Designing Useful and Usable Intelligent Interactive Systems

The next BostonCHI meeting is Designing Useful and Usable Intelligent Interactive Systems on Tue, Sep 19 at 6:00 PM.

Register here

BostonCHI presents a hybrid talk by Krzysztof Gajos


My research is at the intersection of HCI and AI. I design, build and evaluate interactive systems that have some kind of machine intelligence under the hood. I strive to build intelligent interactive systems that are useful, that give people a meaningful sense of control, and whose behavior aligns with the mental models held by their users. This is challenging because the underlying AI technology can be occasionally wrong, it delivers the most value if it is allowed to act proactively at times, and it frequently behaves in unexpected ways.

In the past two decades, the intelligent interactive systems community has made substantial progress in producing useful design knowledge that addresses these challenges and machine intelligence is now present in many real-world interactive systems from nearly invisible (like predictive text helping with mobile text entry), to highly consequential (like AI-powered decision-support systems).

However, there are also some important gaps in our knowledge. In particular, my group has recently conducted a series of studies whose results indicate that some assumptions that I and my community have made along the way do not always hold. For example, adaptive user interfaces require more cognitive effort to operate than we had assumed, predictive text changes the content of what people write instead of just making text entry more efficient, and decision makers presented with AI-generated decision recommendations and explanations rarely engage cognitively with the content of what the AI communicates.

I will describe the studies that led to these insights and reflect on the current state of the knowledge pertaining to the design of usable intelligent interactive systems. I will then share some of our qualitative work on the clinical decision-making practices and, adopting a sociotechnical perspective, point out some unverified assumptions underlying the common choices of what (and whose) problems we solve with AI in clinical settings.

Overall, I believe that we can design useful and usable intelligent interactive systems but the relevant design knowledge is relatively knew and still a work in progress. The contemporary enthusiasm for using machine intelligence in interactive systems is an opportunity to grow our knowledge. It is also a danger in that it creates conditions where following the “best practices” of others, without having the time or opportunity to examine them, can turn unverified assumptions into fundamental principles of our field.

About Krzysztof Gajos

Krzysztof Gajos is a Gordon McKay professor of Computer Science at the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Krzysztof’s current interests include 1. Principles and applications of intelligent interactive systems; 2. Tools and methods for behavioral research at scale (e.g.,; and 3. Design for equity and social justice. He has also made contributions in the areas of accessible computing, creativity support tools, social computing, and health informatics.

Krzysztof received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington and his M.Eng. and B.Sc. degrees from MIT. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research at the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group. From 2013 to 2016 Krzysztof was a coeditor-in-chief of the ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems (ACM TiiS), he was the general chair of ACM UIST 2017, and he was a program co-chair of the 2022 ACM Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces. His work was recognized with a Sloan Fellowship and with best paper awards at ACM CHI, ACM COMPASS, and ACM IUI. In 2019, he received the Most Impactful Paper Award at ACM IUI for his work on automatically generating personalized user interfaces.


This is a hybrid event, to be held at Microsoft New England 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA, and online using Zoom. The Zoom link will be provided to registered attendees ahead of the event.

Notes: this event will not be recorded. If attending in person, please bring a government issued photo I.D. In-person registration will end 48 hours ahead of the event.

Gregory Abowd – Ignorance is Bliss: A career retrospective (hybrid event)

The next BostonCHI meeting is Gregory Abowd – Ignorance is Bliss: A career retrospective (hybrid event) on Tue, Jun 13 at 5:30 PM.

Register here

BostonCHI Hybrid Event featuring Gregory Abowd, June 2023


In 1988, as a graduate student grappling to find a research identity, I accidentally discovered the field of HCI. Over the past 35 years, a passion for applying the tools and techniques of computing to uncover how the human experience with technology can be understood and transformed. That leap into HCI was just the first of a number of leaps of faith. My career has been a series of shifting research agendas, each one inspired by some life events. In all cases, I was buoyed by a bevy of talented and supportive colleagues, advisors and advisees alike, who gave me the courage to jump into a research topic that I didn’t know much about. That “ignorance” has allowed me to be more fearless than I had the right to be. In this talk, I will reflect on my professional journey, hoping to inspire others to dispel fear of the unknown and unlock their potential. Life, like research, is best when shared with others whom you can respect and befriend.

About Gregory Abowd

Gregory Abowd is a world leader in the invention and application of ubiquitous computing technologies. His work has defined the field over the past three decades, and his intellectual contributions have shaped two major themes in ubiquitous computing: context-aware computing and automated capture and access of live experiences. He has shown how a variety of application areas—the classroom, the home, autism, and health care—benefit from innovations in mobile and ubiquitous technologies. Two particularly trailblazing projects, Classroom 2000 and the Aware Home, demonstrated “living laboratories” to advance technological advancements as well as understanding the impact when those technologies are woven into everyday life. He is the most highly cited researcher in ubiquitous computing in the world, with over 60,000 citations. Nine papers alone have each been cited over 1000 times; four papers have won either 10- or 20-year impact awards. After 26.5 years serving on the faculty at Georgia Tech, Gregory moved to become Dean of Engineering at Northeastern University in March 2021. He still maintains an active research career, with his most recent efforts on computational sustainability and the Internet of Materials influencing a new generation of students and researchers.

Gregory’s leadership to the research community cemented ubiquitous computing as a core topic in HCI research. He hosted UbiComp 2001 in Atlanta, rebranding and establishing it as the premier forum in the area. He served on the founding editorial board for IEEE Pervasive Computing Magazine and was the co-founding Editor-in-Chief of Foundations and Trends in HCI. In the mid 2010’s created the Proceedings of the ACM in Interaction, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT), serving as the Founding Editor-in-Chief. This journal was a bold, and ultimately successful experiment to merge the best practices of conference and journal reviewing.Its success has served as a model for other HCI and CS communities.

Beyond the impact of his publications, his research has resulted in public-domain software toolkits and commercial solutions in the home and health sectors. As the parent of two sons on the autism spectrum, Gregory initiated a research program in technologies to support this neurodiverse population, resulting in several commercial products. In the process, he started a non-profit, the Atlanta Autism Consortium, that connects stakeholder communities across research, clinical practice, education, and families, and he was recognized by the State of Georgia for his efforts in establishing that organization.

Gregory is arguably one of the most influential HCI educators in the world. He is co-author of the first proper textbook on Human-Computer Interaction, first published in 1994. He earned several awards for teaching effectiveness and the innovative use of technology in the classroom, but it is his unrivaled success as a research mentor that separates him. He has graduated 35 PhD students and advised countless masters and undergraduate students who have gone on to stellar research careers. More than two-thirds of his PhD students have gone onto academic careers, and his academic family numbers over 250. Many of those former students are themselves well known in the field and have assumed roles of research and administrative leadership, without a doubt his greatest impact as an educator and researcher.

Gregory has been recognized by ACM as a Fellow, a member of the SIGCHI Academy, recipient of the SIGCHI Social Impact Award, and the ACM Eugene Lawler Humanitarian Award.

Ravi Karkar: Measuring Health – From Tools, to Data, to Value

The next BostonCHI meeting is Ravi Karkar: Measuring Health – From Tools, to Data, to Value on Tue, May 16 at 6:45 PM.

Register here

BostonCHI May 2023


The ongoing boom in personal health technologies offers new potential to support people in collecting and interpreting data about their own health and well-being. However, there is a mismatch between what technology currently delivers (e.g., step counts, sleep scores) versus what people expect from it (i.e., personal health insights and recommendations).

Current technologies fall short of their potential due to complex and interrelated challenges (e.g., in meeting personal needs, in data quality, in their integration into clinical practice). A holistic approach is therefore necessary, focusing on end-to-end design that understands the individual, their environments, and their contexts.

My research focuses on human-centered approaches to collecting, interacting with, and using novel health data toward improving human well-being through personalized insights and recommendations.

I explore this in two major thrusts of research: (1) I build specialized tools to enable people living with chronic conditions to better leverage their personal health data in understanding and managing their health; and (2) Through the process of creating and studying such tools, I systematize frameworks and design recommendations to assist future developers in designing personal health tools.

About Ravi Karkar

My research focuses on designing, developing, and evaluating tools that can enable people to gather data and interpret personal aspects of their medical condition in the context of their day-to-day lives. Specifically, I focus on opportunities for individualized interventions that can be more effective and appropriate than one-size-fits-all population-based interventions.

I collaborate closely with clinical researchers to build targeted tools to support patients in better understanding and managing chronic conditions. I have also contributed a domain agnostic framework and approaches toward better design of personal health technologies. An overarching theme across the tools that I build is a focus on translating the research — taking the research from lab-studies into the hands of the individuals who need it.

The Human Side of Tech