MSc (and UG) Project Ideas

Chris Greenhalgh, 2021-06-03

General topics

In general I am interested in Human-computer interaction, Distributed Systems and Computer-supported cooperative work, in particular

I have done a lot of work developing digital technology platforms, web applications, collaborative systems and mobile applications.

Most of my projects combine (to varying extents) software development, interaction design and user studies.

Suggested Projects

These specific projects are all suitable for HCI or CS (given an appropriate focus of effort within the project - HCI projects MUST be user-centered), and can be tackled at level 3 or 4 (MSc or MSci).

(None are directly suitable for AI, but some could be adapted, i.e. with a change of emphasis or specific focus. None are suitable for Data Science as they do not have suitable existing datasets to work with.)

Web-based multi-user ideation card system

The Cardographer project is exploring the use of activities based on (physical or virtual) playing cards to help generate ideas, and learn about and explore ethical and legal issues for new technologies and applications. The project is currently (mid-2021) developing a new digital platform for creating cards, managing shared session using cards and analysing card use. Some card-based activities will take place online, and previously these have used the Miro online whiteboard tool. A new client is being built using Unity in the style of a 3D virtual tabletop, similar to Tabletop Simulator. There are stengths and weaknesses to this 3D approach, and unity is very resource intensive. So it would be useful to have a simpler web-based option for online card sessions, e.g. more similar to playingcards.io.

CW1: The aim of this project is to prototype and evaluate a web-based multi-user system for ideation card activities, that integrates with the (work in progress) Cardographer platform, e.g. to load cards, manage and record sessions. Ideally the system would be responsive and suitable for use on phones and tablets as well as notebook/desktop devices.

Digital Front Door for mental health self-help

There are many services, apps, websites, books etc that can be helpful when someone is struggling with their wellbeing (e.g. anxiety or mood). But it can be hard to work out which might be useful, and different things might help different people. For example, even within the University there are various resources and sources of help, including HealthyU, the Support and Wellbeing service Disability support and the Counselling Service.

The idea of a Digital Front Door is that anyone can go there as a single starting point, and it will help them to navigate the options available and find some things to try that might be helpful for them. See for example Good Thinking, created by MindwaveVentures for London, especially the interactive features.

FD1: The aim of this project is to design and ideally prototype and evaluate a digital front door for University of Nottingham students concerned about their mental wellbeing.

Music Performance Anxiety trainer

Many performers - including musicians - experience a significant level of anxiety when performing. This can depend on many factors, including the nature of the performance (e.g. an exam), their role (e.g. as a soloist) and their level of preparation. Exposure therapy involves someone who is anxious experiencing what makes them anxious in a controlled way so that they can develop a more balanced or realistic response to the situation. The exposure can also be simulated, for example using VR or a mixed reality simulation. However there are large hardware and technical requirements for these simulations.

We hypothesise a very simple performance "simulator", running on a smart phone or watch, might be sufficient to help performers to prepare for a performance and ameliorate their performance anxiety. For example, a simple audio soundtrack of being asked to go on stage, hearing the audience applaud and become quiet, might give a subjective sense of performance to a practice session. But how would a musician control this? Could the simulator monitor and respond to the musician's actions? Could or should the simulator also add other elements such as audience noises or responses (positive, negative or neutral)?

PS1: The aim of this project is to design, prototype and evaluate a music performance simulator, that can be used on a smartphone or watch, to help musicians prepare for a performance (and in particular to help address potential anxiety).

Shareable well-being diary

Many people find it helpful to keep a diary or other record of what they do and how they feel in order to reflect on and help to manage their mental wellbeing. For example, someone may know that particular activities or habits are helpful or unhelpful (such as Five Ways to Wellbeing), or may know that there are personal "warning signs" that their mental health is currently vulnerable. While this personal diary information can be useful for someone to reflect on themselves, it may also be valuable to share some of this information with others, such as a trusted friend or family member, or a doctor or counsellor.

However, rather than simply sharing everything in their diary or record with someone else, it may be preferable to share only certain information (some may be too personal or inappropriat to share). Also, rather than simply viewing the "raw" information, a friend/family member or doctor/counsellor may want to quickly get an overview of what has been happening or how the person has been feeling.

SD1: The aim of this project is to design, prototype and evaluate a shareable wellbeing diary. A particular focus of the project should be on how sharing is done, what information is shared (and how this is controlled) and how the shared data is represented to others.

Interactive performance system

There is a rich history of using digital technology to enhance live performances. For example, in the Opera "Losing Her Voice" (by Elizabeth Kelly, University of Nottingham) a mobile web app allowed the audience to interact at key points in the performance through a kind of in-opera social media, while in the virtuoso Piano composition, "Climb!" (by Maria Kallionpää), a software system determines which movements the pianist has to play and in which order (depending on key musical phrases played) while a simpler mobile web app helps the audience to follow the performance.

We are interested in exploring other ways of enhancing live musical, opera and theatre performance experiences using personal mobile technologies (smart phones, etc.). This is a very open brief, and will require significant independent work, and potential collaboration(s) with composer(s) and performer(s), e.g. within the Department of Music.

EP1: The aim is identify a potential performance scenario (and collaborators if possible) and design, prototype and evaluate a use of digital technology to enhance the performance experience. Note that it is likely that any evaluation will need to be preliminary and relatively small scale, although a larger-scale public performance might be possible, depending on the work and any collaboration(s) developed.

Also note that this project might link well to the level 3 Music and Mixed Reality module being offered by the Department of Music (with the School of Computer Science) in the Autumn 2021/22 semester.

Data Trusts

Personal data (e.g. self-assessments, social media, activity, sleep, spending patterns) might be useful for someone to monitor and care for their own physical and/or mental health, but might also be useful for researchers trying to understand what helps/hinders people's health. However people may be reluctant to share these kinds of information with researchers. A Data Trust is a proposed way of pooling and collectively managing personal data that draws on the idea of other legal trusts, for example that a group of trustees administer the data on behalf of its donor's (Delacriox and Lawrence, 2019).

We hypothesise that people may be happier to share this kind of personal data for research when it is done through a data trust. Two particular areas of potential investigation are (1) whether people fall into distinct categories in relation to sharing this kind of data (eg. willingness, preferred level of involvement in decision-making, attitudes to research projects and to delegating control) and (2) practical mechanisms for delegated data-sharing decisions, i.e. for the trustees of a data trust to make informed decisions on behalf of the people whose data it is, incorporating their attitudes and preferences.

DT1: The aim of this project is to design, prototype and/or evaluate a data trust for sensitive personal data, in particular the public/end-user interface/functionality for collecting data and/or expressing wishes in relation to data use.

DT2: The aim of this project is to design, prototype and/or evaluate a data trust for sensitive personal data, in particular the trustee's interface/functionality for deciding whether and what access to give to specific research proposals, taking the data subjects' preferences/etc. into account.

App Reporter

Many people experience challenges with their mental health and wellbeing. Digital technologies such as apps and websites are sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful to people's wellbeing. Existing studies of the impacts of e.g. spending time online are very limited, e.g. just considering how many hours are spent online or using apps. From everyday experience we know that sometimes it is a very specific thing (e.g. a single message) that we find helpful or hurtful. But there is no easy way to record exactly what and when this happens, either to help ourselves, or as an input to research on mental health and technology.

AR1: The aim of the project is to design, prototype and evaluate software for Android that will allow someone who is using apps/websites on their phone (e.g. social media) to report exactly when and what they encounter that has a positive or negative impact on their wellbeing. It is anticipated that the Android Accessibility API/support will provide the technical mechanism to be evaluated, requiring native Android development (Java or Kotlin).