York professor makes tech more friendly

Left: Wolfgang Stuerzlinger

As technology advances into the 21st century, Canadians are racing to catch up, to find better ways to work together – to find solutions.

York computer science Professor Wolfgang Stuerzlinger is one such visionary, and his important research into how humans interact with technology is not only making computers easier to use but also improving how people collaborate with one another.

Though classified as “eye-safe,” virtually all laser pointers, if flashed across the line of sight, may cause a few seconds of temporary blindness. Stuerzlinger, however, has recently developed a laser pointer that produces absolutely no detrimental effects in the human eye. This laser pointer is part of a system that will enable multiple users to collaborate together simultaneously on one screen.


Right: Less-Tap

In addition, one of Stuerzlinger’s PhD students in the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science has reorganized the location of letters on cellphones, basing the layout of each key on frequency. Called Less-Tap, this novel design reduces the average number of keystrokes required to input a character from two to 1.4, improving novice speed by 10 per cent. Furthermore, it is “eyes-free”, meaning users don’t have to look at their cellphones to input information.

With Paul Ritvo, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Stuerzlinger is also currently testing a Web-based system that will allow people to enter information regarding their food intake into their cellphones or Palm handhelds – information that can then be accessed immediately by behavioural therapists to aid with dieting.

Left: Stuerzlinger, sans shades

Another invention, the High Dynamic Range Display (HDR – a joint project with University of British Columbia), can display images with such high contrast that normal paper and computer monitors don’t possess the contrast necessary to even demonstrate Stuerzlinger’s innovations. Pictures appear much more realistic on this display than on any other technology.

Stuerzlinger’s novel research into our everyday interaction with technology is also interdisciplinary, spanning a range of academic areas, including computer science, computer engineering and psychology. This vital work has the potential not only to improve how we work together with technology, but also to improve the Canadian economy.

Jason Guriel, York’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada SPARK student (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge), wrote the above article for YFile. Guriel, a second-year student in English, will continue to write stories on York NSERC-funded researchers throughout the year.

SPARK is a program that was launched in 1999 at 10 universities across Canada. Through SPARK, students with an aptitude for communications are recruited, trained and paid to write stories based on the NSERC-supported research at participating universities. Information on the NSERC Spark Student program is available at http://www.nserc.ca/science/spark/index.htm.