My research in human-centered computing.

Making and Breaking the Grid

I think grids are so effective at organizing information because they convey additional data to the viewer. A grid layout lets the viewer know how the content is related, and leads the viewer’s eye through the layout on the correct path. 

I was suprised to learn both how old the grid is, and how systematic the process of graphic design is. I’m realizing that graphic design is much more structured I had anticipated. I’m not sure why, but I imagined that a creative discipline would be more disorganized in its approach to creating works. The quote from Müller-Brockmann stuck out to me in particular:

The grid system implies the will to systemize … the will to cultivate objectivity rather than subjectivity.




I’m IRB-approved!

Which means that the survey is out and about. Incidentally, if you think you may be interested in participating, or know someone who might, here is the official recruitment message:

We are investigating the needs of individuals with limited mobility when using technological devices such as mobile phones and computers . In this study, participants will be asked a number of questions about their usage habits and opinions of these technological devices, as well as questions about the extent of their mobility limitations.

We are looking to recruit individuals who have limited mobility, and use power wheelchairs. All participants must be at least 18 years old.

Participants of this study may help to lay the foundations for the design of an integrated multi-touch surface system for power wheelchairs.

The survey will take approximately half an hour.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Darya Slobodyanik at, or proceed to the survey at:

That makes my to-do list slightly shorter:

  • Survey
    • ignore it for now
    • analyze the results later
  • Hardware
    • get all the parts we need
    • figure out how to attach them to a wheelchair
    • assemble it!
  • Code
    • hand-tracking
    • sort out distortion/visibility issues for the projected display
  • UI
    • make a few apps
    • phone
    • music player
    • maps
  • User testing

And waiting… and waiting… and waiting…


I finished the IRB training course over the weekend, and hopefully the forms for the survey will be ready to submit tomorrow!

In the meantime, I’ll be researching powerchair mods.


For my Independent Study project, I’ll be working on a project called PowerUp. The end result of the project is to combine a touchscreen interface with a power wheelchair, and develop some useful apps for the system. The ultimate goal being to create an enhanced assistive technology for people with motor impairments.

There is a lot to consider in designing such a system, so my first task is to create a survey for power wheelchair users. The survey answers should give us some idea of  the daily tasks of a power wheelchair user, and also give us some insight into what they wish their chair could do.


Viztouch is on hold for now. I’m currently assisting with a different project that has a similar goal. I’ll expand more on it later, but the general idea is to allow a user to convert a 2D image into a 3D printout using a drag and drop interface and the Makerbot. Currently the process goes something like:

2D image -> OpenSCAD script (.scad file) -> ReplicatorG (.stl file) -> printout

Luckily, OpenSCAD can be accessed from the command line to perform the .scad to .stl conversion. I’m trying to help make the transition from .scad file to .stl file a little easier by automating the process. So far, that consists of a little shell script that runs the process, but still has to be clicked on (so it’s not exactly automated yet, but that’s the next step).

In the meantime, I’ve been practicing using the MakerBot. Here’s a copy of the sample image, a cell, that I printed out today:

After some initial hiccups, I have Veusz installed in the Python path, and slightly modified the VizTouch code to embed Veusz (I think I’m using a newer version?), and VizTouch is up and running! Though not actually generating any plots yet.

Next steps:

  • Find out why I’m getting the following error when I try to generate a plot:
t2 = graphArray[2]
IndexError: list index out of range
  • Add titles to the plots
  • Get the Inkscape DXF extension to run from command line