Category Archives: Editorial

Editorial: Welcome to a New Era for TOCHI

Wherein I tell the true story of how I became an Editor-in-Chief.

Constant change is a given in the world of high technology.

But still it can come as a rude awakening when it arrives in human terms, and we find that it also applies to our friends, our colleagues, and the people we care for.

Not to mention ourselves!

So it was that I found myself, with a tumbler full of fresh coffee steaming between my hands, looking in disbelief at an email nominating me to assume the editorial helm of the leading journal in my field, the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (otherwise known as TOCHI).

Ultimately (through no fault of my own) the ACM Publications Board was apparently seized by a episode of temporary madness and, deeming my formal application to have the necessary qualifications (with a dozen years of TOCHI associate editorship under my belt, a membership in the CHI Academy for recognized leaders in the field, and a Lasting Impact Award for my early work on mobile sensing—not to mention hundreds of paper rejections that apparently did no lasting damage to my reputation) they forthwith approved me to take over as Editor-in-Chief from my friend and long-time colleague, Shumin Zhai.

I’ve known Shumin since 1994, way back when I delivered my very first talk at CHI in the same session as he presented his latest results on “the silk cursor.” I took an instant liking to him, but I only came to fully appreciate over the years that followed that Shumin’s work ethic is legendary. As my colleague Bill Buxton (who sat on Shumin’s thesis committee) once put it, “Shumin works harder than any two persons I have ever known.”

And of course that applied to Shumin’s work ethic with TOCHI as well.

A man who now represents an astoundingly large pair of shoes that I must fill.

To say that I respect Shumin enormously, and the incredible progress he brought to the operation and profile of the journal during his six-year tenure, would be a vast understatement.

But after I got over the sheer terror of taking on such an important role, I began to get excited.

And then I got ideas.

Lots of ideas.

A few of them might even be good ones:

Ways to advance the journal.

Ways to keep operating at peak efficiency in the face of an ever-expanding stream of submissions.

And most importantly, ways to deliver even more impact to our readers, and on behalf of our authors.

Those same authors whose contributions make it possible for us to proclaim:

TOCHI is the flagship journal of the Computer-Human Interaction community.

So in this, my introductory editorial as the head honcho, new sheriff in town, and supreme benevolent dictator otherwise known as the Editor-in-Chief, I would like to talk about how the transition is going, give a few updates on TOCHI’s standard operating procedure, and—with an eye towards growing the impact of the journal—announce the first of what I hope will be many exciting new initiatives.

And in case it is not already obvious, I intend to have some fun with this.

All while preserving the absolutely rigorous and top-notch reputation of the journal, and the constant push for excellence in all of the papers that we publish.

[Read the rest at:]

Be sure to also check out The Editor’s Spotlight, highlighting the many strong contributions in this issue. This, along with the full text of my introductory editorial, is available without an ACM Digital Library subscription via the links below.

_TOCHI-thumbKen Hinckley. 2016. Editorial: Welcome to a New Era for TOCHI. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact 23, 1: Article 1e (February 2016), 6 pages.

_TOCHI-thumbKen Hinckley. 2016. The Editor’s Spotlight: TOCHI Issue 23:1. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact 23, 1: Article 1 (February 2016), 4 pages.

TOCHI Article Alerts: Auditory Reality and Super Bowl Angst

I wanted to offer some reflections on two final articles in the current issue (23:1) of the journal that I edit — the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction:

Auditory Display in Mobile Augmented Reality

The first article delves into augmented reality of a somewhat unusual sort, namely augmentation of mobile and situated interaction via spatialized auditory cues.

A carefully structured study, designed around enhancing interactive experiences for exhibits in an art gallery, teases apart some of the issues that confront realities augmented in this manner, and thereby offers a much deeper understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of various ways of presenting spatialized auditory feedback.

As such this article contributes a great foundation for appropriate design of user experiences augmented by this oft-neglected modality.


* * *

Mass Interaction in Social Television

The final paper of TOCHI Issue 23:1 presents the first large-scale study of real-world mass interactions in social TV, by studying the key motives of users for participating in side-channel commentaries when viewing major sporting events online.

The large scale of the study (analysis of nearly six million chats, plus a survey of 1,123 users) allows the investigators to relate these motives to diverse usage patterns, leading to practical design suggestions that can be used to support user interactions and to enhance the identified motives of users—such as emotional release, cheering and jeering, and sharing thoughts, information, and feelings through commentary.

On a personal level, as a long-time resident of Seattle I certainly could have benefitted from these insights during last year’s Super Bowl—where yes, in the armchair-quarterback opinion of this Editor-in-Chief, the ill-fated Seahawks should indeed have handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Alas. There is always next year.



Two Papers on Brain-Computer Interaction in TOCHI Issue 23:1

There’s lots to please the eye, ear, and mind in the current issue of the Transactions that I edit, TOCHI Issue 23:1.

And I mean that not only figuratively—in terms of nourishing the intellect—but quite literally, in terms of those precious few cubic centimeters of private terrain residing inside our own skulls.

Because brain-computer interaction (BCI) forms a major theme of Issue 23:1. The possibility of sensing aspects of human perception, cognition, and physiological states has long fascinated me—indeed, the very term “brain-computer interaction” resonates with the strongest memes that science fiction visionaries can dish up—yet this topic confronts us with a burgeoning scientific literature.

* * *

The first of these articles presents an empirical study of phasic brain wave changes as a direct indicator of programmer expertise.

It makes a strong case that EEG-based measures of cognitive load, as it relates to expertise, can be observed directly (rather than through subjective assessments) and accurately measured when specifically applied to program comprehension tasks.

By deepening our ability to understand and to quantify expertise, the paper makes significant inroads on this challenging problem.


* * *

The second BCI article explores ways to increase user motivation through tangible manipulation of objects and implicit physiological interaction, in the context of sound generation and control.

The work takes an original tack on the topic by combining explicit gestural interaction, via the tangible aspects, with implicit sensing of biosignals, thus forging an intriguing hybrid of multiple modalities.

In my view such combinations may very well be a hallmark of future, more enlightened approaches to interaction design—as opposed to slapping a touchscreen with “natural” gestures on any sorry old device we decide to churn out, and calling it a day.


TOCHI Editor’s Spotlight: Navigating Giga-pixel Images in Digital Pathology

In addition to the scientific research (and other tom-foolery) that I conduct here at Microsoft Research, in “my other life” I serve as the Editor-in-Chief of ACM’s Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction — more affectionately known as TOCHI to insiders, and which comprises the premiere archival journal of the field.

From time to time I spotlight particularly intriguing contributions that appear in the journal’s pages, and therefore to reward you, O devoted reader, I will be sharing those Editor’s Spotlights here as well.

Writing these up keeps me thoroughly acquainted with the contents of everything we publish in the journal, and also gives me the pleasure of some additional interaction with our contributors, one of whom characterized this Spotlight as:

“beautifully written. […] You’ve really captured the spirit of our work.”

He also reported that it put a smile on his face, but the truth is that it put an even bigger one on mine: I love sharing the most intriguing and provocative contributions that come across our pages.

Have a look, and I hope that you, too, will enjoy this glimpse of the wider world of human-computer interaction, a diverse and exciting field that often has profound implications for people’s everyday lives, shaped as they are by the emerging wonders of technology.


For the first article to highlight in the freshly-conceived Editor’s Spotlight, from TOCHI Issue 23:1 I selected a piece of work that strongly reminded me of the context of some of my own graduate research, which took place embedded in a neurosurgery department. In my case, our research team (consisting of both physicians and computer scientists) sought to improve the care of patients who were often referred to the university hospital with debilitating neurological conditions and extremely grave diagnoses.

When really strong human-computer interaction research collides with real-world problems like this, in my experience compelling clinical impact and rigorous research results are always hard-won but in the end they are well worth the above-and-beyond efforts required to make such interdisciplinary collaborations fly.

And the following TOCHI Editor’s Spotlight paper, in my opinion, is an outstanding example of such a contribution.


Navigating Giga-pixel Images in Digital Pathology

The diagnosis of cancer is serious business, yet in routine clinical practice pathologists still work on microscopes, with physical slides, because digital pathology runs up against many barriers—not the least of which are the navigational challenges raised by panning and zooming through huge (and I mean huge) image datasets on the order of multiple gigapixels. And that’s just for a single slide.

Few illustrations grace the article, but those that do—

They stop the reader cold.

Extract from a GI biopsy, showing malignant tissue at 400x magnification. (Fig. 3)

The ruddy and well-formed cells of healthy tissue from a GI biopsy slowly give way to an ill-defined frontier of pathology, an ever-expanding redoubt for the malignant tissue lurking deep within. One cannot help but be struck by the subtext that these images represent the lives of patients that face a dire health crisis.

Only by finding, comparing, and contrasting this tissue to other cross-sections and slides—scanned at 400x magnification and a startling 100,000 dots per inch—can the pathologist arrive at a correct and accurate diagnosis as to the type and extent of the malignancy.

This article stands out because it puts into practice—and challenges—accepted design principles for the navigation of such gigapixel images, against the backdrop of real work by medical experts.

These are not laboratory studies that strive for some artificial measure of “ecological validity”—no, here the analyses take place in the context of the real work of pathologists (using archival cases) and yet the experimental evaluations are still rigorous and insightful. There is absolutely no question of validity and the stakes are clearly very high.

While the article focuses on digital pathology, the insights and perspectives it raises (not to mention the interesting image navigation and comparison tasks motivated by clinical needs) should inform, direct, and inspire many other efforts to improve interfaces for navigation through large visualizations and scientific data-sets.

Roy Ruddle, Thomas Rhys, Rebecca Randell, Phil Quirke, and Darren Treanor. 2016. The Design and Evaluation of Interfaces for Navigating Gigapixel Images in Digital Pathology. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 1, Article 5 (February 2015), 29 pages. DOI=

Original Source: will update this post with the reference to the Spotlight as published in the journal when my editorial remarks appear in the ACM Digital Library.