Understanding human behavior with technology: challenges, tools & methods

Denzil Ferreira
Wednesday, 29 March, 2017 - 14:00
Classroom @ M-ITI, Floor -2, Polo Científico e Tecnológico da Madeira


Mobile phones have an increasing spectrum of built-in sensors, such as motion, light, atmospheric pressure. These sensors are primarily used to enhance the user experience with the device, such as detecting the screen orientation. More important for scientists, these sensors offer the potential to sense and reason about the user’s environment, or in other words, the user’s context. Mobile phones are the most widespread personal sensing device and provide an exciting opportunity for wider cross-disciplinary research to attain a better understanding of human behaviour by analysing the users’ unique context. 

Yet the biggest challenge in conducting user studies is the scientists’ need to build software and logging tools from scratch, often without proper development experience, over and over again. More critically, multidisciplinary research becomes increasingly challenging due to the diversity of applications and environments. Researchers have no infrastructure support for exchanging their expertise and to collaborate locally or remotely. In this talk, we introduce AWARE, a tool that focuses on an infrastructure for sensing behavioural and social context from mobile phones sensors, to enable a better understanding of human and social behaviour, and to improve users’ understanding of their own quality of life. More importantly, it is a platform that supports reuse and sharing of mobile-based behavioural and social context and researchers’ expertise.

Short Bio:

Ferreira’s research focus is on utilising mobile instrumentation (e.g., wearables, smartphones, ambient displays, deployable sensors) to better understand human behavior and social wellbeing. Ferreira leads the Community Instrumentation and Awareness (CIA) research group, and acts as the Vice-Director of the Center for Ubiquitous Computing at the University of Oulu. Ferreira also teaches two classes: Mobile and Social Computing, and Human-Computer Interaction, part of the curriculum of U. Oulu’s International MSc. in Ubiquitous Computing. During his PhD, Ferreira created and released AWARE, a toolkit in use today by hundreds of researchers worldwide.