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Davide Bolchini

Bolchini receives Google Faculty Research Award for accessible computing research

June 18, 2018

Davide Bolchini, associate professor and chair of the Department of Human-Centered Computing, recently received a prestigious 2017 Google Faculty Research Award to support his human-computer interaction research on novel navigation principles for entirely auditory keyboards.

Google Faculty Research Awards provide unrestricted gifts as support for research at institutions around the world. The Google Faculty Research Awards program aims to recognize and support world-class, permanent faculty pursuing cutting-edge research in areas of mutual interest. The award is highly competitive—only 15% of applicants receive funding—and each proposal goes through a rigorous Google-wide review process.

This year, Google received 1033 proposals from 46 countries and over 360 universities. After expert reviews and committee discussions, Google funded 152 projects.

Bolchini, who is also director of the Human-Computer Interaction graduate program, will use the $51,827 award to further his research in accessible computing, especially focusing on theoretical foundations, design strategies, and technology prototypes that enable the blind and visually impaired to navigate auditory keyboards that do not rely on a reference screen for text entry.

The way mobile text entry currently works is very much screen-centric, says Bolchini, principal investigator on the project, and forces people who are blind and visually impaired to keep their phones out at all times, increasing the risk of the device being dropped or stolen. Moreover, screen-centric interaction requires a high level of fine-motor, two-hand manipulation, making it difficult to type with one hand while the other is busy with a cane or a guide dog.

“We are interested in understanding the fundamental language of ‘screenless’ interaction for typing and browsing, an approach that goes beyond voice or touch interfaces and can untether the blind from continuous attachment to a screen while fully leveraging their outstanding ability to listen to extremely fast text-to-speech,” Bolchini says. “I am excited to receive from Google such a prestigious recognition and support for the research in our lab. This award further enables faculty and students to pursue forward-looking research in partnership with community organizations.”

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Joanne Lovrinic