficient, but often means that people spend relatively little effort on the process of communication. However, research has shown that effort in communication is very meaningful to people, raising the question of how we could design to support it. In this project, you will investigate the potential to design user interfaces that encourage effortful communication, i.e. communication that involves thought, time, and care. The project involves literature review and design work to create an app or website that encourages people to invest effort in messaging. You will implement the design and then evaluate how it is used through a user study.
Expected background: To undertake this project you should have skills in interaction design, web development and/or Android programming. This project would suit a creative person with an interest in designing user interfaces for digital communication technologies.
Supervisor: Melissa Rogerson
- Granularity in Digitised Boardgames
Digital versions of physical boardgames are increasingly common, however they lack the materiality that players value. In particular, digitised games typically represent resources, money and scores as numbers rather than as objects that can be manipulated and used for planning. In this project, you will build and evaluate a digitised version of a physical boardgame that allows players to manipulate resources and money as separate, granular objects and to create, modify, and implement plans for future actions.
Expected background: User interface design and implementation, interest in games.
- Evaluating Hybrid Digital Boardgames
An increasing number of commercial boardgames integrate digital technologies to create “hybrid” games that unite the physical game with a digital app. More than 65 such games have been released in the past three years alone. In this project, you will conduct a design review and evaluation of one or more hybrid digital boardgames, considering the core functions of the digital tool and their effects on the user experience.
Expected background: Interest in games, strong participant observation and interviewing/contextual inquiry skills, coding qualitative data.
- Designing a User Interface for Presenting Scraped Forum Data
For researchers working in online spaces, specialized data gathering tools and programs are invaluable. In order to create any support for their claims, they must be able to present evidence in line with them. However, for many academics, especially those outside of the computer sciences, utilizing such tools can be challenging. Creating custom data scraping software for research purposes can require a great deal of time and programming expertise. While there are some tools already available online, knowing which ones are appropriate for the particular focus and how to use them effectively can also be an ordeal.
The goal of this project is to design a program to collect data from online public message boards, and then present that data in a format that is easy for scholars without a programming background to understand. The program should be able to collect data from posts on public message boards without violating the privacy of any member on them. Additionally, the program should also be able to sort and filter the results of the data scraping, allowing the user to better organize their findings.
Expected background: User interface design and implementation.
Understanding Community Participation
- Supporting Hobbies and Community Participation In The Digital Hinterlands
Engagement with traditionally ‘offline’ hobbies and activities such as knitting, reading and playing boardgames is, increasingly, informed by online activity. In this project, you will examine and explore the “digital hinterlands” that surround an offline activity. You will consider how online activity supports, constrains, and directs participation in both online and offline communities, and the ways in which enthusiasts demonstrate their participation. You might also consider how particular groups (eg, parents) use digital technologies to engage with an offline hobby.
Example topics include boardgame “Shelfies”, home brewing, painting miniature gaming figures, collecting, and writing.
Expected background: Interest in the topic, strong research ability, coding qualitative data.
Supervisor: Niels Wouters
- Immersion in Cultural Experiences: Current Practices and Concerns
Technology increasingly influences the ways in which we experience cultural visits. Some museums now provide visitor-facing apps, theatres invite participation through gestures, and some galleries go as far as providing wearable technology to their audiences. These developments enable unique forms of immersion in the experience but also raise important questions about privacy and transparency. This project aims to provide a thorough and structured survey of global emerging practices and their ethical implications. The work builds upon research currently being done at Science Gallery Melbourne, and there are opportunities to align the research with the ongoing construction and development process of the gallery space. There is an opportunity to work closely with the Science Gallery team. The work should provide a detailed overview of relevant cases and approaches relating to the topic, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, concerns and opportunities. We are particularly interested in a thorough analysis of the projects’ ethical implications and possible responses to address and mitigate concerns.
Expected background: Qualitative data collection and analysis methods, strong writing skills, interest in the topic (culture and ethics).
Eye Tracking and Gaze Interaction
Supervisor: Eduardo Velloso
- Gaze Interaction for Public Displays
Though interactive public displays offer a lot of exciting opportunities for retail and restaurants, users are often worried that touching them might be unhygienic and sometimes don’t even know that they are touch-sensitive. In this project, you will build a public screen controlled by the user’s eyes. Example applications include a smart menu for a coffee shop, a clothes selector for a fashion shop, etc. See an example of how Pizza Hut implemented it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRFn32N7KFY
Expected background: Completed INFO90003, user interface design and implementation, C# programming
- Gaze-Reactive Magic Books for Children
By monitoring how our eyes move, eye trackers enable us to create books that know how they are being read. In this project, you will build an interactive experience that converts a classic children’s story into a magical book that changes as the child reads it. Examples of interesting types of interaction include triggering actions when a certain passage is read (e.g. playing a sound effect, changing an image, etc), automatically scrolling the text as it is being read, etc. See an example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QocWsWd7fc
- Gaze Interaction for Smart Watches
The goal of this project is to build prototypes of smart watch applications that the user can control by using solely their gaze. You will use a wearable eye tracker to monitor the user's eye movements and explore how they can be incorporated into the design of gaze interactions on a smart watch. See an example of our previous work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEIgw5A0yfI
Expected background: Completed INFO90003, strong programming skills, combining data analysis with human-computer interaction.
Gesture and Body
Supervisor: Eduardo Velloso
- VR Interface for Spinal Manipulation Training
Our lab has developed SpinalLog, a tangible interface for training physiotherapy students in spinal mobilisation (video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YVmXC4C8do). The current prototype involves a screen-based feedback application. The goal of this project is to explore how Virtual Reality can be used for giving students feedback. The project will involve building an application that receives data from the tangible device and displays different kinds of feedback to guide the user.
Expected background: Completed INFO90003, Unity and C# programming, Arduino programming
- Adaptive Tangible Interfaces
Tangible interfaces enable the physical manipulation of digital data. In this project, you will design and build a novel tangible interface that senses contextual data about the user and their environment and makes adaptations to the interaction. The outcome is a physical working prototype of the interactive system.
Expected background: Completed INFO90003, Arduino or Raspberry Pi programming, 3D Printing/Laser Cutting/Digital fabrication
Crowd and Mobile Sensing
Supervisor: Jorge Goncalves
- Raspberry Pi BLE Beacon Scanner
This project entails developing software for Raspberry Pi that is able to scan the surrounding area for nearby BLE iBeacons. Information about scanned Bluetooth devices should then be stored locally, and sent to a server at certain intervals.
Expected background: Programming (Python, Database Management), some knowledge of bash scripting.
- Comparison of Image-Based Emotion Detection SDKs
This projects entails the development of an Android application that will use the Affectiva Emotion (https://www.affectiva.com/product/emotion-sdk/) and the Amazon Rekognition (https://aws.amazon.com/rekognition/) SDKs to determine a person’s emotional state based on gathered images. This project is research oriented. Apart from software development skills (Android), the student will need to conduct a user study, analyse the collected data to compare the results from both SDKs, and write a scientific report.
- Improving data visualisation through crowdsourcing
Effective data visualization is vital in both business and scientific communities. Although a great variety of tools are available which allow people to create rich illustrations, often people fail to select suitable visualization methods and parameters, resulting in loss of information or misinterpretation. This project aims to address this issue and help users create better visualizations through insights provided by crowdworkers. In this project, you will develop a web application that will generate basic graphical visualizations and allow users to change its appearance based on parameters such as chart type, colour scheme, label size etc. The application will be connected to a crowdsourcing platform and the different preferences provided by crowdworkers will be used to decide on the optimum parameters for each chart. It is important to keep the design simple so that any amateur user is able to interact. The scope of this project is limited to developing the application and demonstrating its applicability. However, if the student is comfortable, it could be expanded to analyse the importance/impact of various parameters.
- Voice-based crowdsourcing system
This project involves the development of a voice-based crowdsourcing system using either an Alexa or a Google Home. It will include the implementation of tasks that are suitable to be completed using voice input, as well as the communication workflow between the user and the smart speaker. A user study should be conducted to evaluate the reliability of the system to complete voice-based crowdsourcing tasks.
- Investigating conformity in online chatting environments
Social conformity is a widely seen social phenomena which results in individuals changing their own opinions and judgements to agree with a contradicting group majorities. This project explores manifestations of social conformity in an online chatting environment.
You are required to:
- Create a channel on Slack (https://slack.com/) connecting a group of participants to answer a series of multiple-choice questions (MCQ).
- Develop a chatbot on the Slack platform to control the flow of questions throughout the quiz.
- Allow participants to answer the questions privately, display results to the group and facilitate discussion among participants through the channel.
- Allow participants to change their initial answer if needed.
- Refer to existing literature to support design decisions of the study.
- Conduct pilot studies to test and refine the developed application.
- Beneficial: Experience in the Slack API, designing and conducting user studies.
- Mood Inference Literature Review
You are required to do an extensive literature review on mood inference. Mental wellbeing plays a profound role in people’s health and quality of life. Mood tracking using various technologies is an active research topic. A core challenge is how to accurately and reliably measure mood data with the help of various technology in-the-wild. The goal of the project is to create a thorough and detailed literature review on mood inference in-the-wild. The literature review should provide a detailed summary of all previous related research on the the topic, highlighting their strength and weakness.
Expected background: Strong writing skills; The ability to synthesise concepts from the literature; Interest in the research topic, Independent decision making
Smartphones for Science
Supervisor: Vassilis Kostakos
- Web Application for Creating Smartphone Studies
Preferred background: Usability engineering, CSS, interaction design.
- Visualisation Dashboard for Smartphone sensor data
This work will contribute to a global open-source project led by the University of Melbourne (http://www.awareframework.com). The overall project aims to make it easy to conduct experiments using smartphones, and to collect sensor data from smartphones. Your role will be to develop an application using R Shiny Dashboard to visualise smartphone sensor data stored in a MySQL server. You will work closely with scientists to identify the requirements for the visualisation tool. Then, you will implement the tool to visualise the sensor data in a way that is suitable for scientists. Your work will help a variety of scientists who are using this tool, including medical doctors, psychologists, epidemiologists, sociologists, education experts, and computer scientists.
Expected background: Databases, scripting and data wrangling, some statistical or numerical analysis, ability to conduct interviews.
Preferred background: Knowledge of R and Shiny Dashboard is preferred but not necessary.
- Android Visualisation App for Smartphone Sensor Data
This project involves the creation and evaluation of two small applications. Both applications will be evaluated, asking participants a set of questions throughout the day for a period of 2 weeks. The first application is a chat bot (e.g., Facebook messenger). The bot is configured to ask participants a set of questions at predefined timeslots through the chat application installed on participants phones. The second application is a native Android application, running in the background of the participants phones. The application will ask the same set of questions at predefined timeslots, but instead through the native Android or iOS application. Following a user study, you will compare the results of both applications. Interesting questions are for example: what is the difference in response time between the bot and the Android/iOS application, how many questions went unanswered between the bot and the application, etc. In order to answer these questions, you will need to store all relevant information (eg, in an online database).
Expected background: Programming mobile applications, Collecting and storing data in databases, Previous experience in programming chatbot is beneficial but not required, Previous experience in conducting user studies is beneficial but not required.
Ageing and Technology
- Digital literacy in later life
In the last decade, many community centres have been running programs that are designed to help older people feel confident about using new technologies (eg, “iPads for seniors courses” at local libraries). However, there is limited understanding about how these programs work and whether they are designed to meet the needs and interests of older adults. Students working on this project can do one of the following: 1) review the current research about digital literacy programs for older adults and write a report identifying what makes these programs effective, or 2) review websites and magazine articles describing the different digital literacy programs that are available in Australia and evaluate how well the programs are designed to meet the needs of older adults.
Expected background: Strong writing skills, interest in the topic, critical thinking skills.
- Virtual reality in aged care
Virtual reality is now being used in many aged care facilities to allow older people to virtually travel to places they can no longer visit, to foster reminiscence, and to provide calming experiences for people living with dementia. However, there is limited scholarly research examining the opportunities and challenges associated with deploying virtual reality in aged care settings. Students who work on this masters project can do one of the following activities: 1) review the current research about the design and use of virtual reality in aged care and write a report about the benefits and challenges identified: 2) review virtual reality applications that are targeted at older adults and evaluate how they are designed to provide enrichment or foster wellbeing in old age; 3) review current research about technologies that are designed to provoke reminiscence; or 4) conduct observations of VR sessions in an aged care facility and identify the challenges involved in using VR in this setting (subject to ethics approval).
Expected background: Strong writing skills, interest in the topic, critical thinking skills, and knowledge of qualitative data collection and analysis methods (preferably completion of INFO90006 Fieldwork for Design).
- The design and use of social robots as companions for older adults
Social robots and robotic pets (eg, Paro the seal) are now being used to provide companionship for people in advanced old age. The University has a set of NAO and Miro robots that can be programmed to do different activities and could be used in the future as companion robots. Students working on this project will explore how these robots can be used to do activities that could provide support for older people. The project will involve: a) investigating the types of activities that the robots could do, b) developing software that enables the robot to do a new activity that serves an identified need, and c) conducting a brief evaluation of the developed program. This project would suit students who have strong programming skills (esp. Python) and are confident about developing software with limited guidance. The project can be conducted in a small group (2 or 3 students).
Expected background: Strong writing skills, interest in the topic, strong Python programming skills.
Context, Games, and Reading in VR
Supervisor: Tilman Dingler
- Face Race: A Competitive Bio-signal Game Using Grimaces and Facial Heat
The human face is one of the most expressive parts of our body. While it implicitly reveals our emotions and feelings, we use it to explicitly communicate through facial expressions and grimaces. While we commonly use such expressions in our conversa-on, as an expressive input mechanism it is highly underutilized in human-computer interaction. In this project, we will explore the use of standard and thermal cameras to create playful interactions through facial gestures and facial heat signatures in games and applications. The scope of the project covers the following: 1. Investigating facial interactions based on cameras and thermal sensing. 2. Design and implementation of facial gestures and different facial heat areas as an input modality. 3. Design and implementation of a simple, multiplayer game with facial and heat gestures being the main input. 4. Conducting a user study with 8 participants who evaluate the game with regard to its usability, novelty, and fun factor. The outcome of this project is a comprehensive literature review of the use of facial gestures in human-computer interaction, a software that senses a range of facial gestures and heat signatures, a game which utilizes that input, and a final report about the project.
Expected background: Programming experience with a platform of choice (iOS, Android, C#, Objective-C, or Swift), 2D or 3D graphics programming.
- VR Books: Gaze Tracking and Adaptation of Reading Ambience in VR
Reading is one of the most common and prominent ways to acquire knowledge but is also taken up as a leisure activity. While text tends to lead a rather static life on paper pages and screens, virtual reality (VR) allows us to adapt the reading ambiance according to the text content and underlying mood. In this project, we will use a FOVE VR headset, which allows us to track the user’s gaze in VR. Hence, the system knows the current text posi7on and can adjust the virtual environment (background visuals and sounds) accordingly in order to create an immersive reading experience. The scope of the project covers the following: 1. Investigating gaze interaction in VR as well as User Interfaces for reading. 2. Design and implementation of an adaptable (visuals and sounds) reading room in VR. 3. Implementation of a text reading interface, which uses eye gaze tracking to determine the reader’s text position and triggers changes in the environment. 4. Conducting a user study with 8 participants who evaluate the reading experience with regard to aspects, such as comprehension, likeability, and immersion. The outcome of this project is the design and implementation of a VR application that uses eye gaze tracking to adjust the ambiance to the currently read content. A report summarizing the development process, the user study, and its findings will be required as a final deliverable.
Expected background: Experience with Unity is highly recommendable.
- Mobile Toolkit to Assess the Effect of Usage Context on Smartphone Interaction
This project aims to explore the effects of context on interaction with smartphones in everyday life. Contextual factors, such as ambient noise, users’ stress levels, and mood affect how people interact with their mobile devices. Collecting data about usage context can, therefore, be used to 1) build context detection algorithms and subsequently 2) inform smarter interfaces to accommodate them. We will provide an existing mobile toolkit to collect ground truth on interaction performance, which will need to be integrated into an app that triggers the 3-task battery (touch accuracy, visual search, and a typing task) at different times of the day. The scope of this project covers the following: 1. Development of an Android app for collecting context data, such as ambient noise, lighting, and app usage, using smartphone sensors. 2. Implementation of a notification scheduler to remind users to complete the task battery at different times of the day. 3. Implementation of a local storage to save the context (sensor data) and task performance data on the device 4. Implementing a transmission protocol to a logging server, which takes care of sending the collected data when connected to WiFi (the server itself along with data logging service will be provided). 5. Conducting a user study with 12 participants who install the app on their device to collect data for later analysis over the course two weeks. You will work on application development in close collaboration with the supervisors. The final deliverable of this project is a working software and a report.
Expected background: Programming (Android, server communication), Independent decision making.
- A Desensitized Keylogging Framework for Studies in-the-wild
People’s alertness, attention, and vigilance are highly variable and subject to systematic changes across the day. These fluctuations—in part caused by circadian rhythms—impact higher level cognitive capacities, including perception, memory, and executive functions. Current computer systems rarely take these fluctuations into account and often overburden or bore the user as a result. To assess the diurnal rhythms of alertness and associated changes in cogntive functioning, this project aims at building a series of keyloggers to track people’s typing behavior across the day. Typing speed and error rates can be used as predictors of alertness and fatigue, so a system that monitors users’ typing behavior is capable of unobtrusively detecting moments of high and low user alertness. The keylogger will collect typing characteristics that are sensitive to user’s privacy, hence we will investigate a number of metrics that can safely be stored and transmitted to a server for logging purposes without compromising the typed content.
Expected background: Programming experience with the respec(ve plaeorm (iOS, Android, C#, Objec(ve-C, or SwiL), Ability to implement an HTTP POST request sending JSON data to a server.
Supervisor: George Buchanan
- Placemarking in Library Browsing
This project aims to help us better understand how people keep track of multiple books when browsing library shelves. The work expands on research being done at the State Library of Victoria by Dana McKay, and there are some existing ideas as a starting place for understanding what is happening. You would have to conduct observations of library users as they browse, and analyse their behaviour afterwards, to see what the most common patterns are. Would suit a 25 or 50 credit MIS project.
Expected background: Qualitative research, understanding of observation methods, good writing skills.
- Analysing BookCrossing Data
BookCrossing is a platform for exchanging books in public places : books are left in places where they can be found and readers record which books they read. After a book is read, it should be left in another place to be discovered by other readers. There is publicly available data from 2004 on when and where books were read. This can be cross-referenced with library data, e.g. data from an organization called OCLC, to understand patterns of reading and use of the bookcrossing books. Would suit a 25 or potentially 50 credit project.
Expected background: Data analysis, quantitative evaluation, scripting.
- Developing A Virtual Bookshelf
Virtual bookshelves reproduce books on library or study bookshelves, with an image of a shelf filled with books. There are some previous ones, but now it is possible to create one from everyday components. The aim would be to develop an interactive virtual shelf using Amazon book cover data and other features of the Amazon API. Would suit a 25-credit project.
Expected background: Good coding experience on e.g. C#, Objective C or Java; relevant GUI programming knowledge.
- Ebook vs Print Book Usage
There are various sets of data on ebook and print book usage from public and university libraries that are readily available. We don’t understood is what the differences in use between print and electronic book collections are. If we did, we could better understand shifts in general behaviour, and plan for future needs. In this project you will analyse some of the data to describe the differences and refer to the literature to understand what the consequences of your findings are. Could be a 25 or, ideally, a 50 credit project.
Expected background: Quantitative evaluation, data analysis, scripting.
Supervisor: Niels Wouters
- Understanding public perception towards artificial intelligence
In this project, we investigate personal attitudes towards surveillance, facial detection and analysis technology in public space. The overall project aims to employ machine learning models that can distinguish personal information from publicly available data. The project entails the development of a front-end and back-end of a public website that integrates our machine learning models (via API), that provides public access to their output, and that captures public response. There is flexibility regarding the specific direction of the work that takes place. Indicative directions include: (1) Improve and expand the accuracy of an existing suite of machine learning models. These models distinguish personality traits from a single facial photo. (2) Explore and propose the integration of additional (public) datasets within an existing suite of machine learning models, and develop novel, interactive interfaces that display these data in public space. (3) Integrate interaction techniques from other SocialNUI/IDL projects (e.g. gaze) to inform the design of interactive interfaces that display output from the machine learning models in public space. (4) The first stage of this project entails the development of an interactive website that replicates our existing suite of machine learning models. Following the development, you will extend the suite with machine learning models for one or more additional datasets and integrate the functionality within the website. In the third stage, you will run a user study with a group of students or in a crowdsourcing environment, analyze feedback, and discuss results in a report.
Expected background: Ability to conduct user studies, Knowledge of machine learning/AI, Programming (C#, web platforms, Rest APIs), Strong analytical skills, Independent decision-making.
Human and AI Interactions
Supervisor: Wally Smith
- Deceptive Computing
Computers are increasingly being used to influence people (e.g. the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica events) and future AI will likely have the ability to reason about how human's think and may be able to deceive people. In this project, you will conduct a review of current deceptive uses of computing, and/or will conduct an experiment to discover how people react to deceptive machines.
Expected background: Ability to review literature; ability to conduct experiments with human users.
Technology and Emotion
Supervisor: Greg Wadley
- Using Technology For Emotion Regulation
This project investigates how people use digital technologies to shape their emotional states. For example, listening to music can powerfully impact a listener's emotions, and it has long been known that people use music to regulate their emotional states. Recent digital platforms extend and refine this power by making an almost-unlimited selection of content ubiquitously available. This project will investigate how, where, when and why people use technologies to shape moods and emotions in daily life. You will use "in the wild" HCI methods such as interviews, diaries and experience sampling, as well as psychological measures, to study emerging practices in digital emotion regulation. You will be expected to recruit 5 to 10 participants: these may be fellow students or other cohorts.
Expected background: Familiarity with HCI methods for understanding user experience.