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Campus News in Brief

CMU joins IBM in New York City technology consortium

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last Monday that Carnegie Mellon will be a partner in the city’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), a consortium of academic institutions and technology companies with research space in Brooklyn.

With support from New York City and the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, CUSP will research and develop new technologies for cities facing challenges in transportation, energy efficiency, public health, and other areas. Carnegie Mellon joins New York University; the University of Toronto; the City University of New York; and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay — among other university partners — in the project; IBM and Cisco are among the companies involved. CUSP will confer academic degrees in the sciences or engineering, will start immediate work in Brooklyn, and is expecting to fully renovate a building there as a research hub by 2017.

Carnegie Mellon’s participation in the CUSP proposal has been led by Richard McCollough, the university’s vice president for research, and James Garrett, the head of the civil and environmental engineering department.

The center is the second stage of Bloomberg’s Applied Science NYC initiative, which in the first stage last December announced a joint “technology campus” between Cornell University and the Technion in Israel. The mayor hopes to increase New York’s presence in applied sciences and to foster connections with major research universities worldwide.

Young people drive better with tactile GPS instructions

Reinforcing a car’s GPS directions with tactile stimuli keeps some drivers’ eyes on the road longer, according to a recent study conducted at Carnegie Mellon.

Researchers in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and at AT&T Labs produced a driving simulation using a new steering wheel lined with 20 vibrating actuators. Vibrating in a clockwise pattern signalled the driver to turn right, while a counter-clockwise pattern indicated a left turn. The team tested the use of steering wheel feedback in the simulation on a group of 16 drivers under age 36 and 17 drivers over age 65.

Compared to the standard audio instructions provided by a normal GPS, drivers of all ages in the simulation spent more time looking at the road when they had access to the tactile information in the steering wheel as well.

Combining audio, tactile, and graphical information, however, was only helpful to younger drivers, who favored the added visual instructions over the audio version.

“Our findings suggest that, as navigation systems become more elaborate, it would be best to personalize the sensory feedback system based, at least in part, on the driver’s age,” said SeungJun Kim, a systems scientist in the HCII, in a university press release.

For older motorists, the study said, it may be better for future GPS systems to keep a driver’s cognitive load small rather than be concerned with dividing the driver’s attention.