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HCI: Research Topic Ideas

I was reading an interesting research paper (Personal Tasks at Work: An Exploration, ACM 2017) in which the writer talks about the personal tasks that we have to do at work such as scheduling appointments, paying electricity and other bills, etc. The problem at first seems to be a social science one which has nothing to do with computer science but when looked closely the problem highlights an important aspect of our daily life that has to be sorted out using technology. The paper basically discusses those tasks and categorizes them based on frequency of occurring based on a survey. So, for example out of the 93 people who participated in the survey presented in the paper, 51% reported a need for scheduling an appointment while 33% have to coordinate their personal activities. Some will say (specially management science guys) that few of the problems can be solved by proper time management but remember that the purpose of technology is to make life easier for humans. Also, not every problem mentioned in the research paper can be solved through time management so we need the help of technology for solving these.

The tasks that we perform at work that has to do with our personal life can be divided into following categories:

  •          Tasks that can be automated
  •          Those which cannot be automated
  •          Those which cannot be completed automated but can be semi-automated to save time


Let’s consider each of these:

Tasks that can be automated:
Some problems that fall into this category are paying a bill, and to some extend making a purchase. We can have an app for instance that would – on monthly basis – pay our bills probably through our credit cards or bank accounts. Off course security will be a major concern for this kind of apps. We can also schedule a purchase. For example, those things that we need on monthly or even daily basis can be scheduled to be ordered automatically through such system. 

Tasks that CANNOT be automated:
The survey presented in the research paper lists some tasks that are less likely to be automated – at least per my understandings. Those include going to an appointment and attend to family.

Tasks that can be partially automated:
Finally, there are tasks that cannot be fully automated but the technology can save time by semi-automating them. For instance, we can make an app – kind of an expert system – that would allow users to cut-off the number of schedules they need for a particular task to complete by predicting the scenario the user might be in. To illustrate this let’s take an example of medical system. Normally when we go to a doctor for checkup - after scheduling an appointment off course - the doctor would ask some questions that might follow a pattern. Then the doctor might ask to have some tests such as blood or sugar. With the help of technology, we can automate the scheduling process and also predict the disease the patient might have based on his conditions. Plus, the tests that the doctor would suggest in such case are asked to be done by the app or website.

We presented some of the areas where the HCI needs to focus for the coming times. As with any other technology we need to make the human life easier with the help of technology. The research paper I mentioned is indeed an interesting one that suggests a new area of advancement for betterment of our lives.


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