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A collection of outlandish human-computer interaction papers (butterbrot.org)
113 points by danso 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments

> You’re in control: a urinary user interface

> The picture alone says a thousand words. Play a game by peeing on the right spot in an urinal...

That's how you end up with a pee sea instead of a PC.

Hayes Raffle on that paper eventually ended up at Google leading AR UX. So just because you start with silly ideas exploring things as a student doesn’t mean you aren’t learning.

Urnial ads are obviously big business. And there are several game companies.

You have a person for X time and they can't use their phone.

I'd imagine the killer app part is easy to clean and doesn't look like a camera.

> and they can't use their phone

Have you not been in a men's room in the past decade?

> You have a person for X time

Ah, I can see prostate treatment ads booming...

You'd be able to find children based on strength, amount, time of day and angle and play kids ads.

I feel like it would be a bad idea.

Shopping centres can have tracking based on WiFi. Track how much fluids are bought and where.

People leak data everywhere.

Yikes. This just made me think of chemical fluid analysis (if the advertising provider buys the drain (!)), which provides an absolute mountain of data.

Cameras are rightly forbidden *inside* restrooms, but there are often security cameras in corridors leading to them. Run facial recognition off of those, store the data for a *leeetle* while, consolidate/centralize all the data back to one warehouse, and... you just built a scarily accurate biometric tracking system that can sell... [gets sad about implications and stops typing]

I will shamelessly plug my personal contribution to outlandish toilet-related HCI papers!


Hey, nice to see DATANOSE on that list! It was co-written by my PhD supervisor Scott Hudson, and it emphatically was a joke. He likes to tell the story every so often at conferences. If I’m not mistaken, the picture shows Scott with his trademark mustache under the DATANOSE :)

Honestly would use the bathtub interface. Convert it to a hot tub and that is an excellent outdoor office.

Keep thinking I should put a waterproof tablet in my shower (no camera of course ha)

Shameless share of my toilet based art installation. https://vimeo.com/75448871

These papers would be funny if you didn't stop to think of all the tax dollars being wasted on all of this.

On the contrary, stuff like this happens because of a business model that SAVES the taxpayer hundreds of millions.

In CS at least, we pay grad student research assistants close to nothing relative to their worth. And then we work them to the bone. In exchange, students like these ones are allowed to do whatever they want in their free time in betweeen working on actually funded projects.

If you can find an alternative model that allows me to hire kids who have 200k offers at 30k-40k and get 50+ hours of work out of them, please let me know.

Even if these kids work on these projects during the 9-5 day — and I kind of doubt it, these are all probably “fucking around in the lab at 1030pm” projects — we’re still getting a killing by calling them students instead of SWEs.

I’ve advised exactly zero students who didn’t have multiple offers in the 200s when they started their phd, and never paid more than 45k. They could spend like most of their time on BS and I’d still be getting an amazing deal.

Kids using their free time to do stupid/fun projects in between working for the taxpayers at a REALLY FUCKING STEEP discount is not an example of government waste. And if you start getting greedy by treating phd students like civil servants, well, better also be willing to pay six figures and a pension. Spoiler: you’re not going to save money.

Highlighting the cost of opportunity of hiring these students doesn't make the irrelevance problem of a lot of modern research any better. I'd rather teach students to work on practical or fundamental problems and change the incentive system to do real, long-term research projects rather than pumping papers to boost up the advisor's resume and the institutional numbers.

While you mention price tag, the student gets only a small part of all the funding. Most of the money goes to the institution, not to mention the advisor's summer salary.

All of those students ARE working on real problems. These papers are fun asides, not the core of the research agendas.

Stop with the professional attacks against researchers until you at least take the time to read their CVs. What you we doing here is attacking peoples professional reputation. And you’re doing it without knowing anything about them. Stop.

At least half the money goes to the student in stipend+core benefits, and another third covers fringe benefits and overhead - lights, bathrooms, offices, security, data centers, travel, … It’s pretty common for the total cost of an employee to be 1.5x+ their salary.

Sometimes grants fund faculty summer salaries, but I kind of doubt those faculty spent any time on these specific projects.

Actually, I've been there and done that. There is a huge difference between the relevance of the problems people are officially targeting and the actual substance and relevance of the research being done. I've seen first-hand that even at top institutions the priority is to maximize PR, often based on number of papers published (in prestigious-sounding venues if and when possible) and to maximize rankings to attract more students and funding.

The reality is that the incentive system is wrong. Impactful, long-term research is super hard to achieve like this.

Sounds like you washed out of a toxic lab and are now lashing out at some 20-something’s’ funny side projects.

Not at all. I'm just being realistic.

You're latching onto a set of kinda transparently obvious joke papers [1] written by clearly accomplished individuals [2] and claiming that the whole institution is rotten. You're not being realistic; you're being absurd -- literally using a bunch of April Fools Day jokes as evidence that all of academia is broken.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27909164

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27911634

Stop pretending this is about some kids. I'm talking about the system and culture today. A lot of academic research is broken and you can't pretend you don't see it. The main goal is to maximize metrics.

Just look at many authors' publication lists that look like paper mills. Quantity over quality. Irreproducible results, bad study design, too many hidden variables, unrepresentative subjects. Unrealistic and oversimplistic assumptions. I've even served as subject of studies published in top venues, and I can tell that the study was a joke.

It varies by the area, but this is present everywhere. Just one example: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jo....

Again, the context of this rant is a list of actually kinda funny jokes. Just wait until this guy hears about SIGBOVIK :)

The context of this rant by now is academic problems, not your attempts to distract from them.

My hill to die on: Don't be an ass. Let the 20 somethings olds working at a 150K discount for 50-60 hours a week have their funny April Fools jokes. They're probably working on their jokes on evenings and weekends anyways.

Aside from that, IDK. I'm sorry you had some sort of negative experience, but I don't have time to engage with "all of academia is a scam" levels of crank. That sort of thing very much goes into my "p=np" inbox.

Are you similarly annoyed by the stupid stuff private companies you deal with spend their margins on?

Of course, the government has a tax monopoly. But wait, several private companies look like they do too! From my perspective there are more viable countries/governments to choose from than mobile or desktop OSes or online retailers.

As a matter of fact, I am. It's not one or the other, it's both. It's a moral obligation to point out wrong wherever it is.

Criticism of government waste shouldn't be taken as an argument against government, like some opportunists do, but as necessary accountability. In this case, the funding for this garbage research (and all paper mills, while we are at it, which are a majority of academia these days) should be reinvested in useful areas like climate change, fundamental sciences (such as physics and chemistry) and technology transfer from science to industry.

Who decides what research is garbage or not? I notice your list lacks any mention of anthropology, history, or other humanities, for example.

It's not so much about the area, although some areas lend themselves to more abuse. Obviously humanities are important. The problem is the bad incentive system and the irrelevance of the resulting research.

I respect that. But I would contend that these people made something, learned something, and published their findings. Even if it is all goofy and of no immediate practical value, I wouldn't call it a waste.

Yes, they learn, and others might appreciate reading the papers too. But I'd rather steer creative students to solve real-world problems or build serious science, and they will learn more about what matters.

Go read the CVs of the authors. They are all working on real problems. These are goofy 1030pm fucking around in the lab projects, not the real Serious Work these students are doing.

How do you know a government funded these? And which government? These seem to be from institutions all over the world.

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