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Spotlight: Humans + Computers = Innovation

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Spotlight: Humans + Computers = Innovation

Date Published:
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Computers are everywhere - in our cars and appliances, on our desktops, in our pockets. And they are becoming more like people; at least, they’re learning to better speak our language. Long gone are the days of the mainframe, when computers communicated exclusively with skilled technicians.

The history of our interactions with computers follows a trajectory of language and infrastructure. As the dialogue between human and machine has become less technical, and the Internet has emerged as a powerful connector, computers have been more woven into our lives. They’re even routinely utilized in domains distinctly human, namely the arts.

As artificial intelligence continues to advance, interactions between humans and computers will become even more complex and symbiotic.

UNC Charlotte faculty and students are exploring how such technologies impact our lives, as well as how they can be harnessed to solve problems, educate and entertain. Profiled in the latest issue of UNC Charlotte magazine are two faculty members and three students who are staking their claim to the latest wave of the technological revolution.

Where Creativity and Technology Intersect: Assistant professor of software and information systems Celine Latulipe probes the boundaries between humans and computers, melding art with science. Her specialty, Human-Computer Interaction, is a broad, interdisciplinary area within computer science that draws from disciplines including sociology, psychology, ergonomics and engineering, studying how digital devices interface with humans. Her particular focus? Creativity.

There’s an App for That: Allow. Don’t allow. Those terms are familiar to most computer and mobile smartphone users. Why? Any time a friend invites you to participate in a game or take an online quiz through a social networking site, you first have to allow the application, or app, to launch. When you click “Allow,” you grant software developed by a third party access to the information on your social network profile. Mohamed Shehab, assistant professor of software and information systems, specializes in the intricacies of social network security. As part of a research project, Shehab developed a free app to, well, protect against apps.

Powell Finds Computers a Game Changer: Evie Powell hit her stride when she discovered she could earn a college degree by doing what she loved - creating computer games. Now Powell, 28, is about to earn her doctorate in the College of Computing and Informatics. Powell has shown a knack for creating games that are popular and practical. She has already released a game called “Snag’em” and is currently developing a game for the iPhone called “Final Reality.” She’s also a National Science Foundation Fellow.

Elliott Lands Google Internship, Job: UNC Charlotte senior marketing major Fabian Elliott interned last summer with Google’s direct sales team. As an intern, he was encouraged to use his creativity to come up with his own ideas. And Elliott did, producing a system he called “Operation Noogler,” in which he designated 50 Google staffers to interview during his internship. “I got to talk to every one of them and I had one-on-one meetings with at least 25 of them,” he said. “What a great experience.”

Olson’s App Wins Apple Design Award: UNC Charlotte student Jeremy Olson had a good reason for creating his own iPhone app. “In my second freshman semester I received my first D on a statistics test,” he recalled. “It was the first time I really had to think desperately about the question, ‘OK, what do I need to do to still get an A?’” After doing the calculations on a piece of paper, he realized this could be done so much easier, faster and enjoyably as an app for his iPhone. What resulted was an app he named "Grades 2.” The application won a design award at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.