Saul Greenberg

Research Overview

Saul Greenberg is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Faculty Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary. He was inducted as an ACM Fellow in 2013 for his contributions to computer supported cooperative work and ubiquitous computing, and was also elected to the prestigious ACM CHI Academy in April 2005 for his overall contributions to the field of Human Computer Interaction. He also received the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award in May 2007, and has held a University Professorship - a distinguished University of Calgary award recognizing research excellence. He is a prolific author with a high impact factor (at time of writing, he was ranked 2nd in the HCI domain by Microsoft's Academic Search, 5th overall in the HCI Bibliography 'Hot Authors' list, 6th Canadian in Computer Science/Electronics in Guide2Research). Google Scholar reports ~20,000 citations to his work, with an H-number of 77.

While he is a computer scientist by training, the work by Saul Greenberg and his talented students typify the cross-discipline aspects of Human Computer Interaction, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, and Ubiquitous Computing. His many research contributions are bound by the common thread of embodied interaction, which considers how computer technology fits within the fabric of people’s day to day activities and practices. This includes how such technology blends naturally in the flow of people’s work practices, how people socialize and work together through technology, and how that technology fits within people’s physical environment. For example, he and his team are currently researching proxemic interaction, where interaction design is driven by the distance, orientation, identity and movement relationships between people and their surrounding devices.

He and his crew are well known for various significant contributions to the field, all necessary to pursue the broad goal of situated interaction.

  • Articulation of design-oriented social science theories that serve as a requirements specification. For example, his team’s work on proxemic interactions transforms social constructs into particular attributes that can be sensed and exploited by computers. His team's articulation of the nuances of awareness in distributed groupware has been used extensively by others as the theoretical foundation behind their work.
  • Innovative and seminal system designs based on observations of social phenomenon. For example, his team’s work on digital surfaces (large, interactive touch-sensitive digital wall and tables, touch-sensitive tablets and other handheld devices) led to various innovations in interaction technology, as well as the notion of mixed-presence groupware that let multiple co-located groups work with each other across distance. Another example is the commercialized Teamrooms system, and the later Notification Collage and Community Bar systems; these developed notions of room metaphors and of sidebars as a means to allow a group to stay aware of each other and easily move into real-time interaction.
  • Toolkits enabling rapid prototyping of innovative groupware and ubiquitous appliances. For example, the Proximity Toolkit tracks the spatial relationships and identity of people, digital devices and other entities in a room-sized space. The Haptic Puck Toolkit and the Fiduciary Glove Toolkit both enable haptics and hand part identification on a multi-touch surface. Phidgets are a hardware/software toolkit that lets designers rapidly build computer-controlled physical interfaces. They have been commercialized, and have become the de-facto standard for teaching and for prototyping such systems. Earlier, the Groupkit groupware toolkit was the first such system that allowed developers to rapidly create and experiment with distributed groupware.
  • Refinement of evaluation methods, where a plethora of methods have been developed to help researchers and developers rapidly evaluate the systems they were building. Examples include discount usability methods specific to groupware, and debates about the limits of usability evaluation as a testing method.

Dr. Greenberg is also known for his strong commitment in making his tools, systems, and educational material readily available to other researchers and educators.

Last updated September, 2015 by Saul Greenberg