Open topics for final theses

These are some of the current topics for final theses projects in our group. Not all ideas for projects are listed here, so please get in contact if you like the general flavour of topics or if you have project ideas that fit within our area of work, and we can discuss!

We are generally interested in topics related to e.g. museum installations, IoT, e-textiles, smart toys for children, educational settings, gesture interaction, touch and tangible interaction, public displays, cultural probes, home and care, performance,  ... and check out prior theses we supervised as well as our publications. Most topics can be done in German or English - please contact us for further information!

We recommend you engage with our study template (found here) for getting into the initial discussions with us about your planned thesis research – regardless of whether it is a topic from the list of open topics or your own proposal!

360° technology for learning scenarios (in collaboration with Civil Engineering colleagues)

Colleagues in the Faculty of Civil Engineering are looking for theses students to adress some of the development and research tasks within a project that is related to educational uses of 360-degree models. 360° models are constructed from lots of photographs and provide a navigable environment (similar to Google streetview, you also now find a lot of historic sites or museums available for exploration based on this technology). The project explores their use and extension for learning scenarios, with topics relating e.g. to integration of quizzes/puzzles into these 360° environments, the integration of ambisonic spatialized sound, navigation methods (and visualization of movement), attention guidance, and the use of 360° models for supporting annotation and communication between users (e.g. in the context of citizen participation looking at construction plans for a site). Some are more technical, others will require you to design user studies and conduct evaluations. 

These topics (details here in a pdf) will be hands-on supervised by staff from this project at the faculty of Civil Engineering and co-supervised by Eva Hornecker as official main supervisor. 

User Requirements for Digital Cultural Heritage Access

The Klassik-Stiftung Weimar is responsible for many heritage sites in Weimar and has large archives (literature: Goethe and Schiller; philosophy: Nietzsche; music: Liszt and Bach, etc.). There is a push towards digitization of such archives, in order to make this wealth of information and historic treasures accessible both to people visiting Weimar and scholars from abroad. Yet little is known about the needs of different user groups - even the question of what kind of users there might be is not fully clear. 

In collaboration with the Klassik-Stiftung, possible theses projects would investigate this. Some theses could look at e.g. the interests of teachers who plan to visit Weimar with their classes and develop scenarios for how this could play out (you could e.g. run workshops and focus groups with groups of teachers traveling here for their education), for other theses projects, your international background could be an asset - what are the interests and needs from scholars abroad (e.g. in India, China, South America) who cannot travel to Germany and do research on e.g. Goethe? 

contact Prof. Hornecker for this topic 

Exploring and evaluating shape-changing inflatables for data physicalisation

This thesis is about the design and evaluation of shape-changing inflatables as a means of physicalising data in a way that is intuitive, engaging, and accessible. In prior work, a set of inflatable prototypes and a programmable pressure controlling system were developed to represent various data sets. Your task is to design and evaluate inflatables for data physicalisation of a self chosen context (sports/work/...) and to run a lab study for evaluation. 

You should have interest in designing inflatable objects. We provide support to build these inflatables with our own CNC-welding process and machinery. You should bring some prior Programming experience (e.g. Arduino) to modify and program our existing inflatable control system. Finally you should be interested to design and run a user study to evaluate the prototypes, as this will be a major part of the thesis. 

contact and questions: Hannes Waldschütz

Empathy through Data Physicalization: Representing Climate Change Data to Engage the Public

Climate change protesters often face a challenge in trying to raise awareness of the issue of climate change. Despite overwhelming evidence of its negative impacts, many people are still skeptical or unaware. Can physical data representations help to reach and convince the public to take action on climate change? 

This thesis is about the design and evaluation of shape-changing inflatables, so you will need interest and skills in designing artefacts, some prior (basic) experience with Electronics and Programming (e.g. Arduino) and you should be interested to evaluate your design in a small user study. If needed, we can provide some hands-on support regarding building of the prototype (electronics/hardware/3d printing…). This thesis is ideal for students who are interested in working rather independently on own concepts and ideas with some interest in working with electronics. 

contact and questions: Hannes Waldschütz

Designing and evaluating Tangible Self-Report Devices

Self-report measures are commonly used to assess individuals' subjective experiences and behaviors. However, traditional self-report methods, such as paper-and-pencil or online questionnaires, can be prone to biases and limitations. Tangible self-report devices are an alternative by leveraging physical interaction and embedded sensors to capture multidimensional data in a more engaging manner. 

This thesis is about the design and implementation (eg Arduino on ESP32) of such a device. You will need interest and skills in designing artefacts, some prior (basic) experience with Electronics and Programming (e.g. Arduino) and you should be interested to evaluate your results in a small user study. If needed, we can provide some hands-on support regarding the building of the prototype (electronics/hardware/3d printing…) 

contact and questions: Hannes Waldschütz

Data Physicalization

Data Physicalization is a new research area that investigates representations of data that are not purely screen-based and visual, but 'live from' being physical, maybe even touchable. These representations are called physicalizations, analogously to visualizations. This can range from small 3D-printed objects to large sculptural installations, where people have to walk around (or in) the data, and it may use various materials. See (for a long list of diverse examples) and this video

Following our semester project, we want to investigate data physicalizations in user studies to understand better how physicalization is different from visualization. Here are 3 different theses projects: 

- User study: How do people investigate a physicalization? How do they manipulate it and what gestures do they make? (compare single person vs. pair)
- Experimental User Study: Touch vs. non-touch vs. on-screen. How does the ability to touch influence understanding and memory? Does it make a difference if the object is real, in the same room to seeing it on-screen (maybe in 3D, but it is clearly virtual)?
- The impact of scale. Build 2 or 3 different sizes of the same physicalization and assess user experience (e.g. using AttrakDiff or PANAS questionnaires)
(The simplest for these would be to either rebuild a physicalization picked from the literature or ask a research group to send us an existing examplar for these topics – but we can also generate something new... )
- impact of different modalities of data representation on user experience 

Contact: Prof. Eva Hornecker / Rosa van Koningsbruggen

Dance and Movement Skill Support

How can we support learning of movement skills? Research has begun to investigate how different feedback modalities can be used in learning and upkeeping of movement repertoires (e.g. in dance or sports), in increasing bodily awareness (directing attention to kinaesthetic perception). Aspects may include rhythm feeling in dance, proper execution of movements, muscle tension, posture, etc. Questions could include, e.g. how to support mental imagery ('imagine you are holding a large hoop and turning it' - automatically gives you muscle tension while moving your hands in a circle with the imagined hoop), exploration of subtle feedback mechanisms (e.g. termperature has been shown to be supportive for Feldenkrais and other movement disciplines that require attention towards inner feeling of the body, whereas visual feedback was found to be distracting), ... and much more... What is relevant may depend on the movement discipline.

You should be willing to dive deep into the literature, including theory on movement, bodily perception (and ideally also on the philosophical perspective of phenomenology), have some pre-experience with sensor technologies, electronics, visual body tracking or other suited technologies, and have an intrinsic relation to your chosen movement discipline. 

Contact: Prof. Eva Hornecker

Animal-Computer Interaction

Wikipedia. "Animal-computer interaction (ACI) is a field of research which studies the design and use of technology with, for and by animals. ACI emerged from, and is heavily influenced by, the discipline of human-computer interaction (HCI)." ACI has turned into a research field, with its own conference and a manifesto, that posits that similar to user-centered design, animals as users should be taken seriously. ACI may aim to improve animals life quality, to support them in the role-based services they fulfil (e.g. assistance dogs for impaired humans), or to improve communication between humans and animals. We've not done any ACI in our group yet, but it's an interesting area that requires creativity and sensitivity for working with new kinds of 'users'. In particular, to work with animals, HCI methods of design have to be adapted and re-invented. Have any ideas of your own? (This should not just be an intelligent cat-flap.... ) 

contact and questions: eva(dot)hornecker(at)uni-weimar(dot)de