IFI Summer School 2011

The IFI Summer School on Interaction, Visualization, and Ubiquitous Computing is a week-long event for graduate students and research assistants in informatics and related fields, where invited experts teach a number of different topics in day-long courses. The topics this year come from the fields of Human–Computer Interaction, Multimedia and Robotics. The summer school is organized by the People and Computing Group (ZPAC), the Visualization and Multimedia Lab (VMML), and the AI Lab of the Department of Informatics at the University of Zurich. For inquiries, please contact Prof. Elaine M. Huang at huang[at]ifi[dot]uzh[dot]ch.

Dates and Location

The summer school will take place July 4-8, 2011 at the University of Zurich BIN (Binzmühlestrasse 14, IFI/Department of Informatics, 8050 Zürich) Courses will be held in room 2.A.01 and run from 9:00-17:00 (check-in starts at 8:45) with coffee and lunch breaks.

Overview of the week




ECTS credits

Mon, July 4 Human-Robot Interaction: Policy Learning Dr. Brenna Argall 0.5 Doctoral Course
Tues, July 5 Information Visualization: Making Data Understandable Dr. Petra Isenberg 0.5 Doctoral Course
Weds, July 6 Physical Protoyping Dr. Rafael "Tico" Ballagas 0.5 Methodology
Thurs, July 7 Virtual Reality and Tele-Immersion Prof. Dr. Oliver Staadt 0.5 Doctoral Course
Fri, July 8 Building Mobile Experiences Frank Bentley 0.5 Methodology

Daily schedule (subject to change as needed by instructors)

8:45 - 9:00 Check-in
9:00 - 10:15 Instruction
10:15 - 10:45 Coffee break
10:45 - 12:00 Instruction
12:00 - 13:00 Lunch (@mensa, not included in cost)
13:00 - 14:45 Instruction
14:45 - 15:15 Coffee break
15:15 - 17:00 Instruction

All registered students are also invited to attend the summer school social event, which will take place on Thursday, July 7 directly following the course. Details to follow.


The Summer School is open to doctoral students in computer science and related fields from the University of Zurich as well as other universities. Registration is free for IfI research assistants and doctoral students. For all other students, fees are 90 CHF for the entire five-day summer school, or 20CHF for individual courses. Attendance will be capped at 40 people per course. Preference will be given to IFI doctoral students and research assistants, and other participants will be admitted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Registration for the Summer School is now closed. For further information, please contact Prof. Huang at huang[at]ifi[dot]uzh[dot]ch.


Human–Robot Interaction: Policy Learning

Instructor: Dr. Brenna Argall (EPFL)

The development of robot control policies is challenging for a variety of reasons ranging from noisy sensors to inaccurate world models. Policy development typically requires a significant amount of expertise and effort on the part of the human programmer, and frequently results in policies that are wanting for increased robustness or flexibility. These lectures will overview approaches that aim to increase policy robustness, and alternately or additionally reduce the requirements place on the human programmer by employing policy learning techniques that benefit at some level from information provided by a human teacher. Particular focus will be given to the development of policies for motion control. From the perspective of human-robot interaction, in these works emphasis is placed with the robot rather than the human. The discussion of interaction for policy learning will furthermore be extended, with a presentation of example domains characterized by human-robot and robot-robot interaction during policy execution.

Information Visualization: Making Data Understandable

Instructor:Dr. Petra Isenberg (INRIA)

Download slides

Information visualization is a research area that focuses on making structures and content of large and complex data sets visually understandable and interactively analyzable. The goal of information visualization tools and techniques is to increase our ability to gain insight and make decisions for many types of datasets, tasks, and analysis scenarios. With the increase in size and complexity of data sets today, the research area of information visualization increasingly gains in importance and recognition.

In this course students will:

  • learn principles of data representation and interaction
  • learn about a variety of existing applications, tools, and techniques
  • develop an understanding of and ability to critique information visualizations

The course will include both lectures as well as practical hands-on exercises.

Physical Prototyping

Instructor: Dr. Rafael 'Tico' Ballagas (Nokia Research)

Download slides (PDF, 14197 KB)

This course will serve as an introduction and hands-on workshop to design and create novel physical computing experiences. We will leverage the open-source Arduino electronics prototyping platform. I will give a brief introduction to electronics including sensors and actuators (both analog and discrete). The course will showcase some motivating examples, and demonstrate how to design and build novel physical UIs using Processing and other authoring tools. The workshop phase of the course will be a hands-on lab that will include walk through tutorials and team project exercises. By the end of the course, you will be ready to independently build your own physical computing interfaces using the Arduino platform.

Virtual Reality and Tele-Immersion

Instructor: Prof. Dr. Oliver Staadt (University of Rostock)

With recent developments in emerging displays and interaction devices, the use of virtual reality technology has spread from research labs to applications in science, engineering, and simulation, as well as movie theaters and the living room. Further extending virtual reality to tele-presence will allow distant users to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

This course will cover the fundamental aspects of virtual reality and tele-presences, including novel display systems, interaction devices and human factors.

Building Mobile Experiences

Instructor: Frank Bentley (Motorola Mobility)

Download slides (PDF, 3144 KB)

Mobile computing allows for new types of interaction with others and with the world. By using location, environmental capture, and ubiquitous access to one's friends and family, mobile experiences can provide rich new ways to experience the world. This course will discuss these unique properties of mobile computing, the constraints of today's technology, and a design process for rapidly creating new mobile apps and services. Students will work in small groups to create a novel mobile application through paper prototyping and usability evaluations, culminating in a semi-functional working prototype created through Google's App Inventor for Android.


Brenna Argall (EPFL)

Brenna Argall is a postdoctoral fellow in the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). She received her Ph.D. in Robotics (2009) from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, as well as her M.S. in Robotics (2006) and B.S. in Mathematics (2002). Prior to graduate school, she held a Computational Biology position in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the National Institutes of Health, while investigating visualization techniques for neural fMRI data. Her research interests lie at the intersection of robotics and machine learning, and focus on learning robot motion control from demonstration and enriching behavior development with human feedback. In the fall of 2011 she will be joining the faculty of Northwestern University as an assistant professor in rehabilitation robotics.

Petra Isenberg (INRIA)

Petra Isenberg is a research scientist at INRIA, Saclay, France in the Aviz research group. Prior to joining INRIA, Petra received her PhD from the University of Calgary in 2009 and her Diplom-degree in Computational Visualistics from the University of Magdeburg in 2004. Her main research area is information visualization and visual analytics with a focus on collaborative work scenarios. She is interested in exploring how people can most effectively work together when analyzing large and complex data sets on novel display technology such as touch-screens or tabletops.

Rafael 'Tico' Ballagas (Nokia Research Palo Alto)

Dr. Rafael "Tico" Ballagas is an interaction designer and human-computer interaction researcher at Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, CA. To facilitate exploration of physical interfaces, he developed the iStuff and iStuff Mobile toolkits which lower the threshold for designing novel ubiquitous computing interfaces. Tico uses his prototyping skills to bring new ubiquitous computing experiences to life including:
  • REXplorer: a pervasive game for young tourists that "sounds like magic" (NY Times)
  • Family Story Play: a physical book reader that helps families read books together at a distance over videochat. Elmo from Sesame Street becomes a third member of the videochat and helps keeps kids engaged in the book

Oliver Staadt (University of Rostock)

Dr. Staadt is a full professor of computer science at the University of Rostock. He received a Master of Science in computer science and a PhD in computer science from TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich, respectively. Prior to joining the University of Rostock, he was an Assistant Professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, where he was also the director of the Virtual Reality Laboratory. His research interests include computer graphics, virtual reality, teleimmersion, visualization, and multiresolution analysis. He serves as a member of international program committees of many graphics, VR, and visualization conferences. Dr. Staadt is associate editor of Computers & Graphics and co-chair of the program committees of the EG/IEEE Symposium on Point-Based Graphics (PBG) 2008 and the Forth International Symposium on 3D Data Processing, Visualization and Transmission (3DPVT) 2008. He is a member of ACM, ACM SIGGRAPH, the IEEE Computer Society, and the Eurographics Association.

Frank Bentley (Motorola Mobility)

Frank Bentley is a Principal Staff Research Scientist at Motorola Mobility in Chicago. His work combines methods from anthropology, computer science, human–computer interaction and design to invent and prototype new concepts to strengthen social relationships. This path moves from ethnographic-style studies, to prototypes with field evaluations, to creating new products from these concepts. Recent work has included Contacts 3.0, the concept for the social phonebook in MOTOBLUR, and Serendipitous Stories, a location-based video sharing service designed to strengthen family relationships across generations. Frank also teaches Communicating with Mobile Technology at MIT and is completing a book, Building Mobile Experiences, with MIT Press to be published in 2012.