New Equipment Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

This afternoon Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), made the John R. Evans Leaders Fund national announcement, which included $55,000 in equipment funding for the vialab.  New equipment to be procured includes state of the art eye tracking and motion capture systems, and two high resolution multi-touch and pen displays.  These new pieces of equipment will help us to conduct state of the art research into new visualization and interaction techniques to provide efficient and pleasurable ways to explore, analyze, and make decisions about data in domains as diverse as digital humanities, healthcare, and business analytics.

The news website has the full story.

Seminar: Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning by Carrie Demmans Epp

Carrie Demmans Epp from the TAGLab at University of Toronto will give a seminar entitled “Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning” as part of the UOIT Computer Science seminar series.  Ms. Epp shares research interests with members of the vialab, including technology for language learning, as exemplified in our projects TandemTable and our collaboration with Quillsoft on the iWordQ series of applications.  The details of the seminar are below.  The talk will be webcast live and archived.

When: Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 @ 3:30pm

Where: UA 4170

Who: Carrie Demmans Epp, University of Toronto

Title: Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning

Abstract: Technology use is deeply rooted within language learning. From the early use of language labs and more recent use of multi-media, we have seen the wide use of technology by language learners. This talk will present two adaptive language-learning tools and discuss their deployment in various cultural and educational contexts. The first tool is a computer-based pronunciation tutor for Russian (ProTutor) and the second is a mobile-based English communication support and study tool (VocabNomad). Both systems employed representations of the user’s knowledge (learner models) to drive their adaptive content recommendation and personalized feedback.

These adaptive features helped to motivate learners, enabled their self-regulation, and supported learning activities and outcomes. Their use by high school and university students also demonstrated the need for them to be accompanied by appropriate pedagogical practices when used as support tools in formal learning environments.

Biography: Carrie Demmans Epp is a doctoral candidate in human-computer interaction at the University of Toronto. She completed her BSc (Computer Science and Russian) and MSc (Artificial Intelligence in Education) at the University of Saskatchewan. She has recently finished visiting researcher terms with the Open Learner Models at Birmingham group (UK) and the Graduate School of Language, Communication, and Culture at Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan). She was a recipient of the 2013 Weston Fellowship and is a current Walter C. Sumner Memorial Fellow.

Carrie’s work focuses on the development and use of adaptive educational technology and the mechanisms that are used to provide feedback to learners within these environments. Her work bridges populations and has included university students, underprivileged children, students in special education settings, and language learners.


HCI and Information Visualization MSc and PhD Positions at UOIT

Dr. Christopher Collins, Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization, is seeking highly motivated MSc and PhD students for funded research positions in information visualization, visual analytics, and human-computer interaction. Positions are available on an ongoing basis, including Fall 2015. Successful candidates will join the visualization for information analysis lab (, a well-equipped research facility at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Canada. UOIT, founded in 2002, is Canada’s newest university, located just 40 minutes east of the vibrant and multicultural city of Toronto.

Research Themes

Themes of research at the vialab include visual text analytics, interaction design for gestural and multi-touch interfaces, social media analytics, and computer-assisted learning. In our world of big data, experts who can research, design, implement, and manage projects to sift through, analyze, and reason about data are in very high demand. Business intelligence, data science, and text analytics are some of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Graduates of the vialab are equipped with interdisciplinary skills in data analytics, visualization, interaction design, and research management and leave the lab well-equipped for a variety of opportunities with governments, business, industry, and academia.

Example new project areas include designing intuitive guidance for visual text analytics (how to help people use visualizations effectively), and investigating ways to infer and respond to user state (frustration, engagement) with a variety of state-of-the-art sensor hardware. Many topic areas are possible upon agreement with the supervisor.

Skills Needed

Good candidates will have:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, information visualization, and/or human-computer interaction (non-traditional candidates with demonstrated technical skills are invited to apply)
  • Strong programming skills
  • Demonstrated design skills or an interest in learning about design
  • Good written and oral communication skills (in English)
  • Be excited to join a creative, motivated, fun team of people!


Funding is provided at levels commensurate with other Canadian and American universities as long as the student is in good standing in the graduate program. Students also receive full funding to attend international conferences (e.g. ACM CHI, ACM ITS, IEEE VIS) to present their research. Doctoral students are encouraged and supported to participate in internship opportunities at industry partners.


Interested applicants should email as soon as possible and include a CV and a statement describing your interest in the lab’s research. After an initial contact, candidates will be encouraged to apply through the official application process.

More information about the CS Graduate Program at UOIT is available at


UOIT Password Research featured in New York Times and other media

The password security research of vialab researchers Christopher Collins and Rafael Veras, and collaborator Julie Thorpe from the Faculty of Business and Information technology has been featured by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ian Urbina in a feature article in the New York Times Magazine.  In his article, “The Secret Life of Passwords“, Urbina investigates the stories behind the passwords we use.  Through the concept of keepsake passwords, the article investigates the evocative stories hidden in passwords. Our research relates to this work in that we have been investigating the numeric and linguistic patterns in passwords, in terms of how these patterns affect security as well as how these patterns reveal the culture and language.

Our research has also been featured in additional media, including:

We have also been featured on UOIT Homepage, including and article entitled “Heartbleed update: UOIT researchers analyze why consumers use weak passwords


vialab @ IEEE VIS 2014

This year four of us are attending IEEE VIS in Paris, France to present work by lab members and collaborators. Lab members are presenting on two papers. DimpVis, by Brittany Kondo and Christopher Collins, presents a new object-centric temporal navigation technique for information visualization. #FluxFlow, by U of Toronto doctoral candidate Jian Zhao and colleagues, including vialab’s Christopher Collins presents a visual analytic system to detecting anomalous patterns in social media. #FluxFlow received an honorable mention for best paper at IEEE VAST.

Lab members are also presenting three posters.  Lexichrome by Chris Kim and Christopher Collins introduces a visualization which reveals the colors evoked by text.  Visitors are invited to upload their own texts to see the chromatic fingerprint. Rafael Veras and Christopher Collins will present an exploration of uneven tree cut models for automatic emphasis and abstraction of visualized hierarchies.  Finally Brittany Kondo, Hrim Mehta, and Christopher Collins will present the IEEE InfoVis best poster winner, Glidgets: interactive glyphs for dynamic graphs.

Christopher Collins was also the co-chair of the IEEE VIS Doctoral Colloquium, a full day event for senior doctoral students to present their research programme and request advice and feedback from distinguished researchers in their field.  Chris also has been leading the redesign of the website for the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee, which launched just before the conference.

Congratulations to all the lab members for their hard work and achievements!

Congratulations Brittany Kondo, M.Sc.

Congratulations to Brittany Kondo who successfully defended her M.Sc. thesis. Her work on object-centric temporal navigation for information visualizations featured two major projects, one on time-varying information graphics and one on dynamic graphs. This work will be published in November in both a full paper and a poster at IEEE VIS in Paris. Brittany has been a core member of the vialab for four years, since being hired after third year undergrad as a research assistant.  Brittany is accomplished student, having received support for this research through an NSERC SurfNet Special Projects award, an ICCD Scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and a finalist award for the Google Anita Borg Scholarship.  Brittany leaves the lab to join Oculus Info in Toronto in September.

Tandem Language Learning poster presented at ACM ITS in Scotland

Tabletop Tandem Language Learning

MSc student Erik Paluka recently presented his research on tandem language learning applications for digital tables at the ACM Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces Conference in St. Andrew’s, Scotland.  Erik’s research is designed to facilitate conversation-based language learning between partners who are learning one another’s language through interactive media browsing and collaborative activities.

Dr. Christopher Collins to give Invited Lectures at Duke University

Duke University tower

On April 4-5, Christopher Collins will be visiting Duke University, in Raleigh, NC, USA, to discuss his research interests with colleagues in the Information Science + Information Studies group.  While visiting, he will give two invited lectures, one on linguistic data visualization, and another on visualization techniques for multi-dimensional data.  More details at the Duke University GIS Data blog!

Simple Multi-Touch (SMT) Toolkit

The toolkit source, tutorials, examples, and documentation are available on our github repository. You can also visit the toolkit’s official website at

Congratulations Meng-Wei (Daniel) Chang!

Descriptive NPR Lens Widget

Meng-Wei (Daniel) Chang has become the lab’s first graduate!  Daniel completed his M.Sc. thesis defense successfully on Thursday November 22.  His research investigated ways to visualize text through varying rendering techniques on 3D objects.  His SurfNet-funded work touches on text processing, information visualization, scientific visualization, and multitouch application design.  He created a very polished prototype application for exploring a collection of 600,000 car incident reports.  Car part words are extracted from the reports and their occurrence counts are visualized on a 3D model of a car, so that parts which are mentioned more often in failure reports stand out in the 3D view.  Interactive widgets support exploration of the data across time, across various car models, and co-occurrence relationships between parts.  This visualization technique could be used to visualize product reviews, hotel reviews, or any sort of text which mentions parts of a scene or of an object which can be rendered using non-photorealistic techniques.  

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