Elin Rønby Pedersen

Research areas, 1990 - 2005

an annotated list of works

The following is a hyperlinked index to the main areas of my research, primarily represented by scientific papers and the intellectual property from the research.

My scientific research is centered in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). In the past I have made significant pioneering contribution to the larger research domain:

My research is characterized by a strong anchoring in the cognitive and social reality of people who might use the technology. In my approach, 50% of the inspiration and innovation comes from observing people and technology; the other 50% comes from working on and building the technology.

In recent years I have increasingly focused on two hard questions: how to make research have more impact, and how to make better decision about where to limited research resources. I co-developed a blueprint for an innovation process that embraces both technology prototyping and ethnographic exploration of usage domains.


Facile and Implicit HCI

Social and mobile HCI

Tangible HCI

Usage informed innovation


User Activity Monitoring




Usage informed innovation




Paper tagging w/ RFID





Paper tagging w/ barcodes





Augmented reality





Adding social awareness to calling





Peripheral awareness




Domestic media spaces





Gesture interaction




Pen-based interaction




Walkup interface to shared electronic whiteboard



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Usage-informed innovation, UITTL

UITTL (pronounced like "whittle") is a general process for usage informed innovation. It was created in 2002 as a blueprint of current best practices in user-involved and usage-informed innovation, condensed by Jeanette Blomberg and Elin R Pedersen, based on our combined experience from more than 20 years of R&D experience.

The UITTL process defines several phases in the innovation process, including the survey, the design & deployment cycle(s), and the impact assessment. A UITTL project should be kept short, at most 6 months from start to finish, though we will typically see that an unfinished theme from one project might be taken up as the primary focus in another.

The UITTL process is a parallel track of ethno-style studies of people and rapid prototyping. Ethnographers will discover issues and opportunities in the usage domain. The entire team will study these in a series of design sessions and eventually prioritize them. A running prototype addressing the highest priority issues will be developed to be inserted into a real usage situation. Careful data gathering before and after the technology intervention will allow the team to assess the true impact, positive and negative, of the technology.

As of February 2005, four UITTL projects have been successfully completed while several other are still ongoing at client sites. The goal in each of these projects have been to provide a value proposition for a product concept, thus the results look more like a business prospect that a product specification.

Francesca Barrientos, Elin Rønby Pedersen, Irem Y. Tumer:
Towards failure based decision making during design: user-centered design meets design methods research. In Proceedings of SMC 2005 conference, Hawaii, IEEE Press, 2005
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Implicit Human-Computer Interaction

User Activity Monitoring - Firebird

The Firebird incubation project sought to identify and address major challenges in information management that we expect future business users will be facing. Firebird led to new ways of making relationships true 1st class citizen in information work: we designed a relation-centric interaction space, and we created a new method for automatically creating and maintaining relationships based on usage, along with an targeted implementation of this as a software tool.

Elin Rønby Pedersen, Jeanine Spence, David McDonald:
User Activity Monitoring as Source for Inter-Document Relationships. Submitted for review.
Appl. NO. Title
2005 314545 Relating documents according to user activity
20070130145 User activity based document analysis

Social and mobile human-computer interaction

Most computer interactions require high degrees of explicitness and even premeditation from the user. However, media spaces as they evolved in the early 90s were example of systems that did not require the same focused attention and intention as traditional computer applications.

Taking the lessons form mediaspaces, how could we best arrange technology so it would support people communicating or just staying in touch. It soon turned out that many subtle, implicit mechanisms and extensive ambiguity are at the core of successful human to human interaction.

The overall design focus in a series of projects was to explore human computer interactions with little or no explicit interaction required, using variations of media spaces as the technology basis. As part of the exploration we managed to tease out a framework for understanding the relationship between attention and intention (see Tacit Interaction framework, talk at Stanford). Of these projects, AROMA required the least interaction; TactGuide required intention but "occupied" only a narrow range of the haptic perception; Casablanca and Calls.Calm was the system closest to traditional intentional load.

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The Casablanca project explored how media space concepts could be incorporated into households and family life. This effort included prototypes built for the researchers' own home use, field studies of households, and consumer testing of design concepts.

PAT. NO. Title
6,282,206 Variable bandwidth communication systems and methods

Appl. NO. Title
20010037508 Variable bandwidth communication systems and methods
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Peripheral awareness is a powerful human capability. The AROMA project pioneered a technological support for it.

AROMA is an attempt to mediate mutual awareness among people who are geographically dispersed but want to be in touch. AROMA captures activity in a remote location and creates an abstract representation of this activity in locations that are subscribing to it. The abstract representations serve to save bandwidth, protect privacy for the producer and lower the level of attention required by the consumer

Elin Rønby Pedersen and Tomas Sokoler:
AROMA - Abstract representation of mediated presence supporting mutual awareness. Proceedings of CHI 97 conference, Atlanta, ACM Press, 1997.
Elin Rønby Pedersen and Tomas Sokoler:
Awareness Technology: Experiments With Abstract Representation. Proceedings of HCI International '97 conference, San Francisco, Elsevier Publ,  August 1997.
Elin Rønby Pedersen:
People Presence or Room Activity. Proceedings of CHI 98 conference, Los Angeles, ACM Press

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Calls.calm helps people make better use of their communication channels, at times and in ways that fit both parties. When somebody ("caller") wants to get in touch with another person ("callee") she browses to the callee’s "interaction page". The interaction page is created dynamically, based on the specific relationship between caller and callee. It provides the caller with key information about the callee’s situation, allowing her to make an educated choice of time and means for communication.

Calls.calm may be best understood if you take the instant event of somebody placing a call to a friend or colleague -and then you stretch it in time. This manipulation allows the caller to make a more gradual approach to the callee, first learning something about the current situation of the callee and then deciding if and how to progress. An interaction space is provided to the caller - accessible through his or her communication device of choice. This interaction space can include visibility information that informs the caller about the status of the callee, accessibility information that provides the caller with a list of communication channels available to the caller, and continuity information that includes information and action facilitation data that reflect the ongoing interaction between the caller and the callee.

Elin Rønby Pedersen:
Calls.Calm: Enabling Caller and Callee to Collaborate . Proceedings of CHI 2001 Conference, Seattle, ACM Press, 2001.
Elin Rønby Pedersen:
Restoring Collaboration and Context in Communication. Submitted for review.

Pat. NO. Title
6,580,438 Systems and methods for managing electronic communications

Appl. NO. Title
20020118807 Systems and methods for managing electronic communications
20020069249 Systems and methods for managing electronic communications using various negotiation techniques
20020059527 Systems and methods for managing electronic communications using token information to adjust access rights

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Tangible Human-Computer Interaction

Non-computer interfaces

The above mentioned AROMA project was an exploration of social awareness as well as non-computer centric interaction. The TactGuide project moved us even further away from the classical input/output devices of the computer.


Most navigation tools take over control and require you to rely exclusively on their guidance. Tactguide doesn't monopolize your senses and the operation of it blends in with the overall way-finding task

Tomas Sokoler, Les Nelson and Elin Rønby Pedersen:
Low-Resolution Supplementary Tactile Cues for Navigational Assistance.
In Conference Proceedings of Mobile HCI 2002, Lecture Notes in Computer Science series, Springer-Verlag

PAT. NO. Title
6,320,496 Systems and methods providing tactile guidance using sensory supplementation

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Paper interfaces

Two general questions were explored in the context of paper interfaces to computational systems:

Do paper interfaces -- and other tangible interfaces -- help the user to off-load important intellectual tasks (like operating a computer) and replace them with motor tasks (like flipping through a stack of cards). Palette and PaperButtons explored the opportunities of enhancing paper by embedded computer readable tags.

If that is indeed the case, it becomes important to learn what can and should be represented on paper, and how to facilitate a smooth transition back and forth. Several UITTL projects have looked at ways to use image representation of information that doesn't need to be converted to electronic form. [Publications on both the UITTL method and specific paper interfaces explored in some of the UITTL projects can be expected starting mid 2005 - the delay is due to client's restrictions]

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Palette and PaperButton

Palette takes some of the stress out of giving a presentation. Using Palette, the presenter controls her presentation by directly manipulating a pile of index cards. In preparation for a presentation the presenter will produce the index cards that are printed with slide content and a barcode - thus easily identified by both humans and computers.

Palette help the user during the demanding time of giving a presentation, but the solution was not perfect - at least two nagging problems remained: (1) techniques were lacking for bringing changes decided from the paper card version back into the computer; and (2) people tend to deploy increasingly more complex functionality and the simple "a card is a slide" model was hard to scale accordingly. The latter problem was partly addressed in the subsequent PaperButton project.

Les Nelson, Satoshi Ichimura, Lia Adams, and Elin Rønby Pedersen:
Palette: A Paper Interface for Giving Presentations.
In Proceedings of CHI'99  (Pittsburgh, PA, April 1999), ACM Press
Satoshi Ichimura, Les Nelson, and Elin Rønby Pedersen:
CardGear: A Presentation System Manipulated with Paper Cards. (Written in Japanese).
In Proceedings of Interaction 2000 Symposium, Information Society of Japan. Pp. 17-24.
Elin Rønby Pedersen, Tomas Sokoler, Les Nelson:
PaperButtons: Expanding a Tangible User Interface . In Proceedings of DIS'2000, ACM

PAT. NO. Title
6,732,915 Systems and methods for controlling a presentation using physical objects
6,580,438 Systems and methods for maintaining uniformity in a presentation environment
6,509,909 Systems and methods for controlling a presentation using physical objects
6,195,093 Systems and method for controlling a presentation using physical objects
7,577,916 Method and apparatus for management and representation of dynamic context

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Facile human-computer interaction - Ubiquitous Computing

The LiveBoard and Tivoli projects were both part of the ubiquitous computing vision in which computation "blends into the woodwork". A main challenge in the Liveboard project was how to best put computational power and magic behind the well known whiteboard, without sacrificing its immediacy and ease of use.

Tivoli focused on providing computer support to freehand drawing while also providing a large interaction surface and support for remote collaboration. Tivoli allowed users to treat the LiveBoard as a simple multi-page whiteboard that they can scribble on with electronic pens.


The Liveboard prototyped the concept of interactive walls. New interaction paradigms were needed for work surfaces this large; they would have to support collaborative work and free form interaction. The UbiComp software team ported several applications to the Liveboard by adding support for multiple pen input and trying to add features to compensate for the lack of overview you might have when working at the board. A special "walk-up" user interface was also developed, allowing users to ignore the underlying unix machine.


Scott Elrod, Richard Bruce, David Goldberg, Frank Halasz, William Janssen, David Lee, Kim McCall, Elin Rønby Pedersen, Ken Pier, John Tang and Brent Welch:
Liveboard: A large interactive display supporting group meetings, presentations and remote collaboration.
Chapter 12 in Ronald M. Baecker (ed.) Readings in Groupware and Computer Supported Cooperative Work: Assisting Human-Human Collaboration. Morgan-Kaufmann Publishers, 1993, pp 709-717 (Reprint of the CHI '92 paper as book chapter)

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A prevalent approach in pen computing in the early 90s was to quickly transform the user's scribblings into vectorized objects like letters, digit, boxes and lines. The Tivoli team objected to this approach as being disruptive in the natural flow of idea generation. The assumption behind Tivoli was that computing could be utilized in many other and better ways, and the approach was to interactively develop a tool that would carefully assess what would be helpful to the users and what would be getting in the way of their primary tasks. Pen-based interaction in this context opens up new user interface techniques, such as gesturing and wiping.

Being electronic, simultaneous whiteboard activity can be shared dynamically with connected Tivolis.

Later research looked into using gestures in the computer interaction: Using our hands comes so natural to us; how can we make the computer "understand" our gestures without having to strap ourselves to unlovely technology? Prototypes using video based capture of hand gestures were combined with the definition of a minimal gesture language.

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Elin Rønby Pedersen, Kim McCall, Thomas Moran, Frank Halasz:
Tivoli: An Electronic Whiteboard for Informal Workgroup Meetings
In Baecker, Grudin, Buxton, Greenberg (eds.), Readings in Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, May 1995. (Reprint of the InterCHI 93 paper as book chapter)
Thomas Moran, Kim McCall, Bill van Melle, Elin Rønby Pedersen, and Frank Halasz:
Some Design Principles for Sharing in Tivoli, a Whiteboard Meeting Support Tool.
In S. Greenberg, Haynes, and Rada (eds.) Real-Time Group Drawing and Writing Tools, pp 24-36. McGraw-Hill Book Company of Europe, 1995.

PAT. NO. Title
5,548,705 Wiping metaphor as a user interface for operating on graphical objects on an interactive graphical display
5,404,439 Time-space object containment for graphical user interface
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