LIANG HΞ

PhD Candidate | Incoming Assistant Professor at Purdue (he/him/his)    

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, advised by Jon E. Froehlich. My research in human-computer interaction (HCI) focuses on the design and development of novel interactive techniques and tools that mediate human interactions with custom physical objects, devices, and interfaces for computing. I also worked in HP Labs, in the VIBE group at Microsoft Research (Redmond), and at Keio-NUS CUTE Center. I publish at top HCI venues such as CHI, UIST, TEI, and ASSETS and received two best paper awards and one best paper nominee.

I will be joining the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in August 2022. At Purdue, I will lead DΞ4M (Design & Engineering for Making) Lab and continue HCI research on fabrication, robotics, accessibility, computational media, and novel interface and interaction techniques for XR.
  I am actively looking for talented and self-motivated students to join my group.

In my research, I draw on my cross-disciplinary background in computational design (M.S. from Carnegie Mellon University), engineering (M.S. from University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and B.S. from Beihang University), and computer science (continued Ph.D. at UW) and I work with collaborators across disciplines to uniquely pursue novel interactive systems research. Moreover, I build large, complex systems and make technical contributions in digital fabrication, physical computing, haptic/tactile interfaces, accessibility, and ubiquitous computing.

"BEYOND SHAPE" Research Statement

3D printing technology has long been touted as a technique to revolutionize manufacturing, transform rapid prototyping, and enable personalized fabrication. In the past few decades, 3D printers have evolved to create multi-material, multi-color, multi-scale objects, and more recently, convert static 3D models into non-static objects. My dissertation aims to increase the expressivity of consumer-grade 3D printing beyond fixed and rigid shapes for interaction and computing. During my PhD, I applied a cross-disciplinary approach to create fabricated devices with distinct I/O behaviors in a variety of application areas, such as physical computing, prototyping, accessibility, and education: (i) creating parametric 3D printable structures for controllable output behaviors and input sensing (ME), and (ii) developing interactive, computational systems to lower barriers for end-users to design and control desired I/O behaviors for 3D printing (CS and HCI).

In the future, I will continue my research on kinetic fab I/O by identifying and tackling open challenges from the object scale to environment scale in both the physical world and virtual space. I plan to create novel software and hardware to facilitate learning by combining AR/MR and actuated fabricated objects, to augment the communication and interaction between people and the physical environment, to create assistive mediums for people with impairments to access and interact with digital elements, and to enhance the tangibility of virtual objects in VR environments. See the full research agenda

BEYOND SHAPE Research Overview
Liang's profile image
NEWS
•••

06/2022:

DURI research proposal (as the PI) was accepted!

06/2022:

One paper was conditionally accepted to UIST 2022

06/2022:

Invited panelist at DIS 2022 AMA

06/2022:

Received recognition for excellent reviews UIST '22

05/2022:

Attending CHI 2022 in person in NOLA

04/2022:

Mentoring college students from underrepresented groups in CSNext Workshop at UW

03/2022:

Invited talk at Georgia Tech

02/2022:

Invited to serve on ASSETS'22 Program Committee

02/2022:

Proposal on "Towards More Personal Health Sensing" accepted to CHI'22 SIG

01/2022:

Invited talk on "Beyond Shape" at Hasso Plattner Institute

12/2021:

Invited talk on "Beyond Shape" at UMD, College Park

11/2021:

Invited talk on ModElec, CSE Colloquium, UW

11/2021:

FlexHaptics was conditionally accepted to CHI'22

11/2021:

Received special recognition for excellent reviews CHI'22

10/2021:

Serve as Proceedings co-chair for UIST '22

I build hardware, develop interactive tools, and create sensing-capable devices for technical track of HCI research. Also, I conduct qualitative analysis to understand how people approach and perceive new technologies.

Designing, Controlling, and Fabricating In-Place Augmented Structures

An early version of my PhD thesis proposal presented at UIST'20 Doctoral Symposium.

#1 - Major Research Foci: Digtial Fabrication / Tangible Interaction / Making
FlexHaptics: A Design Method for Passive Haptic Inputs Using Planar Compliant Structures (CHI 2022)

Hongnan Lin, Liang He, Fangli Song, Yifan Li, Tingyu Cheng, Clement Zheng, Wei Wang, and Hyunjoo Oh

This paper presents FlexHaptics, a design method for creating custom haptic input interfaces. Our approach leverages planar compliant structures whose force-deformation relationship can be altered by adjusting the geometries. Embedded with such structures, a FlexHaptics module exerts a fine-tunable haptic effect (i.e., resistance, detent, or bounce) along a movement path (i.e., linear, rotary, or ortho-planar). These modules can work separately or combine into an interface with complex movement paths and haptic effects. To enable the parametric design of FlexHaptic modules, we provide a design editor that converts user-specified haptic properties into underlying mechanical structures of haptic modules. We validate our approach and demonstrate the potential of FlexHaptic modules through six application examples, including a slider control for a painting application and a piano keyboard interface on touchscreens, a tactile low vision timer, VR game controllers, and a compound input device of a joystick and a two-step button.

ModElec: A Design Tool for Prototyping Physical Computing Devices Using Conductive 3D Printing (IMWUT 2021)

Liang He, Jarrid A Wittkopf, Ji Won Jun, Kris Erickson, and Rafael 'Tico' Ballagas

Integrating electronics with highly custom 3D designs for the physical fabrication of interactive prototypes is traditionally cumbersome and requires numerous iterations of manual assembly and debugging. With the new capabilities of 3D printers, combining electronic design and 3D modeling workflows can lower the barrier for achieving interactive functionality or iterating on the overall design. We present ModElec—an interactive design tool that enables the coordinated expression of electronic and physical design intent by allowing designers to integrate 3D-printable circuits with 3D forms. With ModElec, the user can arrange electronic parts in a 3D body, modify the model design with embedded circuits updated, and preview the auto-generated 3D traces that can be directly printed with a multi-material-based 3D printer.

Ondulé: Designing and Controlling 3D Printable Springs (UIST 2019)

Liang He, Huaishu Peng, Michelle Lin, Ravikanth Konjeti, François Guimbretière, and Jon E. Froehlich

We present Ondulé—an interactive design tool that allows novices to create parameterizable deformation behaviors in 3D-printable models using helical springs and embedded joints. Informed by spring theory and our empirical mechanical experiments, we introduce spring and joint-based design techniques that support a range of parameterizable deformation behaviors, including compress, extend, twist, bend, and various combinations. To enable users to design and add these deformations to their models, we introduce a custom design tool for Rhino. With the tool, users can convert selected geometries into springs, customize spring stiffness, and parameterize their design with mechanical constraints for desired behaviors.

SqueezaPulse: Adding Interactive Input to Fabricated Objects (TEI 2017)

Liang He, Gierad Laput, Eric Brockmeyer, and Jon E. Froehlich

We present SqueezaPulse, a technique for embedding interactivity into fabricated objects using soft, passive, lowcost bellow-like structures. When a soft cavity is squeezed, air pulses travel along a flexible pipe and into a uniquely designed corrugated tube that shapes the airflow into predictable sound signatures. A microphone captures and identifies these air pulses enabling interactivity. Informed by the underlying acoustic theory, we described an informal examination of the effect of different 3D-printed corrugations on air signatures and our resulting SqueezaPulse implementation. To demonstrate and evaluate the potential of SqueezaPulse, we present four prototype applications and a small, lab-based user study (N=9). Our evaluations show that our approach is accurate across users and robust to external noise

MakerWear: A Tangible Approach to Interactive Wearable Creation (CHI 2017)

Majeed Kazemitabaar, Jason McPeak, Alexander Jiao, Liang He, Thomas Outing, and Jon E. Froehlich

Wearable construction toolkits have shown promise in broadening participation in computing and empowering users to create personally meaningful computational designs. However, these kits present a high barrier of entry for some users, particularly young children (K-6). In this paper, we introduce MakerWear, a new wearable construction kit for children that uses a tangible, modular approach to wearable creation. We describe our participatory design process, the iterative development of MakerWear, and results from single- and multi-session workshops with 32 children (ages 5-12; M=8.3 years). Our findings reveal how children engage in wearable design, what they make (and want to make), and what challenges they face. As a secondary analysis, we also explore age-related differences.    

  Best Paper Award at CHI'17 |   Best LBW Paper Award at CHI'16

New Interaction Tools for Preserving an Old Language (CHI 2015)

Beryl Plimmer, Liang He, Tariq Zaman, Kasun Karunanayaka, Alvin W. Yeo, Garen Jengan, Rachel Blagojevic, and Ellen Yi-Luen Do

The Penan people of Malaysian Borneo were traditionally nomads of the rainforest. They would leave messages in the jungle for each other by shaping natural objects into language tokens and arranging these symbols in specific ways -- much like words in a sentence. With settlement, the language is being lost as it is not being used by the younger generation. We report here, a tangible system designed to help the Penan preserve their unique object writing language. The key features of the system are that: its tangibles are made of real objects; it works in the wild; and new tangibles can be fabricated and added to the system by the users. Our evaluations show that the system is engaging and encourages intergenerational knowledge transfer and thus has the potential to help preserve this language.

  Honorable Mentions Award at CHI'15

#2 - Other Research Threads: Interaction Techniques / Haptic and Tactile Interface
HulaMove: Using Commodity IMU for Waist Interaction (CHI 2021)

Xuhai Xu, Jiahao Li, Tianyi Yuan, Liang He, Xin Liu, Yukang Yan, Yuntao Wang, Yuanchun Shi, Jennifer Mankoff, and Anind K Dey.

We present HulaMove, a novel interaction technique that leverages the movement of the waist as a new eyes-free and hands-free input method for both the physical world and the virtual world. We first conducted a user study (N=12) to understand users’ ability to control their waist. We found that users could easily discriminate eight shifting directions and two rotating orientations, and quickly confirm actions by returning to the original position (quick return). We developed a design space with eight gestures for waist interaction based on the results and implemented an IMU-based real-time system. Using a hierarchical machine learning model, our system could recognize waist gestures at an accuracy of 97.5%. Finally, we conducted a second user study (N=12) for usability testing in both real-world scenarios and virtual reality settings.

PneuFetch: Supporting BVI People to Fetch Nearby Objects (CHI 2020)

Liang He, Ruolin Wang, and Xuhai Xu

Blind and visually impaired (BVI) people can fetch objects in an acquainted environment by touching objects or relying on their memory. However, in a complex and less familiar situation, those strategies become less useful or even result in dangers (e.g., touching hazardous obstacles).We present PneuFetch, a light haptic cue-based wearable device that supports blind and visually impaired (BVI) people to fetch nearby objects in an unfamiliar environment. In our design, we generate friendly, non-intrusive, and gentle presses and drags to deliver direction and distance cues on BVI user's wrist and forearm. As a concept of proof, we discuss our PneuFetch wearable prototype, contrast it with past work, and describe a preliminary user study.

A Multi-Modal Approach for BVI Developers to Edit Webpages (ASSETS 2019)

Venkatesh Potluri, Liang He, Christine Chen, Jon E. Froehlich, and Jennifer Mankoff

Blind and visually impaired (BVI) individuals are increasingly creating visual content online; however, there is a lack of tools that allow these individuals to modify the visual attributes of the content and verify the validity of those modifications. We discuss the design and preliminary exploration of a multi-modal and accessible approach for BVI developers to edit visual layouts of webpages while maintaining visual aesthetics. The system includes three parts: an accessible canvas, a code editor, and a controller that checks if the updates violate design guidelines.

TacTILE: A Toolchain for Creating Accessible Graphics with 3D-Printed Overlays and Auditory Annotations (ASSETS 2017)

Liang He, Zijian Wan, Leah Findlater, Jon E. Froehlich

Tactile overlays with audio annotations can increase the accessibility of touchscreens for blind users; however, preparing these overlays is complex and labor intensive. We introduce TacTILE, a novel toolchain to more easily create tactile overlays with audio annotations for arbitrary touchscreen graphics (e.g., graphs, pictures, maps). The workflow includes: (i) an annotation tool to add audio to graphical elements, (ii) a fabrication process that generates 3D-printed tactile overlays, and (iii) a custom app for the user to explore graphics with these overlays. We close with a pilot study with one blind participant who explores three examples (floor plan, photo, and chart), and a discussion of future work.

CozyMaps: Real-time Collaboration With Multiple Displays (MobileHCI 2015)

Kelvin Cheng, Liang He, Xiaojun Meng, David A. Shamma, Dung Nguyen, and Anbarasan T.

With the use of several tablet devices and a shared large display, CozyMaps is a multi-display system that supports real-time collocated collaboration on a shared map. This paper builds on existing works and introduces rich user interactions by proposing awareness, notification, and view sharing techniques, to enable seamless information sharing and integration in map-based applications. Based on our exploratory study, we demonstrated that participants are satisfied with these new proposed interactions. We found that view sharing techniques should be location-focused rather than user-focused. Our results provide implications for the design of interactive techniques in collaborative multi-display map systems.

PneuHaptic: Delivering Haptic Cues with a Pneumatic Armband (ISWC 2015)

Liang He, Cheng Xu, Ding Xu, and Ryan Brill

A common approach in creating haptic cues is moving the contact surface with electromechanical actuators such as vibrating electric motors, piezoelectric motors, or voicecoils. While these actuators can be configured to effectively convey rich information, their high frequency movementscould raise negative responses after lengthy exposure. PneuHaptic is a pneumatically-actuated arm-worn haptic interface. The system triggers a range of tactile sensations on the arm by alternately pressurizing and depressurizing a series of custom molded silicone chambers. We detail the implementation of our functional prototype and explore the possibilities for interaction enabled by the system.

ACADEMIC SERVICES & AWARDS

Awards

2×CHI Best Paper awards (LBW-track 2016, paper-track 2017)
1×CHI Honorable Mentions award (2015)
1×UIST SIC Most Creative awards (2014)

Program Committee

3×CHI Late-Breaking Work ACs (2019, 2020, 2021)
1×IDC Work-in-Progress AC (2021)
1×ACHI Full Paper AC (2021)

Conference Organizer

ASSETS'22 Web & Graphic Design Co-chair

UIST'19 Web Co-chair

Paper Reviewer

CHI '16-'22, UIST '19-'21, CSCW '21 (April), SCF '20-'21, DIS '20-'21, WAC '19, TEI '17-'18, IDC '17 and '21, MobileHCI '16

* Reviewed over 80 papers, 2×recognition for UIST and 2×recognition for CHI

Conference Volunteering/Chairing

Session Chair: UIST '21

SV: TEI'17, CHI'14-'15, UIST'14, China Symposium on HCI 2012

Design Services / Other

CHI'14 & CHI'19 SV T-shirt design
Makeability Lab logo design
UIST'19 logo & VI design
HiLab at UCLA logo design

TEACHING (UbiComp/HCI/Programming)

 Recipient of the Bob Bandes Memorial Honorable Mention Student Teaching Award for 2020-2021

University of Washington

2021

CSE490: Physical Computing

Remote teaching and hardware prototyping

2020

CSE590A: Ubiquitous Computing

Co-build the course; remote teaching and hardware prototyping

2019

CSE599U: Prototyping Interactive System

CSE 440A: Introduction to HCI

2018

CSE440A: Introduction to HCI

CSE590A: Ubiquitous Computing

HCID 521: Prototyping Studio

Co-built the course with two instructors

University of Maryland, College Park

2016

CMSC250: Discrete Structures

CMSC132: Object-Oriented Programming II

2015

CMSC131: Object-Oriented Programming I

RESEARCH INTERNSHIPS

hp logo

HP Labs
Oct-Dec, 2020 & Jul-Sept, 2019

Microsoft reseach logo

Microsoft Research, Redmond
Jun-Aug, 2016

Keio-NUS CUTE logo

Keio-NUS CUTE Center
May-Aug, 2014

TALKS/GUEST LECTURES

•••

2022

Invited Talk, Georgia Tech.

2022

Invited Talk, HPI.

2021

Invited Talk, UMPC.

2021

Invited Talk, U of Calgary.

2021

Lightning Talk. IWHEC 2021 Affiliated Forum.

2020

Talk. HP 3D Print Lab.

2020

Presentation. UIST '20 DC.

STUDENT MENTEES

2021

Daniel Campos Zamora (now Phd in CSE at UW)

2021

Hongnan Lin (now Phd in Design at Georgia Tech)

2021

Jessica Chin (undergrad in Psychology at UW; now research assistant at the Laboratory of Auditory and Neuroscience Development)

2021

Xiyuan Shen (undergrad in Design/Art at Tsinghua; now Master student at Tsinghua)

2021

Arjun Simha (high school intern; now undergrad in EE at UW)

2020

Yueqian Zhang (undergrad in CSE at UW; now Master student in CSE at UW)

2020

Xia Su (grad in Architecture at Tsinghua; now PhD in CSE at UW)

2020

Yuebing Liang (grad in Architecture at Tsinghua; now PhD student at Hong Kong University)

2020

Yawen Zheng (undergrad in Design/Art at Tsinghua; now Master student at Tsinghua)

2019

Venkatesh Potluri (now PhD in CSE at UW)

2019

Sophie Tian (undergrad in CSE at UW; now engineer at Microsoft)

2018

Michelle Lin (undergrad in CSE at UW; now grad in CSE at UW)

2017

Joshua Land (undergrad in ME at UMD; now engineer at Appian)