March 2012: Erin Treacy Solovey: Real-time fNIRS Brain Input for Enhancing Interactive Systems

Tuesday, March 13, 6:30pm

Erin Treacy Solovey, Humans and Automation Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Venue: IBM Center for Social Business, 1 Rogers Street, Cambridge


Erin Treacy Solovey is a postdoctoral fellow at MIT in the Humans and Automation Lab (HAL). She recently completed her Ph.D. in computer science at Tufts, where she worked in the HCI lab with Professor Robert Jacob. She also received an M.S. in computer science from Tufts and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvard. Her main research interest is human-computer interaction, with a focus on next-generation interaction techniques. She was a research intern at Microsoft Research and at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a senior applications engineer at Oracle Corporation, and has experience at several startup companies. She was awarded the Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Computing Research Association and National Science Foundation.


Most human-computer interaction techniques cannot fully capture the richness of the user’s thoughts and intentions when interacting with a computer system. For example, when we communicate with other people, we do not simply use words, but also accompanying cues that give the other person additional insight to our thoughts. At the same time, several physiological changes occur that may or may not be detected by the other person. When we communicate with computers, we also generate these additional signals, but the computer cannot sense such signals, and therefore ignores them. Detecting these signals in real time and incorporating them into the user interface could improve the communication channel between the computer and the human user with little additional effort required of the user.

In this talk, I will discuss our research using brain sensor data as a passive, implicit input channel that expands the bandwidth between the human and computer by providing supplemental information about the user. Using a relatively new brain imaging tool called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), we can detect signals within the brain that indicate various cognitive states. This device provides data on brain activity while remaining portable and non-invasive. My research aims to develop tools to make brain sensing more practical for HCI and to demonstrate effective use of this cognitive state information as supplemental input to interactive systems.


Evening Schedule

6:30-7 Networking & Socializing over Tea, Coffee, Drinks, Food; Joining BostonCHI
7-8:30 Meeting
8:30-9 Dessert! … And more Networking & Socializing