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Saul Greenberg, Ph.D.: Proxemic Interactions: Displays and Devices that Respond to Social Distance



In the everyday world, much of what we do as social beings is dictated by how we interpret spatial relationships. This is called proxemics. What is surprising is how little people’s expectations of spatial relationships are used in interaction design. Yet mediating people’s interactions will be crucial as people move through complex device ecologies containing a mix of large displays, digital signage, tabletops, workstations, mobile phones, tablets and other digitally aware devices. Our interest is in proxemic interaction, which imagines a world of devices that have fine-grained knowledge of nearby people and other devices – how they move into range, their precise distance, their identity and even their orientation – and how such knowledge can be exploited to design interaction techniques. Just as people expect increasing engagement and intimacy as they approach others, so should they naturally expect increasing connectivity and interaction possibilities as they bring themselves and their devices in close proximity to one another and to other things in their everyday ecology.

About Saul Greenberg

Saul Greenberg is a Full Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary. While he is a computer scientist by training, the work by Saul and his talented students typify the cross-discipline aspects of Human Computer Interaction, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, and Ubiquitous Computing. He and his crew are well known for their development of:

  • toolkits enabling rapid prototyping of groupware and ubiquitous appliances;
  • innovative and seminal system designs based on observations of social phenomenon;
  • articulation of design-oriented social science theories, and
  • refinement of evaluation methods.

Saul’s research is well-recognized. He is an ACM Fellow, and holds the AITF/NSERC/Smart Technologies Industrial Chair in Interactive Technologies. He received the CHCCS Achievement award in May 2007 and was also elected to the ACM CHI Academy in April 2005 for his overall contributions to the field of Human Computer Interaction. He is a prolific author, where he is also known for his strong commitment in making his tools, systems, and educational material readily available to other researchers and educators. See