Conference Preview

As technology use in daily life continues to increase, so does the responsibility for human-computer interaction professionals to design and implement elegant, secure, useful and usable interactive environments that enhance the quality of life. Presenters from companies such as Google, Facebook, eBay, and Yahoo! will join scholars from universities including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Toronto to share ideas and further develop the quality of human-computer interaction at this year’s ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, (CHI 2014), scheduled 26 April - 1 May 2014 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Canada's Margaret Atwood, world-famous writer, high-tech entrepreneur and inventor, will offer an opening keynote on 28 April with a talk entitled Robotics in my Work and Life. In addition to being a successful author who explores possible futures and the inventor of the LongPen, a tele-remote device that enables authors to give readings and sign books without being physically present, Ms. Atwood received the Arthur C. Clark Award for Science Fiction.

“The exchange of ideas with industry, research and academia is vital for understanding and further developing the field of human-computer interaction. Our conference offers a robust program of emerging interaction research and technologies” explains Matt Jones, CHI 2014 Conference Co-Chair and Professor at Swansea University, Wales. I and my Conference Co-Chair, Philippe Palanque, Professor at Institute de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse, France, invite you to join us in exploring the future of interaction technologies at CHI 2014.

About the CHI Conference

Originally a small conference for psychologists interested in user interface design, the annual CHI conference has grown to include a very diverse participant group such as interaction designers, computer scientists, engineering psychologists, developers,  and performing artists. It deals with larger problems such as the organizational integration of technology and the use of technology in all areas of life. This year’s conference marks 32 years of research, innovation and development in the field of Human-Computer Interaction and is expected to draw about 3,000 professionals from 49 countries. The experience at CHI 2014 offers innovative opportunities for interacting with future technologies.

Featuring over 500 works, the CHI conference is the premier worldwide forum for the exchange of all aspects of human-computer interaction. These works are presented in several venues including panel discussions; paper sessions; case studies; courses; workshops; a doctoral consortium; special interest group sessions; student design, research and game competitions; interactive demonstrations (Interactivity) and Video Showcase (popcorn and cookies included). Presentations cover an immense range of topics including privacy and security, health maintenance, speculative research visions, designing for children, and use of technology in developing regions.

The following areas represent a small portion of this year’s conference. For complete information, consult the CHI 2014 program.

Presentations of Special Interests

  • Opening Keynote: Margaret Atwood will give the opening keynote with a talk entitled Robotics in my Work and Life.
  • Closing Keynote: The Physical Web will be presented by Scott Jenson, technology leader at Google. His talk will discuss the network of things, a future in which many devices, such as wall switches and lightbulbs, will be able to join the network and be controllable remotely.
  • Paper: CHI 2039: Speculative Research Visions offers the opportunity to consider how visions of the future influence today’s research.
  • Panel: Electronic Privacy and Surveillance will discuss the usability of privacy tools, how to design interactive technologies with privacy as a primary consideration while incorporating user-design practices.

These presentations describe a future of vastly more networked devices that make the current problems of privacy and security look pretty minor. Imagine the equivalent of malware when your network devices are things such as your home thermostat and furnace. A malicious attack could burn your house down or merely make your heating bill enormous. Privacy and security are no longer optional.

A Glimpse of the Future

Dark Side of the Net

Possible solutions to problems we face because so much of our life is on the Net.

Privacy and Security

New research and ideas on how to control who reads my email and collects my data.

The Physical Web

New research on interacting with computers using ordinary objects.

Hacker Spaces

Human-Computer Interaction innovation in Do-It-Yourself communities.

Social Media

New research on the effects of social media on real communities.

Health and Well Being

New human-computer interaction strategies for maintaining or improving health.


New research guiding the development of future games.

Designing for Children

User interface design with children in mind.

Technology in Developing Regions


In addition to the technical presentations, CHI 2014 offers a diverse series of 31 courses. These courses range from basic classes, such as Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction to narrowly focused advanced topics such as How Social Media Design Reshapes Society and Including Children in Technology Design Processes: Techniques and Practices.

Special Presentations

Nathan Eagle, co-founder and CEO of Jana Mobile Inc., speaks about Big Data for Social Good. He considers the vast information now available from data generated from human movements, transactions and communication patterns with everyday technologies such as mobile phones and credit cards.

John “Scooter” Morris, of the University of California at San Francisco, speaks about A CHI Story – past, present and the next chapters. As a bioinformatician and hard-core hacker, Morris has contributed significant work to develop and support SIGCHI conferences and the field of human-computer interaction. He will report on his involvement with CHI from 1985 through 2014.

Gillian Crampton Smith, an Interface Design expert with the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam, receives the Lifetime Practice Award and speaks about “Design: No Longer an Optional Extra.” Her presentation will address the importance of designing the interaction between people, devices, systems and services.

Elizabeth Churchill, Director of HCI at eBay Research Labs, presents Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 4. She will discuss the emerging landscape of mediated interaction and offer examples of engaging Internet experiences.

Professional Networking / Tuesday Night Job Fair

The combination of technical sessions and courses along with informal conversations help form a community of Human-Computer Interaction professionals. Many attendees return each year because the relationships formed with other members of the community are as important as technical presentations. Conference participants can spend their days encountering unexpected new ideas and take advantage of formal and informal networking opportunities to discuss them. Of special interest is the Tuesday night Job Fair, a scheduled time for interested participants to explore employment opportunities. Many of CHI’s exhibitors are active recruiters, in addition to demonstrating prototypes or fully developed products.

Interactivity (Interactive Demonstrations and Performances)

Interactivity is a highly immersive program that features 63 hands-on demonstrations and performances. Interactivity is an opportunity to fully engage at a personal level by touching, squeezing, hearing, or even smelling interactive visions for the future. They come as prototypes, demos, artworks, design experiences as well as inspirational technologies. Interactivity promotes and provokes discussion about the role of technology by actively engaging attendees one-by-one.

Wearable Computing Exhibit

The Wearable Computing Exhibit represents an extensive collection of on-body and wearable devices that reflect the evolution of electronic textiles, advances in battery life, on-body interfaces and head mounted displays. The exhibit materials begin in 2001 and continue to the present and are curated by Thad Starner and Clint Zeagler of Georgia Institute of Technology.

Public Presentation of Wearables, Interactivity and Video Showcase / Tuesday Night

In case you just want a peek of the conference, come and experience the Interactivity hands-on exhibits, Wearable Technology exhibits and Video Showcase on Tuesday, 29 April, from 17:30 - 19:30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This special event provides an opportunity to glance at the past and future of interactive technologies.

Admission $10.

Conference Sponsors

ACM --- ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, delivers resources that advance computing as a science and a profession. ACM provides the computing field’s premier Digital Library and serves its members and the computing profession with leading-edge publications, conferences, and career resources. Please visit ACM for more information.

SIGCHI --- Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is the focus of ACM’s Special Interest Group, SIGCHI, the host organization for the annual CHI Conference. ACM SIGCHI embraces work on the hardware and software engineering of interactive systems, the structure of communication between human and machine, characterization of the experience, use, and context of use for interactive systems, methodology of design, and new designs themselves. Preeminent in its field, ACM SIGCHI provides you with a wide-ranging forum for the exchange of ideas with others interested in HCI. Please visit ACM SIGCHI for more information.

Organizations contributing to the financial support of the conference include Champion Sponsors Autodesk, Bloomberg, Google, Inc., GRAND NCE, Microsoft Corp., NAVER,  and the Computer Science Department of the University of Toronto.