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!

Age-appropriate games & toys for children in isolation

Design age-appropriate games & toys for children when they need to stay at home without present peers for a longer period of time (e.g. during a pandemic, but could also be  for children with immune deficiency who can't go out, or for children in hospitals).  

Contact: Michaela Honauer / Prof. Eva Hornecker

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. 

Age is just a number….

Design for elderly people often focusses on reducing accessibility issues, such as problems with hearing, vision or mobility. Nonetheless, as outlined in Knowles et al. (2021) this approach can be problematic as it has the potential to alienate those who do not need these accommodations. In addition, it has the potential to ‘other’ elderly people by emphasising their needs over their wants. To address this, we would like you to execute a qualitative, empirical study, exploring what ageing means to a variety of people and what impact they consider it to have on their daily life and their technology use. Based on your experience and interests, a range of methods might be applicable for this, e.g. interviews, focus groups or more design-led diary or probe studies. The results can be communicated as implications for design or conceptual prototypes.  

Recommended reading: Knowles, Hanson, et al. 2021. The harm in conflating aging with accessibility. Commun. ACM 64, 7 (July 2021), 66–71. https://doi.org/10.1145/3431280

For further questions contact: Britta Schulte 

Tracking femininity

Since more than 10 years, HCI engages with feminist and queer theory to develop novel methods, re-examine applications and critique the field as a whole. Feminist critique has for example engaged with menstruation or menopause as well as other topics previously tabooed. In this project, you would expand this by exploring how well tracking technologies (health, fitness or anything else you are interested in) work for people of all genders. This will include an extensive literature and market review as well as empirical work of (non-)users of the selected technology. The results can be presented in a variety of ways, but would ideally include some speculative or conceptual design ideas of how existing technologies could be improved. 

For further questions contact: Britta Schulte 

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

Caring through technology

Increasingly technologies are developed to be used in care settings. Starting with life sign monitors for babies, over robots to support children living with autism to pill reminders and GPS trackers for people living with dementia, technologies are embedded into every phase of life. This is not without problems as data only provides a limited range of insights and poses issues about privacy. 

In this project you will use health data that is used either via available apps or prototypes you developed using biosignal technologies, such as the Bitalino kit to learn how people make sense of health data. We leave it up to you which specific context of care and user group you would like to explore. 

Contact & Questions: Britta Schulte britta.schulte@uni-weimar.de

“Ooooh, can I keep this?” – Designing for sustainable technologies

Mobile phones are allrounders that are with us nearly every day. They connect us with the whole world, exciting information and entertainment as well as friends, family and loved ones. But while we cherish these opportunities the tool allows, the physical device is often less important to us. Since most content is stored in the cloud, the device can easily be replaced. As a result, phones are often thrown out before they are physically broken and add to landfill, as well as the overarching problems with gaining the resources.  

In this project you will draw on design theory like slow design, phatic design or design friction or feminist design to develop tangible, conceptual prototypes that re-invent the phone and how we interact with it. Ideas could include novel forms of modularity, customisation or self-assembly or aesthetically pleasing ways of ‘ageing’ of the material or any other direction your interest/research takes you. The prototypes do not have to be functional, but communicate your ideas well enough to be evaluated by participants in an empirical study. 

For further questions contact: Britta Schulte 

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 http://dataphys.org/list/ (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

Participatory Designing Textile Interfaces for Everyday Applications – M.Sc.

This thesis proposal aims for designing and developing a textile-based application for an everyday purpose in close collaboration with the end user. It could be for wellbeing (e.g. an interactive yoga matte), for social interaction (e.g. a jacket with smartphone features), or for cultural events (e.g. a sensitive dance floor). We are open to your ideas. The interface should consist of textile materials. Sensors and actuators are to be carefully embedded into it. Technologies you will use are e.g. Arduino or Adafruit Feather, and the range of available input and output modalities is huge depending on the purpose you develop for. Further useful materials are e.g. conductive fabrics, zippers, snaps, threads and yarns. Your thesis work will be completed by ongoing qualitative user studies. You will conceptualize, design and develop the product together with the target group.

Contact: michaela.honauer[at]uni-weimar.de