Kasper the friendly GHOST

I've always thought it would be wonderful to do a doctorate. Spend a few years deep-diving into an intractable or obscure problem... Well this just came in the mail this morning:

Come work with us on the user experience of shape-changing and tangible user interfaces!

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen (DIKU) invites applications for 1-2 fully funded PhD Scholarships in user experience and shape-changing interfaces.

Deadline for applications are November 15th 2012.

The study is part of the GHOST project (generic, highly-organic shape-changing interfaces), a collaboration between University of Copenhagen, University of Bristol, University of Lancaster, and University of Eindhoven. GHOSTs are display surfaces made of malleable materials that can change into and retain arbitrary shapes so as to display output from the system or afford new actions. At the same time, GHOSTs allow users to deform, touch, or otherwise manipulate the shape of their display surface to provide input to the system. The project will design, develop, and evaluate GHOST prototypes. We combine disciplines focusing on (a) the hardware and software for shape change, using combinations of shape actuators and smart materials; (b) the industrial and interaction design for such interfaces, in particular how to make them physically appealing, useful, and usable; and © the user experience of interacting with GHOSTs, quantifying and modeling users' performance with and affect towards the interface.

More details at http://www.diku.dk/english/about/vacancies/phd-human-computer-interaction/ or get them by emailing me (kash@diku.dk).

Best regards / mvh. Kasper

---
Kasper Hornbæk, Professor mso, PhD
Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen
Njalsgade 128, build. 24, 5th floor, DK-2300 Copenhagen, Denmark
e-mail: kash@diku.dk, www: kasperhornbaek.dk, skype: kasperhornbaek
phn: +45 35321425, fax: +45 35321401, mbl: +45 30957883

I'm still trying to work out which bit caught my eye, was it the chance to work in Denmark? The witty acronym of the parent project or the promise and excitement of haptic and shape-changing interfaces?

It got me thinking, the word 'interface' presumably describes the area between the system's 'face' and the user's 'face' the area where the two 'faces' connect and collide. Using the acronym GHOST to describe these is kinda fun as it gives the interface its own identity, albeit one in permanent limbo. In HCI terms we used to talk about systems and actors, the GHOST is an entity beyond these, part of the system but behaviourally distinct. Not an actor as such, but in a perfect world so interdependent with the actor it's as if it was one itself.

Does this challenge the whole concept of the GHOST project? The more I work with people and services, the more I find that to succeed in generating user adoption of the service we need to spend our attention outside of the interface itself; through it, pulling it apart and re-allocating it across devices and channels. In internet terms we went from 'destination' experiences to 'services' built into device experiences. Will a similar thing happen to the interface?

Either way this investigation is going to be one interesting journey:-)

Oh, and the professor in charge is called Kasper?