João Guerreiro's 2022/2023 Thesis Proposals

This page outlines a set of research proposals you can pursue in the year 2022/2023 under my supervision (co-supervised by other professors and researchers). My research focuses on designing, implementing, and evaluating interactive systems that help people with different abilities overcoming accessibility barriers. To that end, I engage with users early on to understand how technology can have a positive (and real) impact on their lives according to their needs and preferences.

My prior work includes a broad set of technologies and research areas, ranging from Human-Computer Interaction and Accessible Computing, to Wearables, Ubiquitous Computing, Sensors, Virtual Reality, Human-Robot Interaction, among others. To see examples of my previous research you can check my publications page in my website or Google Scholar. If you have a research idea that fits my expertise, feel free to contact me so we can draft a new proposal for you!

You can also check the two videos below concerning two projects I have worked on recently at Carnegie Mellon University.

#1 Exploring Multiple Perspectives in Virtual Reality

Advisors

João Guerreiro and André Rodrigues

Motivation

An advantage of VR is that it enables greater immersion because users can embody their characters/avatars and perceive the environment from an egocentric (or first-person) perspective. While VR has been used for perspective-taking, this is done as a full experience where one is put in the shoes of others, usually as an empathy machine. We are interested in finding ways to experience different perspectives in the same experience (perhaps concurrently) using VR. The scenario we envision for blind people is motivated by the need to gain a greater understanding of the environment due to the absence of visual feedback. A way to provide more information to the blind user is to augment their auditory feedback channel with the actions of other characters (by looking at their perspective), helping them to understand what is happening in the scene. Ways to support these multiple perspectives could be - for instance - enabling seamlessly shifting between perspectives, or just to make the perspective of others more salient in the user's experience (a very simple example is to convey the auditory feedback of footsteps to show that a person is moving in the scene, even at distances that would not be audible to the user, but that would be visible to a sighted user). Other potential contexts could be in VR experiences directed to caregivers, where they can be given multiple perspectives (including the ones of patients or doctors) in the same experience.

What you will do

In this thesis you will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate novel solutions to convey multiple perspectives in VR in a specific context (e.g., Healthcare or Accessibility for blind people). You will conduct user studies early on to engage participants in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation. This work will conclude with a user study evaluating the developed set of navigation techniques.

#2 Locomotion in Virtual Reality for Blind People

Advisors

João Guerreiro and André Rodrigues

Motivation

Virtual reality is an emerging technology that is slowly becoming available to the masses at affordable prices. VR is currently used in a variety of contexts: gaming, education, shopping, social spaces, employee training, to name a few. As with any emerging technology, it is fundamental we ensure its accessibility among people with different abilities. One of the major challenges blind people face in virtual environments is to navigate/move in the virtual space. While prior work has focused on mimicking real-world techniques, such as a virtual white cane (due to user familiarity), in virtual reality there are many locomotion techniques that vary greatly from application to application (e.g. free teleportation, walk in place, analog stick, directional dashes, waypoint navigation). In addition, blind users in virtual environments will not have the same restrictions as in the real world, nor the restrictions sighted people have due to a lack VR sickness (similar to motion sickness due to visual stimuli). We argue that this combination provides an opportunity to explore novel/fantastical mobility methods that are not possible otherwise.

What you will do

In this thesis you will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate novel navigation techniques in VR for blind people. You will conduct user studies early on to engage participants in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation. This work will conclude with a user study evaluating the developed set of navigation techniques.

#3 Sports in Virtual Reality for Blind People

Advisors

João Guerreiro and André Rodrigues

Motivation

Virtual reality is an emerging technology that is slowly becoming available to the masses at affordable prices. VR is currently used in a variety of contexts, including in sports both for recreational and training purposes. However, most VR applications (including sports related) are built with a major focus on visual information making them not accessible to blind users. In this thesis, we will investigate how to design accessible sports applications (e.g., table tennis, running, or other) for blind people, making use of VR technologies and auditory and haptic feedback.

What you will do

In this thesis you will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate a novel VR sports application for blind people. You will conduct user studies early on to engage participants in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation. This work will conclude with a user study evaluating the developed set of navigation techniques.

#4 Biofeedback to Measure Behavioural Response during VR Cue-exposure for Diagnosis

Advisors

João Guerreiro and Tiago Guerreiro

Motivation

Virtual Reality allows for immersive experiences as users can embody their characters/avatars and perceive the environment from an egocentric (or first-person) perspective. This enables the creation of experiences that resemble real-life but in controlled environments, which has great potential for measuring behavioural response during exposure to situations that could otherwise be dangerous or cause distress. In this thesis, we aim to explore how realistic virtual environments can be used for diagnosis (for instance, of Alcohol Use Disorder), by using sensors to objectively assess behavioral response (e.g., hearth-rate), during exposure (in this case exposure to alcohol-related virtual environments).

What you will do

In this thesis you will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate novel solutions that explore the use of immersive VR environments that induce different emotional responses to users while they are being physiologically measured (e.g., using smartwatches, physiological kits, bracelets, etc). For example, in disorder related settings (e.g., exposure to a bar and drinks to assess alcohol disorders). You will conduct user studies early on to engage stakeholders in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation.

#5 Orientation and Mobility Games for Blind People

Advisors

João Guerreiro

Motivation

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) can be defined as a set of concepts, skills and techniques that enable people with vision impairments to travel an environment safely and independently. Orientation refers to people's ability to position themselves in the environment, reflected in their awareness of where they are and where they want to go, while mobility refers to people's ability to move independently from one place to another in a safe, effective and efficient manner. These two interlinked concepts play a very important role in the lives of people with vision impairments in general and are extremely important to children, as the ability to travel independently provides access to a wide range of activities that enable people to participate in society.

What you will do

In this thesis, we aim to investigate current methodologies for O&M training and to design, develop and evaluate novel technological solutions to improve its effectiveness and engagement. In particular, we aim to explore how games can improve engagement in learning O&M concepts, techniques, and skills. We see opportunities for technology to further support O&M training activities both during and after classes with O&M specialists/teachers. You will conduct user studies early on to engage O&M specialists and blind children in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation. This work will conclude with a user study evaluating the technological solution developed.

#6 Audializations: Non-visual Exploration of Complex Data Visualizations

Advisors

João Guerreiro and Daniel Gonçalves (INESC-ID, Técnico)

Motivation

Information visualization tries to ease the understanding of complex data through the use of characteristics such as size, color, or location of elements. However, nost graphical representations of data - from simple charts to data visualizations - are not accessible to blind people. The most common solution is to provide a description of the chart, which does not enable a blind person to explore charts interactively nor to make their own interpretation of the data. In this work, we aim to explore information visualizations alongside different characteristics of audio (e.g., pitch, volume, or timbre) in order to enable blind users to explore - and perceive - complex data visualizations (or more broadly, representations) through audio.

What you will do

In this thesis, you will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate accessible visualizations that allow blind people to explore complex data. You will conduct user studies early on to engage stakeholders in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation.

#7 Learning through Audio-Tactile Exploration using Tactonom Reader

Advisors

João Guerreiro and Tiago Guerreiro

Motivation

Learning for people with visual impairments relies mostly on auditory and haptic feedback, but these modalities are often used in separate. For instance, technologies to support learning braille may rely on auditory feedback (for instance on a touchscreen), or on haptics (e.g., in a sheet of paper). The Tactonom Reader shows promise in combining the two feedback modalities to support better learning. For instance, one may explore a sheet of paper with their hand while learning braille, and receive auditory feedback about their exploration. Despite the potential of Tactonom Reader, litle is known about its potential to support learning activities, which we will explore in this thesis.

What you will do

In this project you will explore the potential of the Tactonom Reader to assist people with visual impairments in learning different competencies. You will be challenged to design, develop and evaluate novel applications that can leverage the Tactonom Reader. You will conduct user studies early on to engage stakeholders in co-design sessions ensuring user engagement and representation.

#8 Data-driven Navigation Assistance

Advisors

João Guerreiro and Joana Campos

Motivation

People with vision impairments are able to navigate independently by using their Orientation and Mobility (O&M) skills and their travel aids - white cane or guide dog. However, navigating independently in unfamiliar and/or complex locations is still a main challenge and therefore blind people are often assisted by sighted people in such scenarios. While navigation technologies such as those based on GPS (e.g., Google Maps) can help, their accuracy is still too low (e.g., around 5 meters) to fully support blind users when navigating in unknown locations. On the other hand, indoor locations do not support GPS and generally do not have a navigation system installed.

What you will do

Our goal is to use data from the crowd (other people who walked the same areas before) to learn more about the environment and be able to provide additional instructions to blind users. A possible approach is to use smartphone sensors to estimate possible paths after an individual enters a building. While the GPS may inform us that users are entering/inside a building, large amounts of data (crowd-based) from smartphone sensors may give us information about possible paths and obstacles to instruct blind users. For instance, one may learn that after the entrance there is a path going left and after approximately 10 meters there are stairs to go up one floor; and another path that goes forward (and so on). While the data from a single user may be erroneous, we plan to use data from many users to make such an approach more robust.

#9 Shared Gameplay Loops

Advisors

André Rodrigues and João Guerreiro

Motivation

Entertainment as a whole in modern society, started to be recognized as a fundamental part of our lives and well-being. Gaming has a long list of potential benefits including coping with anxiety, social bonding or as a creative outlet. While there is a vast array of options available for playing together, players are very limited in the experiences they are able to share when there is a significant difference in skill, ability, gaming tastes among others.

What you will do

In our group we have been exploring leveraging asymmetric roles to create asymmetric games that provide opportunities for shared play. In this topic you will have the opportunity to delve deeper into the design of Asymmetric Games and explore how to create and expand shared gameplay loops to cater to different family members.

#10 Community Created Voice Tech Recipes

Advisors

André Rodrigues and João Guerreiro

Motivation

Mobile devices are the "Swiss Army Knives" of today. They support a wide range of tasks, enabling people to access a wealth of information and services through their extensive connectivity; they have the potential to empower people in everyday tasks. Often we rely on our phones to follow all sorts of "recipes", for example cooking, tutorial steps for a particular software, hardware configuration, assembly furniture and so on. While some of these are professionally created instructions, often we are dealing with authored content on blogs, cooking websites, online communities and even instructions written by colleagues, friends and family. For blind people, it is common for recipes (e.g. tech instructions) and other instructions to be passed along within the community and on a user to user basis. However, creating, disseminating and consuming this information strictly on a smartphone has its challenges. For example, following these recipes on a phone while focusing on the primary task causes additional challenges.

What you will do

In this thesis, you will be challenged to create an online platform to create “recipes” to be shared and consumed through smartphones and voice assistants such as Google Mini or Amazon Alexa.