I've been working in Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab since 2007. We research human behavior in virtual environments, using state-of-the-art immersive virtual reality technology. I primarily design and build virtual worlds, but recently I've been more involved in formulating research questions and experimental methods.
One study we previously published looked at the effect of viewing an avatar eating healthy and unhealthy foods in virtual reality. We found that women who experienced a high sense of presence were more likely to make healthy food choices afterwards, while men who experienced a high sense of presence were more likely to make unhealthy food choices. You can read the full paper here.
This year I took a course with Scott Klemmer called Research Topics in Human-Computer Interaction. The final project for the course required us to conduct our own HCI research, so my partner Brian Louie and I collaborated with Nokia Research to design a project researching gestural interfaces.
In the end, we built Kitchen Helper, a completely hands-free app to help improve the cooking experience. Kitchen Helper guides users through recipes with video instructions that can be replayed, paused, or skipped. It also features embedded timers for instructions that require timing. The app works with the Microsoft Kinect, through the open-source libraries OpenNI and NITE.
We tested using the app to teach people how to cook omelets, and compared the results against a control group that used a paper recipe. Although it took longer to learn how to use the app, users generally felt it made the cooking experience easier and more repeatable. You can read our paper here.
For my senior project, I worked with a team of mechanical engineers from Stanford and Technical University Munich to develop a working suite of software to improve the electric vehicle experience. We built a mobile web app that could be used to remotely pre-heat the car and control the windows and locks. We also built an interface for an iPad mounted inside the car, which controlled the climate, entertainment, and navigation systems.
One main component of both interfaces was a driving range indicator, which used real map data to plot the area reachable based on the current charge level of the car. This feature was designed to alleviate "EV angst," the discomfort experienced by electric vehicle owners due to the fact that recharging an electric vehicle is much more difficult and time consuming than refilling a tank of gas.