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TEM - Human Computer Interaction
MSRI intern interviewing farmers in MP 



Designers of interactive systems meet many unique challenges when working with developing communities. For instance, the standard techniques and methods of HCI often break down when faced with the variety of contexts and constraints of emerging markets in the developing world. HCI research in TEM seeks to understand: 1) How technology is used by and on behalf of people in a wide range of developing communities; and 2) How to design and evaluate systems that address their needs and desires.





UIs for low-literate users


Can we design UIs such that any first-time, low-literate user on first interaction with a PC or a mobile phone is able to recognize useful interaction with minimal or no assistance? TEM research includes work in:

    • Text-Free UIs: Design principles for UIs that instead of text, use a combination of hand-drawn graphics, audio output, full-context video and other features. Applications of study include mobile money transfer, health information dissemination, and job-search for domestic labor.
    • VideoKheti: A multimodal video search system for low-literate farmers that combines local language speech, graphics and touch interaction to help find and watch agriculture extension videos. Video.
    • Cognition and Low-Literacy: Low-literacy is not just about the inability to read, but seems to be correlated with a host of cognitive skills. This research examines the implications for UI design with respect to these skills.



Mobile data collection


In rural settings within developing countries all written records are maintained on paper forms, which take a long time to aggregate and process data, resulting in corresponding delays in remedial action. TEM has conducted research in:

  • Digital Slate: A low-cost digitizing slate that directly accepts handwritten input on ordinary paper notebooks, and provides immediate electronic feedback on the display of the device. Along with the paper record, this simultaneously generates a digital record of the data thereby improving data timeliness.
  • CommCare: A case study on dimagi’s mobile phone-based data collection and record management system deployed through a three-month unsupervised field trial with health workers in rural Madhya Pradesh, India.


Voice interactions


Voice interfaces hold significant potential to increase access to information services among low-income, low-literate communities by overcoming cost and literacy barriers posed by PCs. TEM research in voice interactions include:

  • CGNet Swara: A voice-based citizen journalism portal, freely accessible via mobile phones, that allows anyone to report and listen to stories of local interest in the central Gondwana region of India.
  • IVR Junction: Given the potential of voice interfaces numerous organizations are actively seeking to establish their own phone-based voice applications across different domains. IVR Junction is a free and open-source system that simplifies the building of scalable Interactive Voice Response forums.
  • Miscellaneous: Other research in voice interactions includes a study comparing the accuracy, speed, and cost of an IVR survey relative to a live operator. Related publication here.


Other HCI projects


  • Demand characteristics: TEM has conducted research in measuring participant response bias due to interviewer demand characteristics and the role of social and demographic factors in influencing that bias.
  • mClerk: A platform for mobile crowdsourcing in developing regions where tasks are sent and received via SMS, making it accessible to anyone with a low-end mobile phone.



Recent HCI Publications from TEM

All TEM publications...