Breaking down relationship between computers, humans

Dr. Michael Poor is the faculty member in charge of the research group. Poor, a computer science assistant professor, specializes in human-computer interaction. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Samantha Amaro | Reporter

There are constantly studies being published that using computers is detrimental to a person’s health due to the amount of time spent in front of a screen, but are these effects something to really worry about?

The Department of Computer Science at Baylor has several ongoing research projects within its department. One project is called Human-Computer Interaction Research, which is conducted based on interactions that occur between humans and computers.

Dr. Michael Poor is the faculty member in charge of the research group. Poor, a computer science assistant professor, specializes in human-computer interaction and has been with this research group for the past six years.

“At this point right now there are two projects of where the lab is going in terms of the overall idea of the lab,” Poor said.

One of the other projects is on pain interaction, in which the participants suffer from disorders that cause chronic pain. In its third year of research, the project is continuing to investigate new ways people can use computers. The second project is a front-end development for water reclamation, which is being worked on through the Department of Energy. This research helps find different ways to deliver information to people who often interact with machines and need information delivered to them very quickly. This water reclamation project is going into its second year of ongoing research. These two projects are not the only ones being worked on, as there are also two or three master’s projects being conducted at the same time. The lab is packed full of ideas with a few different projects at a time.

Since fibromyalgia causes chronic pain in the hands, people with the condition have trouble typing and using the mouses connected to the computers.

The pain research is based off of different ways that a person would be able to interact with computers. An example of this research like this can be shown through experiments that compare whether using a normal keyboard or a touch-screen keyboard would alleviate pain.

Archer City junior London Steele said she became involved with this research in two ways — first as a participant, then as a paid intern her sophomore year, during which she helped to test the software. Though she is no longer an intern, she still assists with the research work.

Her tasks as an intern consisted of recruiting participants to test the software and also helping researches test said software. Participants would come into the lab, where she would set up the simulation and instruct them on what to do while the students conducting the experiment would take notes on their behaviors and responses.

She was brought in Poor’s research project on alternative input methods for computers to see whether the use alternative input methods would be of use to alleviate pain for people with fibromyalgia.

“Instead of traditional keyboard and mouse,” Steele said, “it was using a technology kind of like the Kinect for the Xbox so it tracked your hand motions and things like that.”

Steele is particularly interested in this research because she herself can reap the benefits of these examinations. Steele has an autoimmune disease, a condition that results in two different kinds of arthritis. She is a chronic sufferer and was a participant in the study before helping the research. Her autoimmune disease is classified as rare, meaning only one in 200,000 people have it.

“I’ve seen what kind of treatments I have for myself and I just feel like this is my calling,” Steele said. “I feel like there is something else out there that is going to be better, if not for me, then for someone else in a similar position.”