Kinematic Templates

I read the paper entitled Kinematic Templates: End-User Tools for Content-Relative Cursor Manipulations by Richard Fung, Edward Lank, Michael Terry at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Click here to read the paper.

Kinematic templates represent an area of drawing somewhere between completely freehand and rigidly defined drawing tools. Basically, kinematic templates actively adjust cursor movement in specific ways to aid the drawing of regular shapes, such as circles and lines, while retaining the human element that is lost by using shape tools.

Kinematic templates are especially useful when drawing with an input device that is not designed for drawing, such as a mouse. However, they are also useful for cleaning up drawings done with a drawing tablet. These tools can also be used by people learning how to draw or who just want to create a simple, clear drawing. Of course, they can be used by professional artists as well, if desired.

The research team has developed several different templates to aid drawing. These include templates to guide movement parallel to an axis, along orthogonal axes, concentrically about a point, through a point, around a point, and many others which are all listed in Table 1 in the paper.

To use the kinematic templates, the user defines regions in the composition in which the templates will take effect. This is illustrated very well in the video above. Different templates can be layered to help create more complex shapes.

The following image gives an example of using kinematic templates to draw a sun:

The research team has created two types of kinematic templates: passive templates and active templates. Passive templates only affect the cursor when it is moving. Active templates can move the cursor when it is held in place. It should be noted that the templates only take affect when the mouse button is held down, so "users cannot completely lose control of the cursor when using kinematic templates" (p4).

In addition to the pre-defined templates, users can create their own templates using Python scripts.

The research team is considering several areas of future research, including automatically generating templates based on existing compositions or imported images.

Please read their paper to discover more details and how the kinematic templates work.

Elevator Ethnography

George Lucchese, Eric Scott, and I performed a study of people's elevator usage at the West Campus Garage on campus at Texas A&M.

We initially wanted to observe people using elevators and see if we could find some interesting information about their usage. Since it is pretty difficult to observe all the floors at the same time, we had to figure out an interesting way to do this. Our solution was to observe the elevators in the West Campus Parking Garage, since its set of elevators is behind a glass wall and each elevator has a large windows. This enabled us to observe all the elevators on all the floors at the same time. We could easily see how many people were in an elevator and which floors they got on and off on. As an added bonus, the stairwell was right beside the elevators and also was behind a huge glass wall, so we decided to monitor the stair usage as well and compare it to the elevator usage.

This is a view of the elevators and stairs as seen from our observation point.

We recorded the gender, transportation method, number of floors traveled, and direction traveled for each person that used the elevator or stairs. We performed our observations at three times of the day: 9:00am, 12:00pm, and 5:30pm.

We gathered a large amount of data and immediately entered it into the computer and started making charts and graphs. In the end, we ended up with 11 interesting charts, most of which illustrated the obvious.

Here are some observations we made from our charts:
People travel more floors by stairs earlier in the day and fewer floors as the day goes on.

People travel about the same number of floors by elevator all day long.

People walk up stairs more floors than they walk downstairs.

People take the elevator the same number of floors whether they are going up or down.

Females tend to travel more floors than males do.

Males travel a lower number of floors than females do.

Males travel to the roof twice as much as females do. (Possible data error due to small sample size)

The same number of people travel only one floor.

Many more people travel down in the morning, and many more people travel up in the evening.

A few more people travel down at noon.

More people take the elevator than take the stairs.

People usually travel one or two floors on the stairs. Few people travel more floors on the stairs. The exact opposite is true for elevators.

Fery few people park on the first floor or roof of the garage.

People travel about the same number of floors in the morning (except the first floor and the roof).

People travel more floors at noon.

People travel fewer floors in the evening.

People travel up a few floors more than many floors.

People travel down many floors more than a few floors.

Males tend to use the elevator more often than females use the elevator for any number of floors.

As you can see, most of this data seems normal. In fact, it is.

We did come up with a couple interesting observations. First of all, we observed that most people will take the stairs if traveling two or less floors, i.e. going from the first floor to the third floor. In this case, about 75% of people will take the stairs. If traveling more than two floors, the number of people taking the stairs dramatically decreases to about 20%. We also observed that males tend to use the elevator more than females do, no matter how many floors they are traveling.

While our data does not give any immediately useful information, we believe it can be used as a basis for many other studies that can be done for both elevator/stair usage and parking issues on campus.

The Mole People

The Mole People is an interesting study of homeless people who live in the tunnels beneath New York City. It is an extensive ethnography that reveals many details about tunnel dwellers and attempts to lower the negative perception of these people.

It is written by a woman who frequently went into the tunnels and talked with and made friends with many of the homeless who live there. She wants everyone to have respect for these people, as most people hate the tunnel dwellers and view them as the "outcasts of the outcasts."

This book shows that there are many different kinds of people who live in the tunnels. Some seek shelter from the danger of the streets, some enjoy the darkness and cave-like feel, some are gangs hiding from the law, and some are intelligent people with educations who just prefer to be homeless. Some are single, some are in relationships, some have families, and some reject relationships and society altogether. There are also people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Some people have always been homeless, some ran away from home, some lost a home, and some purposefully left a home. Some want to return to the surface, and some want to stay in the tunnels.

This book describes the lives and personalities of all these types of people, illustrating the diverse nature of these people who all live in various types of tunnels at varying depths underground.

The Mole People is as entertaining as it is educational, and I enjoyed this book and found it fascinating. The author tells the stories of the various people as stories, which educate while simultaneously entertaining. Some of the stories are funny, and some are sad. They all reveal important details about the people who live in the tunnels. I would recommend this book.

The Media Equation

The Media Equation is a book which illustrates that people treat all media, including images, television, and computers, as they would treat real people. Many studies are done on groups which explore specific attributes people apply to media. The authors explore several specific topics within broad categories such as manners, personality, emotion, social roles, and form. Each chapter presents a study done in a particular area of the categories mentioned above. The hypotheses of the authors are all confirmed in each chapter, which goes to show how much people do treat media as fellow humans.

I like this book, in particular because it showed just how deep people's relationship with different media really is. I know that people treat computers like other people, but prior to reading this book I did not know just how deep that relationship goes, or that is applies to many types of media. The structure of the book makes it non-surprising, but when I pull back and think about the things it discusses, I truly am surprised that people behave in such ways. As such, I would recommend this book to others.

This book was pretty easy to read for a few reasons. First of all, the language used is aimed at a general audience. No overly technical terms are used, and any that are used are explained fully. The authors made sure everybody can understand this book. Second, every chapter comes to a positive conclusion. This makes it easy to predict the outcome of the chapter and to review the book, since the reader does not have to check to see if some experiments were failures. Finally, each chapter is organized in the same way. First, the hypothesis is presented with an explanation why the authors thought this. Second, the studies they perform are described in detail, with a few "rules" that basically summarize the hypotheses. Finally, the conclusions are presented with a discussion of why the particular results probably occurred.