Disciplines/fields: Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, Spatial Cognition, Maps

Duration: 4 sessions

Course Content

Ubiquitous computing, the notion that digital technologies will be woven into the very fabric of the world around us [8], has made it from a research vision into our day-to-day reality. Ubicomp has and will have a fundamental impact on how we will perceive and interact with our world. This is particular true if we consider how Ubicomp technology will change the way we navigate within physical and virtual spaces. Consumer GPS systems started to help us to drive our cars from A to B, now autonomous vehicles are on the rise to do the same without further user input in the future. This is accelerated by the advent of novel position technologies that allow us to derive continuous and fine-grained position information not only outdoors, but also indoors and even underground and in other “extreme” cases.

Therefore, it is plausible that in the next one to two decades we will be surrounded with Ubicomp technology that will make it redundant to have the cognitive skill to navigate from a physical space A to B. Ubiquitous navigation systems will guide us seamlessly through physical spaces and allow us to navigate in the most efficient way minimizing our cognitive effort close to zero as already proposed by researchers in the area of HCI [3]. As Ubicomp also radically changes our very conceptions of the boundary between the digital and physical [1], it is also plausible that, navigation in digital spaces, will also become obsolete e.g. due to improved search methods [5]. For example, users no longer need to navigate within folder structures or search for applications [4]. Recommender systems in combination with predictive technologies will provide them with the right pieces of digital information at the right time in the right context.

As successful navigation in physical or virtual spaces requires highly complex interactions among multiple cognitive processes, including visual perception, spatial orientation, learning, and memory [7], this technological development of more and more navigation free environments is not without risks. Therefore, it is the responsibility of computer scientists in collaboration with designers, researchers and other technologists to consider, how we can design and implement “navigations” in navigation free-environments to still keep these cognitive skills to enhance people’s physical, relational and emotional experience of the world.


This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of human-computer interaction, user interface design, and usability analysis in the area of mobile navigation. Students will learn principles and guidelines for usability, quantitative and qualitative analysis methods, and apply them through critiques of existing interfaces and development of new ones.


  1. Abowd, G. D. (2012, September). What next, ubicomp?: celebrating an intellectual disappearing act. In Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Conference on Ubiquitous Computing(pp. 31-40).
  2. Moore, G. E. (1998). Cramming more components onto integrated circuits.Proceedings of the IEEE86(1), 82-85.
  3. Pfeiffer, M., Dünte, T., Schneegass, S., Alt, F., & Rohs, M. (2015). Cruise Control for Pedestrians: Controlling Walking Direction using Electrical Muscle Stimulation. of CHI’15).
  4. Rader, E. (2010, April). The effect of audience design on labeling, organizing, and finding shared files. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 777-786). ACM.
  5. Rogers, Y. (2006). Moving on from weiser’s vision of calm computing: Engaging ubicomp experiences. In UbiComp 2006: Ubiquitous Computing(pp. 404-421). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  6. Teevan, J., Dumais, S. T., & Horvitz, E. (2005, August). Personalizing search via automated analysis of interests and activities. In Proceedings of the 28th annual international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval (pp. 449-456).
  7. van Asselen, M., Kessels, R. P., Kappelle, L. J., Neggers, S. F., Frijns, C. J., & Postma, A. (2006). Neural correlates of human wayfinding in stroke patients. Brain research, 1067(1), 229-238.
  8. Weiser, M. (1991). The computer for the 21st century. Scientific american,265(3), 94-104.


Johannes Schöning (www.johannesschoening.de) is a professor of computer science with a focus on HCI at Hasselt University, working within the Expertise centre for Digital Media (EDM) - the ICT research Institute of Hasselt University. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at UCL London within the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Cities. His main research interests lie at the intersection between human-computer interaction (HCI), geographic information science and ubiquitous interface technologies.