Paper speeds video access

By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

Four thousand years of technology research has gone into the user interface we know as the book.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Ricoh Innovations Inc. are combining this technology with a couple of relative newcomers -- barcodes and handheld computers -- in an attempt to bring some of the advantages of the book interface to video.

The researchers' device uses paper transcripts as an interface to digital video. It could eventually make it quicker and easier to access video records, including those of historical figures, court trials and medical procedures.

Plain old paper is actually a phenomenally nuanced and complex interface with 4,000 years of research behind it, said Scott Klemmer, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. "I can read it, I can skim it, I have an index, I can dog ear and bookmark pages, I can photocopy them and give them to friends, I can add notations, I can highlight things," he said.

While studying how historians access video records of oral histories, Klemmer realized that they rely heavily on paper because it is a good interface. "It became clear that while historians consider the primary research artifacts to be audio or... video recordings, the artifact that historians use in their own research is the printed transcript," said Klemmer.

Klemmer's research insight was "to use what people are already comfortable with and what works remarkably well for them -- paper books -- as an interface to... time-based media," he said.

The researchers added a hard drive and barcode reader to a handheld computer, and added barcodes to transcripts of oral history videos. The computer holds about 20 hours of oral histories. When a user scans a barcode, the video starts at that point in the transcript.

The researchers gave the devices to 13 oral historians. "We were curious to see [how] people access video, when, for how long, and why," said Klemmer.

The researchers found that the historians tended to scan one of the first barcodes and listen for three to five minutes to get a sense of how the person talks and carries himself, said Klemmer. Then the historians read longer segments, stopping to watch the videotape at specific points, he said.

The historians were interested in looking at specific aspects of the video record, like the nuance of a voice, gesture or facial expression, Klemmer said. "It may make a difference [whether] a story was said with a straight face, whether or not there is discomfort." The historians were also interested in checking a transcription to make sure it was accurate, he said.

The researchers surveyed the historians after they read a pair of transcripts -- a 15 page/42 minute video and a 10 page/28 minute video. Half the users said they would be very likely to use the system again and half said they would be somewhat likely. The participants were pleased to be able to sense the context of the video, but dissatisfied with the PDA's small screen size, according to the researchers.

The researchers also found that several historians used the paper transcript and audio recording at once, listening to one section while reading another.

The device can be used to access any digital video, according to Klemmer. "This can be used for a whole host of things from lawyers wanting to have a whole bunch of testimony at their fingertips during a court trial to doctors looking at records to any professional that works with media [and is] interested in having easy access to that media," he said.

The researchers' method will become more accessible when handheld computers regularly include cameras and wireless Internet access, said Klemmer. Integrated cameras could be used to read the barcodes, and wireless Internet access would enable users to download videos from Web servers. These technologies should be common in handheld computers within three years, he said.

Klemmer is also working on a tool, dubbed Paper Maché, that is aimed at making it easier to build computer interfaces that mix real-world interfaces like paper with traditional graphical user interfaces.

Klemmer's research colleagues were Jamey Graham and Gregory J. Wolff from Ricoh Innovations and James A. Landay from the University of California at Berkeley. They are scheduled to present to work at the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in April, 2003 (CHI 2003) in Fort Lauderdale. The research was funded by Ricoh Innovations, Inc.

Timeline:   Now
Funding:   Corporate
TRN Categories:  Human-Computer Interaction; Applied Technology
Story Type:   News
Related Elements:  Technical paper, "Books with Voices: Paper Transcripts As a Tangible Interface to Oral Histories," slated for presentation at the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in April, 2003 (CHI 2003) in Fort Lauderdale.


March 12/19, 2003

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