The Bristol Interaction and Graphics research group is a creative interdisciplinary team interested in designing novel interactive computers and displays. We specialise in exciting research which couples the design of hardware devices with complex electronic, electrical, and physical properties alongside deployment and evaluation in everyday public settings. We like to call this style of research Human-Hardware Interaction (HHI). The group acts as a hub for collaboration between social scientists, artists, scientists and engineers to combine efficient and aesthetic design.
Linking human interaction and hardware design has helped us understand the importance of legible design i.e. people can probe and read how the system works while they are interacting with it. Many current systems are illegible, because they hide how they work from the user. Although in many cases this can lead to systems which can handle greater complexity internally, for example autonomous or abstracted designs, problems tend to arise for two reasons. Firstly, the way that someone expects a design to work and the way it actually works are often different, making it hard to use. Secondly, if we design systems which do not exhibit their own behaviour, we increasingly create a separation in society between users and designers - people who are constrained by technology and people who remain creative with it – an approach, which is at best educationally naïve, and at worst sinister for the future. As a result, we are increasingly designing bespoke systems that are legible in their operation. Imagine, for example, a wireless network in which you could see the information moving around space if you wished; or a processor which could show how it was efficiently encoding data at the same as it was playing an mp3.
The group was formed in 2007 and we have attracted over £4m in funding to Bristol over the past four years, from industrial partners and UK and European Research Councils. We include five faculty and over 20 postdoctoral researchers and PhD students. We freely publish our work in international conferences, including the ACM SIGCHI conference, at which members of the group have published 18 full papers, including a best paper award and a best paper nomination.