Computer Laboratory

Course pages 2011–12

Innovative User Interfaces

Principal lecturer: Prof Peter Robinson
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: R03
Hours: 16 (8 × two-hour seminar sessions)
Prerequisites: An undergraduate course in human-computer interaction


This module aims to provide a review of innovative user interfaces.


  • Early inspiration
  • Windows, icons, mice and pointing
  • Video user interfaces
  • Direct manipulation
  • The disappearing computer
  • Special purposes
  • Affective computing
  • Emotional inference


On completion of this module students should:

  • understand the development of user interfaces throughout the history of computing, and
  • be aware of recent research directions.


Participants will be expected to undertake six hours of preparatory work before each meeting. This will involve:

  • Reading the three papers scheduled for consideration that week.
  • Following up references, subsequent citations and other related work.
  • Writing an essay of about a thousand words giving a summary of the three set papers and discussing their broader context.
  • Submitting the essay by noon on the day preceding the meeting.

Every week, three participants will each introduce one of the papers being considered. This will involve giving a 20 minute presentation as if reporting the work at a conference, followed by 5 minutes of questions and 10 minutes of discussion. The final 15 minutes will be spent discussing the broader issues raised by the week's papers.


  • Written reports on weekly reading [7x8%]
    The reports should be submitted to the Student Administration Office by noon on the day before the relevant meeting of the group.
  • Contributions to weekly discussions [8x3%]
  • Individual presentations at two group meetings [2x10%]

Most people will present two papers. If someone gives more than two presentations, the best two marks will count.

Recommended reading

Before starting the course, students must be familiar with the standard literature on HCI such as:
Newman, William & Lamming, Mik (1995). Interactive system design. Addison-Wesley.

Preliminary reading:

Students intending to take the course should read the following before the beginning of term:
Norman, Donald (1988). The psychology of everyday things. Basic Books.
Weiser, Mark (1991). The computer for the 21st century. In Scientific American, September 1991.
Reprinted in Mobile computing and communications review, July 1999.
The intuitive beauty of computer-human interaction Communications of the ACM 43(3), March 2000.