John Zimmerman
HCII and School of Design
Carnegie Mellon

Research Thrusts

Designing for the Self

This research thrust broadly explores the design of interactive products that play a more explicit role in the identity construction process. The two main directions include (i) the design of products that help people move towards an idealized sense of themselves in a role, and (ii) the design of products that help people discover and invent who they want to be as they experience a social role transition, such as shedding a high school identity to become a college students. This work attempts to operationalize consumer behavior research on material possession attachment theory. We use the attachments people develop for the products they possess and use as evidence of meaning making that comes from repeated enactment of specific social roles.

Project on Family, Control, and the Smart Home: with Prof. Anind Dey
Dual-income parents are often sensitive to their identity as a parent due to guilt over the choice to not have a "stay at home" parent. In their desire to be a good parent and raise successful children, they enroll their children in enrichment activities like ballet, soccer, and Chinese language classes. This leads to many conflicting responsibilities from work, school, family, and these enrichment activities, and often the parents feel either trapped by their tight schedules or feel out of control when their schedule's break down. This project explores how UbiComp technology can help busy parents feel like they are becoming the parents they desire to be. The work currently includes the development of an enabling technology: a machine learning system that uses mobile phones as a sensor platform to learn routines and to predict and detect when deviations in routines might occur. It also includes work on an intelligent activity bag that provides a platform for parents to pass appropriate responsibility to their children to preparing for their own activities.

Davidoff, Scott, Anind Dey, and John Zimmerman (2007): Rapidly Exploring Application Design through Speed Dating. In Proceedings of the Conference on Ubiquitous Computing. Springer: 429-446.

Min Kyung Lee, Scott Davidoff, John Zimmerman, Anind Dey (2006): Smart Homes, Families, and Control. In Proceedings of the Conference on Design and Emotion. [Awarded Best Paper]

Scott Davidoff, Min Kyung Lee, John Zimmerman, Anind Dey (2006): Principle of Smart Home Control. In Proceedings of the Conference on Ubiquitous Computing. Springer: 19-34.

Reverse Alarm Clock Press Release
Busy parents often find themselves yelling at their children during the morning rush, to get everyone out the door and off to work and school. This stress increases when small children wake their parents up at night, depriving them of sleep. The reverse alarm clock addresses this situation with a system that helps small children learn to make informed decisions. The clock provides an abstract display of time that young children can understand, helping them decide if they should get out of be. In addition, the clock provides parents with relative control so the rules can be the same for weekends and weekdays, even thought the wakeup times might be quite different.

Kursat Ozenc, Jeong Bong Keum, James Brommer, Nina Shih, Karen Au, John Zimmerman (2007): Reverse Alarm Clock: Designing for the Self Through Social Identity. In Proceedings of Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces. ACM Press: 392-406.

Family Meal Planner
This project explores issues around the complex process of meal planning and preparation. Initial research shows that busy families often choose not to plan because the effort is quite high and the chances of a schedule change negating plans is also quite high. Because of this, families often take an opportunistic approach to meal preparation, abandoning the long term nutritional and healthy eating goals in order to quickly get food and fuel on the table. We are specifically investigating if planning support systems that reduce the effort of planning can help families better meet their long-term goals.

The transition from high school to college is an exciting at stressful time as students must both develop a new social support system to replace the support the abandoned when they moved away from home and must invent and discover who they wish to be as a college student. One interesting stressor students face is a fear that they will miss trying the thing they will really like to do. This project broadly explores the design of new technology that assists students with exploring the many possibilities of who they might be and that unite their social networking activities with the physical world.

Mixed-initiative interaction

Collaboration with Anthony Tomasic
This thrust broadly explores user interaction with intelligent agents. We are exploring several themes including: (i) how agents can automate mundane, information processing tasks in order to free people to focus on work that requires more creative effort; (ii) how agents can learn from observation of work, so that training the agent is never more of an effort than just doing the work; and (iii) how to structure the interaction so users can both quickly identify and repair errors the agent makes, allowing agents will little training to be deployed.

This mixed-in intiative system learns to recognize routine update tasks that arrive via email. Once the agent has recognized the task in an incoming email message, it begins to automatically select and fill out the appropriate form. Our demonstration system is designed to assist webmasters. The agent can recognize and automate many different ad, delete, and modify tasks.

John Zimmerman, Anthony Tomasic, Isaac Simmons, Ian Hargraves, Ken Mohnkern, Jason Cornwell, Robert McGuire (2007): VIO: a mixed-initiative approach to learning and automating procedural update tasks. In Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press: 1445-1454.

Anthony Tomasic, John Zimmerman, Ian Hargraves, Rodderick McMullen (2007): User constructed data integration via mixed-initiative design. In AAAI Spring Symposium on Interaction Challenges for Intelligent Assistants. AAAI Press.

Anthony Tomasic, Isaac Simmons, John Zimmerman (2007): Learning Information Intent via Observation. In Proceedings of the Conference on World Wide Web. ACM Press: 51-60.

Anthony Tomasic, Isaac Simmons, John Zimmerman (2006): Processing information intent via weak labeling. In Proceedings of the Conference on Information and Knowledge Management. ACM Press: 856-857.

MIXER: MIXed-initiative agent for Effective information Retrieval
This system allows end-users to insantiate a new agent by creating a form. When the user recognizing a routine, incoming email task that requires lots of information retrieval, they creat a form and then demonstrate where the information comes from to fill out this form. In future transactions, when the agent recognizes the incoming task, it automatically retrieves the information and appends the filled out form to the incoming email.

Interaction DESIGN Research IN HCI

This research explores the models and methods of interaction design research in both practice and in academic and corporate research facilities. Our goal is to understand how interaction design research can be conducted so that the findings are more broadly beneficial and acceptable to the HCI research community.

John Zimmerman, Jodi Forlizzi, Shelley Evenson (2007): Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI. In Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press: 493-502.

John Zimmerman, Shelley Evenson, Jodi Forlizzi (2004): Discovering Knowledge in the Design Case. In Proceedings of Future Ground. Design Research Society.