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.

A research proposal on the use of computer vision for improving consistency, product quality and user satisfaction in the food and dining sector

Production of high quality products and top grade food products is the key to building and obtaining a successful business. In the food and dining sector, restaurant owners need to ensure they serve top quality food to their clients and continue to explore methods to ensure client satisfaction and loyalty by offering them top quality foods with consistency in taste and looks. Serving inadequate or spoiled food can result in client loss and jeopardize the success of their restaurant. We therefore propose to develop a computer vision system for automated quality and consistency checking as well as automated client satisfaction analysis. Tasks to perform will include the gathering of quality food samples in the form of images taken from an active restaurant environment and to train an artificial intelligent neural network to classify both food quality and user emotion. The final product will be an automated system for quality and consistency evaluation, food quality evaluation, and ensuring client satisfaction.

Comparing immersion and psychological engagement in users when reading on LCD, e-Ink and paper

In this document, I propose an experiment that compares a person’s immersion and engagement when reading on LCD, e-Ink and paper display mediums. The experiment will aim to determine whether there are differences in the psychological engagement and immersion a person experiences when reading on these different display mediums, by testing whether the three features of immersion (1. lack of awareness of time, 2. loss of awareness of the real word and 3. a sense of involvement and a sense of being in the task environment) are present when a person reads on each of the display mediums.

The impact of usability and affective design on impulse buying in digital game distribution stores.

Since the digital distribution stores for both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 are the only digital distribution mediums available for these platforms and the Steam store dominates the personal computer market, the proposed study will look at the role that usability and affective design of these three stores play on impulse buying within their respective environments. The literature examined indicate that consumer emotions and the usability of an online store play an important role in impulse buying. However, the brand associated with a store often plays a more important role in consumer purchase intentions. The proposed study will examine these claims in the context of the three digital game distribution stores mentioned above. A combined qualitative and quantitative study is proposed that makes use of extensive usability testing, questionnaires, interviews and measured participant impulse buying behaviour over a certain period of time.

Untitled (user task performance on mobile text input)

A proposed investigation to determine the user task performance of text input on the iPad (Chaparro et al, 2010) (Hasegwa et al, 2012). An investigation in the literature revealed methods, techniques and past studies to evaluate soft keyboards (Mackenzie, Soukoreff, 2002). It also revealed that the iPad is somewhat not extensively tested in term of the literature available, Therefore the techniques and methods revealed in the literature are used to formulate a research problem and design a research paper to evaluate the iPad (Chaparro et al, 2010) (Hasegwa et al, 2012).

The incorporation of 4G LTE services in South Africa

This research proposal investigates the 4G LTE mobile network technology and determines the apposite [sic] manner in which to research whether South Africa will be able to provide the service nationwide to the citizens of the country. This includes doing research about how each of the mobile operators in South Africa are attempting to provide citizens with 4G LTE service and when they plan on going nationwide with the service.

Evaluating the validity of self-assessment of social media literacy.

Social media literacy is the latest in a host of media related literacies that have appeared over the last few decades. Due to it being relative [sic] new there has been little to no research conducted to measure this type of competency. A framework was recently proposed to use survey questionnaires to establish a measurement framework based on self-assessment, but the results have not been verified as being reliable.

Based on techniques used previously when verifying other forms of literacy, tasks will be generated to objectively measure competencies and establish the reliability of using this approach to measure social media literacy and it is hypothesized that it can be. The results of the research will show to what level the objective and self-assessed scores relate and whether or not some of the competencies covered in the framework are more reliable than others to help and improve the framework.

The Effects of Typeface Anatomy and Font Size on Reading Text on a Handheld Digital Device in a Mobile Environment

A 4 x 6 factor within- subjects’ repeated-measures design experiment will be carried out in order to determine the effects of certain typeface structures as well as font sizes on the readability of text on an iPad within a mobile environment. The experiment will consist of two phases, one without the presence of noise and vibrations and the other with the presence of these two elements in order to compare the results. Data that will be collected will consist of heart rate, heart variability, reading speed and reading accuracy. The goal of phase two is to determine which typeface structures and font sizes will help better the reading performance of readers.

Tablets For Teaching

This research proposal is a theoretical study that is aimed at using tablet based technology to help improve learning and understanding in the high-school environment, specifically in grade 8 and higher, in South Africa. The paper proposes using two similar schools for the study, one being a control group, and another being the experimental group. The experimental group will receive tablets in order to determine if tablet based learning helps with improving test, exam and classroom marks.

Improve interest on young children’s learning using Holography and gamification

This research will look into the various factors that cause the problems concerning children’s concentration, and find the guidelines to utilize the problems found as an advantage and also how to improve their concentration in an HCI manner using holograms and gamification. The selection of forty children and one teacher from a preschool will be the main target for sampling data. These problems will be experimented by making an interactive 3D hologram model that is able to move, respond, and interact with children.

The impact of Brain-computing interfaces on user experience design.

In this research proposal the idea is put forth to determine the impact of user experience considerations that will have to be taken into account when designing future software with the rise of the advent of Brain-computing interfaces. This technology has grown to a state where it is now available for use commercially and can be obtained and set up in the comfort of your own home. This brings upon the question of whether user experience design should now start to include protocols for testing Brain-computing interfaces as one of the input methods and what type of design considerations should be taken by the application development. Brain-computing interfaces are still not in any way considered to be a standard input method but its use opens up opportunities for full use of systems to people who because of various disabilities would not be able to operate the system. We will investigate the impact this would have on future operating systems by determining if users will adapt directly into fully Brain-controlled environments or if a combination of physical controllers and Brain-computing interfaces is needed.

Usage of cell phones over computers

The objective of this paper is to determine what user’s search behaviours are and on which platform they prefer to submit query. Statistics shows that users prefer to use their cell phones to access the internet and also to browse (although some of the reasons might be that they do not have access to a computer or their cell phones is always available and with them). We then have a look at how users use a specific platform (cell phone, iPhone or computer) and whether they use a search engine to perform a query or type the URL to the website directly into the address bar. Kamvar et al. found that users are more likely to use a search engine than to type the URL in the address bar.


The popular media has criticized gaming for promoting violence, increasing sedentary behaviour, and being addictive. However, video games have also proven to be beneficial – for instance, video games are being successfully used for physical rehabilitation. The invention of new physical and exercised-based video gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox with Kinect sensor bring even more opportunities for using games in industries other than gaming. These new consoles have also lead to the development of a new genre of games, known as exergames (“exercise games”). Several researchers have suggested that investigations, focusing specifically on exergames, need to been done on the impact they have on rehabilitation and motor skills development. This paper proposes research to determine whether exergames can improve the development of motor skills in preschool children. The proposed methodology uses a controlled trial in the form of a six-month field study to gather data that will be used to assess the impact of exergame use on motor skills development in young children from ten preschools. The sections into which the proposed research paper will be divided are also given.

Using motion capture to create ubiquitous gamification

This paper will look at ways in which motion capture might aid in creating a more ubiquitous implementation of Gamification systems. It suggests the use of small mobile sensor that incorporate Bluetooth, accelerometers and gyroscopes to track the users motion, the data will be computed on the users own smart phone, which will then update the data with Fitocrasy the Gamification system explored in this paper.

Design and testing of a new Database management system and user interface

This is a research proposal for the redesign of the interface and the database management system (DBMS). It was shown in a previous study, de Swardt (2012), that several functions were underutilized. Several other problems were also highlighted in that study, one of them is the customizability of user input without clear standards. Resulting in each veterinarian having his or her own standard. This caused problems inside clinics where multiple veterinarians have to work together. We suggest that the interface gets a redesign, and that the DBMS gains some standard protocols for inputting and displaying data. For these purposes we suggest three unique interface, each with its own DBMS protocols. We end of with a discussion on how we would test and evaluate them.

Design Principles for Dashboard Reporting

Due to the prominence of computers in the workplace in various industries and the usefulness of dashboard reporting applications, this research is aimed at developing a set of dashboard design principles to enforce better looking and more usable dashboards. The aim is to define principles that when implemented enable a more productive, more comprehensible and aesthetically pleasing dashboard frontend. The methodology followed involves iterative usability tests and surveys spread over participants of various occupations and industries where dashboard applications are prominent. Initial dashboard design principles are stated and a prototype dashboard is developed to comply with the said principles. The dashboard designs and respective dashboard design principles are evaluated and modified after each iteration to be improved to the point where the resulting dashboard design principles support the uses of dashboards in the various industries as well as provide for a clear guideline for dashboard design and development that results in a more efficient experience with easy comprehension of data in an aesthetically pleasing presentation. The result of this research is to still be determined after the implementation of the methodology, collection of results, and analysis of the collected results.

Social Media and its influence on the US presidential election

Social networks keep everyone connected, regardless of if they are near or far. Social networks have also influenced the US presidential election of 2008 and 2012 in both a positive and a negative way. In this proposal, the question was if social networks are then a positive or negative influence on the election process as a whole. All facets of how social networks influence the election process must be studied to ensure that an accurate result is achieved.


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