Exam topics: mini-dissertation in human-computer interaction 2012

These are the topics students chose for their 2012 exam papers, which took the form of a research proposal. I can’t give out too much detail, but wanted to share this with the class.

If you’re interested in connecting with one of these students based on their proposal, contact me.

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Exam topics: mini-dissertation in human-computer interaction

These are the topics students chose for their exam papers, which took the form of a research proposal. I can’t give out too much detail, but wanted to share this with the class.

If you’re interested in connecting with one of these students based on their proposal, contact me.

How HCI is Assisting in the Quest for Health by Promoting Physical Activity


The global trend of obesity is one of the leading causes of sickness in the world today. With all the positivity that comes out of living in a more technologically advanced world also comes some negativity. One of the biggest and most worrying negative effects of the way in which we live today, is the way in which how we spend our free time. Free time is spent more and more in a passive state while watching TV, going to the cinemas and playing video games. These habits (and others, such as eating the wrong kinds of foods and eating too much), affect our lives in terms of increased obesity trends internationally.

In this paper we focus on the effect of the increased passive state during free time on the increase in obesity worldwide. Possible solutions are suggested to increase physical activity and prevent/reduce the deterioration of health caused by increased weight gain. Proposed solutions included the replacement/addition of “active” video gaming games/consoles (gamification of weight-loss) and the increased exposure of the trends in social media which are promoting physical activity. The solutions were implemented in the form of two different test groups performing different tasks over a set period of time. One group tested the effect of using an “active” game on weight-loss and the other the effect of actively participating in appropriate social media on weight-loss.

Using text classification, information visualisation and text-to-speech for studying purposes.


With so many different study techniques, students are overwhelmed by choices to make the studying experience more relevant. Studying is a time consuming process that can be applied in a fashion that doesn’t benefit students at all.

Taking the fact that students need to filter through thousands of material for a single test or examination, this research proposal will propose a system that can classify the study material, filter it for relevance and produce a short and effective summary with links for further reading on the material as well as proposing a way to visually and audibly display this information to students.

Foot-Based Gesture Interface for Double Hand Amputees


There is a group of physically disabled people that are technologically probably the least catered for; they are double hand amputees. People with other physical disabilities can at least interact with modern smartphones through the use of their hands, but modern smartphones are almost completely inaccessible to double hand amputees, save for voice commands.

This paper proposes developing a system to recognise foot based gestures and use them to effectively interact with a modern smartphone. This would include finding the best ways to map foot gestures to the smartphone interactions and writing an app to use the interpreted gestures to perform the actions associated with the gestures.

Making Better Museum Tours with the Help of Mobile Technology


This paper will discuss a system to improve a visitor’s museum experience. Unlike conventional tour guides and information boards, here it is suggested to use smart phones, QR-codes and wireless technology to improve museum tours. By making use of these technologies, the visitor’s experience will be more informative and better suited to the individual’s needs. To achieve this goal, the system will be created and implemented in a museum. Through observation and questionnaires the value of the system will be determined.

An informative study of HUD-less video game interface design


A change has been noted in the manner in which the HUDs of video games’ interfaces are being designed. More and more game developers are moving towards not including a HUD in their games. This author believes that the option of not having a HUD could become a trend in the manner in which video game interfaces are designed. This study will thus look into the reasons and views for this change in interface design. This author will then endeavour to answer the questions of how the current method of HUD-less gaming interface designing may influence the manner in which a game is played, as well as how it may impact future gaming design choices.



Input devices and systems have become more widely available during the last several years, and with them several new applications became common day among users. With the growth of these technologies, the question arises of what a more natural way is to interact or communicate with a computer. For a long time we have been stuck with using the keyboard and mouse as the only input devices, but in the new day and age new possibilities have arose.

In this study I will investigate the comparison of three general kinds of interaction methods, namely voice, gesture and multi-touch. Today these methods are used in devices and systems that are available to all users, and this study will aim to determine which interaction method or combination of methods’ usability feels more natural to the user. This study will be divided into three parts, namely a usability test of the different input devices or systems, an interview with participants in the usability test, and online questionnaires to gain further insight about the topic. Devices and systems I will use to do the comparison in the usability test are Windows Speech Recognition for voice, Nintendo Wii remote controller for motion sensing gestures with a wand device, Microsoft Kinect for motion sensing gestures with full body motion and the iPad for multi-touch.

Turning retirement into a game: making computer literacy and everyday living exciting for the elderly


Many elderly citizens in retirement homes suffer from feelings of loneliness and depression. This research project firstly explores the details of a system that turns retirement home activities into a game. The hypothesis is that if retirement home activities are turned into a game, then the elderly’s quality of life and computer literacy will increase. The research also aims to understand resident’s attitudes towards the system.
The study will focus on the design, development and implementation of the game system. Activities that will be part of the game include physical, mental and social undertakings completed by the residents. Particular care will be taken to make sure the software component of the system is usable for the elderly.
For the pilot study 20-30 volunteers who live in the same retirement home will be asked to use the game system for one month. Based on the finding from the pilot study, the system will be implemented throughout an entire retirement home.
Prior to taking part in the study, residents will fill out an initial questionnaire on quality of life, loneliness, depression and computer literacy. Residents will be expected to fill in a similar questionnaire after completion of the study with an additional section on their perception of the game system. This will should provide insights to the residents’ attitude towards the system and give clues to the feasibility of permanently implementing the game system in a retirement home.

Research papers: mini-dissertation in human-computer interaction

In South Africa, most of our degree courses are presented over three years. An honours qualification prepares the student for further postgraduate work. I decided to record my students’ topics each year for posterity – [these changes are mine].

Student details are kept private for a good reason. If you’re interested in connecting with one of these students based on their topic, contact me.

Themes this year include gaming, social media, computer literacy, software development methods, e-education and usability.

User Interfaces for Social Network Privacy Settings


In this paper, I studied what the flaws in current social network privacy settings user interfaces are, and how they can be improved. To investigate the problem, I sent out a questionnaire, asking users of social networks to rate how difficult they found it to change the privacy settings specified in the questionnaire, for each of their social networks. I found that with privacy settings interfaces, that have all the privacy settings on a single page, it is easier to change the privacy settings; but if the privacy settings are not grouped well, some of the privacy settings might get lost among the [other settings].

The Effect of Gaming on Computer Literacy


With computers becoming increasingly central to everyone’s lives, it is essential that people are computer literate. We [investigated] the effects of playing computer games on computer literacy. In order to determine this, a questionnaire was placed online for people to fill in and 80 people responded. The questionnaire consisted of questions used to determine the participant’s computer literacy level, gaming level, gender, etc. Using these results we found that participants who were classified as gamers were in fact more computer literate than those who were classified as non-gamers.

What motivates people to sign up for beta testing?


Over the past few years the demand for software solutions have become greater, and together with this the demand for quality control and testing of the software. One of the major parts of software testing is beta testing, which aims to sort out the bugs in a program before it is released to the general public. In this study I investigated what motivates beta testers to sign up for beta tests.[…]

The majority of beta testers that only do game beta testing are primarily motivated to sign up for beta testing to see the game or new features before release. On the other hand beta testers that interact with developers outside of beta tests are more likely to sign up to help the developers [- the same] goes for beta testers that have been in beta testing for a long time.

Gamifying student participation: A participation feedback system to increase motivation in undergraduate students


This paper presents a discussion of participation and participation feedback. It describes the details of a participation feedback system for an undergraduate course, justifies its effectiveness, and suggests variations. The paper includes the design process and an exmple implementaion of the proposed system.

A subjective study of the influence of customisation on the video game play experiences in a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG)


Studies done in the field of customisation have shown that customisation has become an important feature in a video game. This study found its inspiration in a customisation study done on MMORPGs. This author proposes that customisation can also be found in JRPGs, and is an important game feature in this genre. This author proposes that having customisation adds to the engagement experienced by a player playing a JRPG. A literature review was conducted that addresses customisation in the JRPG genre, and a questionnaire was distributed to ascertain the views of current JRPG players on these matters. It was found that customisation in a JRPG affects the level of engagement players experience while playing a JRPG, specifically in the games, Kingdom Hearts I, Kingdom Hearts II, and Final Fantasy. Additionally, it was found that 90% of participants would be more inclined to buy a customisable JRPG. It can be argued, therefore, that customisation is an important game feature which, depending on how well it is implemented, could either add to or take away from the player experience (including engagement) in a JRPG.

Laptop Input Devices: A Comparison between the Usability of the Touchpad and the Mouse by Middle-Aged Users



This work presents conclusions of a test that was developed and applied to subjects in two different age groups using both the touchpad and the mouse to analyze differences in usability of two input devices. The findings suggest that the mouse is more usable than the touchpad.

The mouse was found to be more comfortable to use, it was also found to be easier to use and the results from the test application [imply] that using the mouse almost always resulted in the set task being completed successfully in less time than when using the touchpad. The younger group of subjects performed the tasks in an overall less time than the middle-aged group of subjects.

How social media [relates to] computer literacy skills


The purpose of this paper is to find a link between computer literacy and social media and ways to use social media to teach computer literacy skills. The paper defines social media and computer literacy. Questionnaires and interviews were administered to find results.