The increasingly personal and ubiquitous capabilities of computing—everything from smartphones to virtual reality—are enabling us to build a brave new world in the digital realm. Despite these advances in the virtual world, our ability as end-users to transform the physical world still remains limited

The emergence of low-cost fabrication technology (most notably 3D printing) has brought us a dawn of making, promising to empower everyday users with the ability to fabricate physical objects of their own design. However, the technology itself is oblivious of the physical world—things are, in most cases, assumed to be printed from scratch in isolation from the real world objects they will be attached to and work with.

To bridge this ‘gulf of fabrication’, my thesis research focuses on developing fabrication techniques with design tool integration to enable users to expressively create designs that can be attached to and function with existing real-world objects. Specifically, my work explores techniques that leverage the 3D printing process to create attachments directly over, onto and around existing objects; a design tool further enables people to specify and generate adaptations that can be attached to and mechanically transform existing objects in user-customized ways; a user-driven approach allows people to express and iterate structures that are optimized to support existing objects; finally, a library of ‘embeddables’ demonstrate that existing objects can also augment 3D printed designs by embedding a large variety of material to realize different properties and functionalities.

Overall my thesis aspires to make fabrication real—enabling people to express, iterate and fabricate their designs that closely work with real-world objects to augment one another.

Thesis Committee:
Scott Hudson (Co-Chair)
Stelian Coros (Co-Chair, ETH Zurich)
Jodi Forlizzi
Tovi Grossman (Autodesk Research)

Copy of Thesis Document

About 19 million people in the US report difficulty seeing even with glasses or contact lenses. Many of these people havelow vision, which means that while they have functional vision, they have a visual impairment that affects their ability to perform daily activities. The vast majority of people with visual impairments have low vision and aren’t blind, but there has been very little research supporting this user group. In my talk, I’ll describe low vision and present an overview of the research my group is conducting in this area. We are working on studying the challenges that low vision people face when completing daily activities such as shopping and wayfinding, and designing novel applications to address these challenges. Our approach is to leverage computer vision along with the user’s residual vision and design augmented reality applications that enable people to complete daily tasks effectively.

Shiri Azenkot is an Assistant Professor of Information Science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, Cornell University. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Computer Science Department at the Technion--Israel Institute of Technology. Her research interests are in accessibility and interaction on new platforms. Shiri frequently publishes at top HCI and accessibility conferences, including CHI, ASSETS, UIST, and UbiComp. Currently, her research is funded by the NSF, AOL, Verizon, and Facebook. Before arriving at Cornell Tech, she was a PhD student in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where she was advised by Richard Ladner and Jacob Wobbrock. As a PhD student, Shiri received the UW graduate medal (awarded to just one PhD candidate at the university each year), a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and an AT&T Labs Graduate Fellowship.

Faculty Host: Jeff Bigham

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Despite the continued development of individual technologies and processes for supporting human endeavors, major leaps in solving complex human problems will require advances in system-level thinking and orchestration. In this talk, I describe efforts to design, build, and study Computational Ecosystems that interweave community process, social structures, and intelligent systems to unite people and machines to solve complex problems and advance human values at scale. Computational ecosystems integrate various components to support ecosystem function; the interplay among components synergistically advances desired values and problem solving goals in ways that isolated technologies and processes cannot. Taking a systems approach to design, computational ecosystems emphasize (1) computational thinking to decompose and distribute problem solving to diverse people or machines most able to address them; and (2) ecological thinking to create sustainable processes and interactions that support jointly the goals of ecosystem members and proper ecosystem function. I present examples of computational ecosystems designed to advance community-based planning and research training that respectively engages thousands of people in planning an event and empowers a single faculty member to provide authentic research training to 20+ students. These solutions demonstrate how to combine wedges of human and machine competencies into integrative technology-supported, community-based solutions. I will preview what's ahead for computational ecosystems, and close with a few thoughts on the role of computing technologies in advancing human values at scale.

Haoqi Zhang is the Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Chair of Design and Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Northwestern University. His work advances the design of integrated socio-technical models that solve complex problems and advance human values at scale. His research bridges the fields of Human-Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence, Social & Crowd Computing, Learning Science, and Decision Science, and is generously supported by National Science Foundation grants in Cyber-Human Systems, Cyberlearning, and the Research Initiation Initiative.

Haoqi received his PhD in Computer Science and BA in Computer Science and Economics from Harvard University. At Northwestern he founded and directs the Design, Technology, and Research (DTR) program, which provides an original model for research training for 50 graduate and undergraduate students. With Matt Easterday, Liz Gerber, and Nell O'Rourke, Haoqi co-directs the Delta Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab and design studio across computer science, learning science, and design.

Faculty Host: Jeff Bigham

In this lecture I argue that (interaction) design is changing from a “one product – one user” perspective towards a more “multiple products – multiple users” perspective, a systems perspective. I posit that this systems perspective brings new challenges to design, like ‘growth’ and ‘openness’, and that this necessitates a new design approach. I present our journey through a series of subsequent design challenges where we confront a rich, physical interaction style to the concept of open and growing systems and draw insights and lessons from each iteration. I conclude with the current state of the art in terms of approach and design tools.

Joep Frens is an assistant professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. His research focuses on the question of ‘how to design for open and growing systems’. He teaches courses on (interaction) design on all academic levels and advises a number of PhD students. In the academic year of 2014-2015 he held the Nierenberg Chair of Design at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Design.

Faculty Host: John Zimmerman

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Professor Carmel Majidi directs the Integrated Soft Materials Lab at CMU, Mechanical Engineering department. Currently, his group is focused on filled-elastomer composites and soft microfluidic systems that exhibit unique combinations of mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties and can function as “artificial” skin, nervous tissue, and muscle for soft robotics and wearables. We are honoured to have him here at HCII to share some exciting work his lab is conducting. It is highly relevant to the ones who are interested in material-driven interfaces, soft matter, flexible and tangible material interaction, and novel fabrication methods.

Dr. Carmel Majidi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he started as an assistant professor in 2011. Prior to joining the faculty, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory (2009-2011) and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (2007-2009). His experience in solid mechanics and microfabrication is the foundation of his current research in the emerging fields of soft robotics and active multifunctional materials.

The next generation of autonomous robots, assistive medical devices, and electronics will include systems that are soft, elastically deformable, and adapt their functionality to the changing demands of their operator and environment. Progress depends on new classes of multifunctional materials and soft machines for stretchable electronics, elastomer-based pneumatics, hyperelastic deformation sensing, and reversible shape and rigidity control.

Professor Majidi addresses these emerging challenges through a unique combination of rapid prototyping, soft-lithography microfabrication, and theoretical insights from solid mechanics. This includes innovations in liquid-embedded elastomer electronics (LE3) for stretchable sensors, circuits, and wearable computing.

Faculty Host: Lining Yao

The human mind remains an unparalleled engine of innovation, with its unique ability to make sense of complex information and find deep analogical connections driving progress in science and technology over the past millennia. The recent explosion of online information available in virtually every domain should present an opportunity for accelerating this engine; instead, it threatens to slow it as the information processing limits of individual minds are reached.

In this talk I discuss our efforts towards building a universal knowledge accelerator: a system in which the sensemaking people engage in online is captured and made useful for others, leading to virtuous cycles of constantly improving information sources that in turn help people more effectively synthesize and innovate. Approximately 70 billion hours per year in the U.S. alone are spent on complex online sensemaking in domains ranging from scientific literature to health; capturing even a fraction of this could provide significant benefits. We discuss three integrated levels of research that are needed to realize this vision: at the individual level in understanding and capturing higher order cognition; at the computational level in developing new interaction systems and AI partners for human cognition; and at the social level in developing complex and creative crowdsourcing and social computing systems.

Aniket Kittur is an Associate Professor and holds the Cooper-Siegel Chair in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research looks at how we can augment the human intellect using crowds and computation. He has authored and co-authored more than 70 peer-reviewed papers, 14 of which have received best paper awards or honorable mentions. Dr. Kittur is a Kavli fellow, has received an NSF CAREER award, the Allen Newell Award for Research Excellence, major research grants from NSF, NIH, Google, and Microsoft, and his work has been reported in venues including Nature News, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Slashdot, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He received a BA in Psychology and Computer Science at Princeton, and a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UCLA.

Lunch is provided: Registration Requested

At the dawn of the information age Herbert Simon advanced a view of design as a ‘science of the artificial’ that could be expressed by statements of declarative logic, and thus formalized as a scientific, measurable practice. While Simon’s bold claim manifested larger techno-cultural changes, it also helped configure a modern epistemology of design as a techno-scientific, computational, ‘performance-based,’ and (for the most part) future-tense practice. Further, it helped design gain the kind of academic legitimacy that was elusive to trade schools, and its current place in research universities as a field of rigorous inquiry and debate. However, it also entailed a paradox. Imagined as a quantifiable and objective process—akin to an algorithm¾ design could theoretically be independent from culture, material, and craft. The abstractions and formalisms of information theory and scientific management underlying ‘Simon’s shift’ permitted a divorce (in Lewis Mumford’s sense of the word) from the material and cultural fabrics that are inescapably the sites of design practices. Because of their roots in information theory and cybernetics—and of the physical and conceptual distance they introduce between designers and the situations of their designs— computational approaches to design and fabrication are doubly exposed to this paradox, and often explicate technologies as either agents of creative emancipation, or as passive supports, and obedient makers, of design.

In this talk, I will explore early disclosures of this paradox in 1960s debates between automation and augmentation in design, which configured a new view of design as a human-machine endeavor, and through a discussion of recent research at the Computational Design Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon. With these, I will propose that there is much to gain from exploring critical, speculative, and poetic technological systems —and from intervening in existing technological design infrastructures—in ways that acknowledge the specificity of their own material, geographical, and social arrangements.

Daniel Cardoso Llach is an Assistant Professor in the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture. His recent work includes the book Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design (Routledge, 2015), which identifies and documents the theories of design emerging from postwar technology projects at MIT, and traces critically their architectural repercussions. His writings have been published in journals including Design Issues, Architectural Research Quarterly (ARQ), and Thresholds, among others, and in several edited collections. He is a Graham Foundation grantee and the curator of a current exhibition on the history and contemporary practice of computational design at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon. Daniel holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, and a PhD and an MS (with honors) in Design and Computation from MIT. He has also been a research fellow at Leuphana (MECS), Germany, and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Faculty Host: Jodi Forlizzi


Learning from people represents a new and expanding frontier for data science. Two critical challenges in this domain are of developing algorithms for robust learning and designing incentive mechanisms for eliciting high-quality data. In this talk, I describe progress on these challenges in the context of two canonical settings, namely those of ranking and classification. In addressing the first challenge, I introduce a class of "permutation-based" models that are considerably richer than classical models, and present algorithms for estimation that are both statistically optimal and significantly more robust than prior state-of-the-art methods. I also discuss how these algorithms automatically adapt and are simultaneously also optimal over the classical models, thereby enjoying a surprising a win-win. As for the second challenge, I present a class of "multiplicative" incentive mechanisms, and show that they are the unique mechanisms that can guarantee honest responses. Extensive experiments on a popular crowdsourcing platform reveal that the theoretical guarantees of robustness and efficiency indeed translate to practice, yielding several-fold improvements over prior art.

Nihar B. Shah is an Assistant Professor in the Machine Learning and Computer Science departments at CMU. He is a recipient of the the 2017 David J. Sakrison memorial prize from EECS Berkeley for a "truly outstanding and innovative PhD thesis", the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship 2014-16, the Berkeley Fellowship 2011-13, the IEEE Data Storage Best Paper and Best Student Paper Awards for the years 2011/2012, and the SVC Aiya Medal 2010. His research interests include statistics, machine learning, and game theory, with a current focus on applications to learning from people.


Sophia Brueckner is a futurist artist, designer, and engineer. Inseparable from computers since the age of two, she believes she is a cyborg. At Google, she designed and implemented products used by tens of millions. At RISD and the MIT Media Lab, she combined the understanding that interfaces structure thought processes with ideas from cognitive behavioral therapy and embodied cognition to build sci-fi-inspired devices for mental well-being. She teaches an internationally renowned class on sci-fi prototyping and the ethics of design and invention. Her work has been featured by SIGGRAPH, Wired, NPR, and more. As an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, her ongoing objective is to combine her background in design and engineering with the perspective of an artist to create technologies that inspire a more positive future.

Sophia Brueckner, born in Detroit, MI, is an artist, designer, and engineer. Inseparable from computers since the age of two, she believes she is a cyborg. She received her Sc.B. in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from Brown University. As a software engineer at Google, she designed and implemented products used by tens of millions and later on experimental projects within Google Research.

Brueckner earned her MFA in Digital + Media at the Rhode Island School of Design where she explored the simultaneously empowering and controlling aspects of technology (UX design and computer promming in particular) through her artwork. At the MIT Media Lab, she combined the understanding that interfaces structure thought processes with ideas from cognitive behavioral therapy and embodied cognition to design and build haptic devices for mental health.

Brueckner feels an urgency to understand and raise awareness of technology's controlling effects, and to encourage the ethical and thoughtful design of new technologies. To do so, she teaches Sci-Fi Prototyping, a course combining science fiction, building functional prototypes, and the ethics of invention/design. Since 2011, she taught multiple versions of the class to students and researchers at MIT, Harvard, RISD, Brown, and the University of Michigan. Both the class itself as well as the students’ individual projects received international recognition and were featured by The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, Wired, NPR, Scientific American, Fast Company, and many others.

Brueckner’s work has been featured internationally including at SIGGRAPH, ISEA, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Leaders in Software and Art Conference in New York. She is especially interested in the application of embodied cognition to interaction design, wearable technology, digital fabrication, generative systems, sound, and, as a technology antidote, painting. She recently joined the University of Michigan's Stamps School of Art and Design as an assistant professor (with a courtesy appointment in the School of Information) where teaches sci-fi prototyping, digital fabrication, design, and creative programming. Her ongoing objective is to meaningfully combine her background in UX design and engineering with the perspective of an artist to create technologies that inspire a more positive future.

Faculty Host: Karen Berntsen

The rate of change in our world is breathtaking. Many organizations simply cannot evolve quick enough to capitalize on this change and prepare for the future. Left to their own devices, they will continue to address their markets and customers with the traditional processes and tactics with which they are familiar (surprise! It is not likely to work well). Designers have great potential to inspire transformative change. The human-centered processes that we employ are impervious to the technical and organizational factors that hinder an organization’s ability to shape and participate in a bright future. User research is a powerful tool to identify real value and should inform every strategy for a better tomorrow.

Jeremy Koempel is Co-Founder and Design Lead for Bessemer Alliance. His career has enabled him to explore challenging issues around the world, work in a wide range of markets with extraordinary people and gather praise, patents, awards and wonderful experiences along the way. His passions are human centered design, architectural thinking, making things beautiful, hacking bits and physical things, and helping organizations to realize transformative change.

Faculty Host: Skip Shelley


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