Annual Lecture | Research | Faculty of Computer Science | UNB

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Annual lecture

The Annual lecture in computer science is held every spring on the UNB Fredericton campus. It was established through the generosity of Dr. Colin Ware.

Colin Ware was a professor in the UNB Faculty of Computer Science from 1985 until 1999. During this period Colin cofounded two companies and developed the Fledermaus 3-dimensional geospatial visualization system that is widely used today in oceanography. In 1999, Colin requested that all royalties from his share of the Fledermaus agreement with UNB be transferred to the Faculty of Computer Science for the purpose of funding an annual lecture series.

Past lectures

The Rebirth of Natural User Interfaces

Ravin Balakrishnan, professor and chair of Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, presented the 2017 lecture.

Lecture abstract

As with most new research endeavours, the push for more “natural” user interfaces can be traced back several decades. Early seminal concept demonstrations like Krueger’s VideoPlace, Wellner’s Digital Desk, and Bolt’s Put That There as well as the voluminous body of tangible user interface work in the 1990s hinted at fascinating interaction possibilities if only underlying enablers like computer vision, speech recognition, and haptics actually worked. Today, many of these technologies are finally at a stage where once dreamy natural interactions can be a reality.

In this rebirth, however, most examples I see tend to slavishly follow the mantra of mimicking the supposedly natural interactions we do in the real world. This, I argue, is a lost opportunity. Lest we follow in the footsteps of the early horseless carriages, we really need to start exploiting the sensing technologies available to us to build interfaces that do not necessarily mimic what is ostensibly “natural”, but rather exploit our ability to learn and adapt to new things while possibly enhancing that which might be natural.

Examples from past and present will illustrate my argument, while also demonstrating that interfaces that at first glance seem completely unnatural, such as the pencil and handwriting, might well be rather appropriate with a tad bit of effort on our part.


Dr. Ming Li, University of Waterloo, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

  • Information Distance from a Question to an Answer ---- Building natural language interface for computers, phones, cars, and home electronics
  • Optimized Spaced Seeds for Homology Search

Dr. Alan Mackworth, University of British Columbia, Department of Computer Science

  • Designing Constraint-Based Agents
  • Computation and Sustainability: Beyond Green IT

Dr. Colin Ware, University of New Hampshire, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mappin

  • Visual Thinking and Visual Thinking Tools
  • The Acrobatic Maneuvers of Feeding Humpback Whales