Special Issue on Multimodal Technologies in Animal–Computer Interaction

Journal of Multimodal Technologies and Interaction
Special issue on Multimodal Technologies in Animal-Computer Interaction
Guest editors: Dr. Naohisa Ohta, Dr. Clara Mancini, Dr. Jake Veasey

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 April 2018

Call for papers

Animals have been exposed to, and have interacted with, technology for the better part of a century; for example, in conservation activities, behavioural experiments, comparative cognition studies, precision farming, and in various support roles. At the crossroad between interaction design, on the one hand, and animal behavioural and welfare science, on the other, Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) is a rapidly-growing field of research concerned with the interaction between animals and computing-enabled technology from an animal-centered perspective. Integrating a variety of multidisciplinary approaches, ACI aims to:

  • Investigate the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, with regards to specific animal activities or interspecies relations
  • Develop user-centered technology that can: Improve animals’ welfare by enabling the fulfillment of their needs; support animals in tasks humans might ask of them; foster interspecies relationships
  • Inform interdisciplinary user-centered approaches that can enable animals to participate in the design process as legitimate stakeholders and contributors.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to bring together state-of-the-art research articles on the use and potential of multimedia and multimodal interfaces for animal-centred applications and interactions. These might aim to improve animal welfare, foster interspecies relationships or support the development of animal-centred research methods, in relation to laboratory, farm, companion or wild animals. We invite original research articles, works in progress, surveys, and reviews. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal Behavior and Multimodal Technology in ACI
  • Interaction Multimodality Design for ACI
  • Multisensory Technology for ACI
  • Multimedia Technology for ACI
  • Multimodal Design Solutions for ACI Applications
  • Multimodal Technology as Methodological Tool in ACI


ACI2017 – Fourth International Conference on Animal-Computer Interaction

21-23 November 2017, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom



In co-operation with ACM and SIGCHI
In partnership with Minding Animals International
Endorsed by BCS

ACI is the leading international conference on Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI), a rapidly growing field that focuses on the interaction between animals and computing-enabled technology.

Animals have been exposed to and have interacted with technology for the best part of a century, in conservation studies, behavioural experiments, comparative cognition studies, precision farming and various support roles. But how does technology affect animals in their individual and social lives? How does it enable or disable their natural or learned behaviours? How does it influence their experience? And how does is impact upon their welfare? At the crossroad between interaction design and animal behaviour and welfare science, the emerging discipline of ACI focuses on:

– Studying the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, in relation to animal activities or interspecies relations
– Developing user-centered technology to improve animals’ welfare, support animals in their activities, foster interspecies relationships
– Informing interdisciplinary animal-centered approaches enabling animals to participate in and contribute to the design process.

This year, the conference theme is improving relations and contributions focus on the improvement of human-animal relations or relations between other animals. This concerns, for example, theories, methods or applications that have the potential to better support interspecies communication; to improve humans’ understanding of other animals, their characteristics and needs; to enable humans to take better care of other animals; to reduce interspecies conflicts and the impact of human activity on animals; to better supports animals in activities they do for humans; to help humans take better care of animals; to foster the development of ecologically and ethically more sustainable forms of interspecies interaction and cohabitation.

ACI2016: Third International Conference on Animal-Computer Interaction

16th-17th November 2016, Milton Keynes, UK
In co-operation with ACM and SIGCHI
In recent years an increasing body of work from within the interaction design community has been shaping the emerging field of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI), with a focus on: 1) studying the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, around specific animal activities or interspecies relations; 2) developing user-centered technology that can improve animals’ welfare and support animals in their activities; 3) informing user-centered approaches to the design of technology intended for animals, derived from both interaction design and animal science.
The ACI2016 conference builds on a series of ACI events (SIG meeting at CHI2012, workshops at NordiCHI2014 and BHCI2015, symposia at AISB2014 and MB2016, 1st and 2nd congress at ACE2014 and ACE2015) to advance this area of research and practice, and to support the emergence of ACI as an academic discipline.
The conference is in co-operation with the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and SIGCHI (ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction). Conference proceedings are published by ACM and will appear in the ACM Digital Library.
We welcome contributions originating from any discipline related to ACI, and describing work within diverse contexts. We specifically invite the submission of:
long and short papers (submission deadline 23rd June 2016)
workshop proposals (submission deadline 10th July 2016)
doctoral consortium abstracts (submission deadline 18th September 2016)
video posters and demos (submission deadline 18th September 2016)
Contributions are encouraged in relation to any of the following topics:
Design – interaction modalities that may need to be developed in order to make technology accessible to other animals; novel designs for users with different sensorial apparatuses, cognitive capabilities, and ergonomic characteristics; multisensory interfaces and alternative interactional paradigms appropriate for ACI; design solutions developed within ACI applications that could inform design within HCI.
Methodology – methodological frameworks enabling animals to actively participate in the design process as legitimate stakeholders, contributors and users; HCI methodologies that can be called upon when designing with animals or investigating how technology affects them and their interactions with humans; methodologies that can be adapted from HCI or derived from other disciplines; more-than-human approaches developed within ACI that could contribute to HCI practices.
Theory – main challenges that ACI researchers may encounter in conceptualizing the interaction between humans, animals and technology; ways of interpreting the outcomes
of applied studies, concrete designs and research practices to articulate such interactions; existing theoretical frameworks from HCI, animal science, or other disciplines, that ACI theories can draw from or contribute to.
Ethics – legitimate technological applications for ACI; implications of ACI’s animal-centered perspective for conducting research that involves animal participants; ethical frameworks that may or may not be suitable to support the development of ACI; relation between ethics and methodology in ACI; potential influence of ACI ethics on ethical aspects of HCI research.
Applications – ACI applications that can improve animal welfare or human-animal practices in a range of contexts; animal technologies that do or do not constitute good examples of or models for ACI.


Special Issue on ACI, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (IJHCS)

Full call: www.journals.elsevier.com/international-journal-of-human-computer-studies/call-for-papers/special-issue-on-animal-computer-interaction

This IJHCS special issue on ACI capitalises on the momentum that ACI research has been gaining in recent years, to make a decisive step forward towards its academic establishment, and further support its development. To this end, we invite novel, high quality contributions that demonstrate a user-centered focus, and preferably (but not necessarily) present an engineering element, around any of the following questions:

Design. What interaction modalities might we need to develop in order to make technology accessible to other animals? How could we design for users with different sensorial apparatuses, cognitive capabilities, and ergonomic characteristics? How could appropriated multisensory interfaces and alternative interactional paradigms be explored and theorized? On the other hand, how could design solutions developed within ACI applications inform design within HCI?

Methodology. What methodological frameworks could enable animals to actively participate in the design process as legitimate stakeholders, technology users and design contributors? How much of HCI methodological arsenal could be called upon when we design with animals or investigate how technology affects them and their interactions with us? How could non-linguistic methodologies be adapted from HCI or derived from other disciplines? Conversely, how could more-than-human approaches developed within ACI contribute to HCI practices?

Theory: What are the main challenges that ACI researchers might encounter in conceptualizing the interaction between humans, animals and technology? How could we interpret the outcomes of applied studies, concrete designs and research practices to articulate such interactions? What existing theoretical frameworks from HCI, animal science, or other disciplines, might ACI theories draw from or contribute to?

Ethics. What might be legitimate technological applications for ACI? What implications does ACI’s animal-centered perspective have for conducting research that involves animal participants? What ethical frameworks might be most suitable to support the development of ACI? What might the relation between ethics and methodology be in ACI? And how could a reflection on ACI ethics influence ethical aspects of HCI research?

We welcome relevant submissions contributed from within any related discipline and describing work within diverse contexts. However, please be aware that IJHCS does not normally consider papers which describe military applications.


Manuscript should be prepared according to the IJHCS Guide for authors. Please select SI: ACI when you reach the “Article Type” step in the submission process at http://ees.elsevier.com/ijhcs/.


Submission Deadline: 30 June 2015
Final Paper Due: 31 December 2015

Guest Editors:

Clara Mancini, The Open University

Oskar Juhlin, Stockholm University

Shaun Lawson, University of Lincoln

Workshop on Animal Computer Interaction at British HCI, ACI@BHCI

Hosted by British HCI, the workshop will take place in Lincoln on the 13th of July 2015. The event will provide a forum for the Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) community to review and evaluate the current ACI research landscape and to identify and address themes that continue to emerge as this research field grows. We will examine the research from a multidisciplinary view and consider social, ethical challenges as well as various design applications.

Submissions (deadline 31st May) are welcome from a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to, ethology, animal biology, veterinary research, farming technology, animal behavior, human computer interaction, social computing. Submissions should include: (i) 2-4 page position papers in CHI ACM Extended Abstract Format; submission of both completed and in-progress work is encouraged (ii) additionally, we welcome 1 paragraph ‘expression of interests’ from researchers that have not yet conducted ACI work but are interested in integrating ACI applications, principles, or methodologies into their own research area.

To find out more, visit the workshop website: sites.google.com/site/acibhci2015/home


Technology for Dogs with Important Jobs presented at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014

From the Open University’s Press Office:

A prototype of new technology to help specially trained dogs ‘sniff out’ the tell-tale signs of cancer in biological samples has been unveiled by The Open University (OU) at the 2014 Royal Society Summer Exhibition.

Researchers, headed up by Dr. Clara Mancini, at the Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) Lab at the OU in Milton Keynes, have worked with the charity Medical Detection Dogs to design the device which helps dogs to communicate whether cancer cells are present in biological samples. This process makes use of dogs’ incredibly sensitive sense of smell which is considerably keener than a human’s, and capable of detecting traces of volatile compounds given off by cancer cells.

Dogs detecting cancer usually do so by using a device that consists of a metal pad installed on top of a sample tube which the dog sniffs. If cancer cells are present, the dog then indicates this to its handler, perhaps by sitting. The ACI Lab has developed this device by embedding a special pressure pad to sense the level of pressure the dog exerts whilst sniffing. The level of pressure the dog exerts is recorded by a computer that is attached to the device, which in turn can indicate the level of confidence the dog has that cancer cells are present. Over time this data can be analysed to take into account a particular dog’s personality (i.e. whether it is more eager or more nervous affecting how strongly it touches the pad). The device is being tested on a range of cancers, including prostate cancer, currently a major killer of men in the UK. Researchers hope it could provide a more accurate early screening service to replace the current, notoriously unreliable, test for prostate cancer.

Dr Mancini, Head of the Animal Computer Interaction Lab at The Open University, said:
“Our work with Medical Detection Dogs offers a new, potentially life-saving method of improving cancer detection at an early stage without the need for invasive tests. If this prototype is successful, we could see this device in use within the next three years.”

The OU’s ACI team runs the world’s first systematic research programme to develop ‘user-centred’ technology for dogs and other animals. The team has also worked with the charity Dogs for the Disabled to develop prototype buttons which enable dogs to operate doors, lights or household appliances more easily by using their noses or paws. The team believes that these buttons not only make it easier for dogs to assist humans, they could also dramatically reduce the time needed to train assistance dogs as they can train with the set of buttons which can then be installed in the home, minimising the amount of relearning the dog has to do when it goes to a new home.

The work of Dr Mancini and colleagues at the ACI Lab will be on display at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition ‘Technology for Dogs’ exhibit which is presented by the OU in collaboration with University of Lincoln, Medical Detection Dogs and Dogs for the Disabled. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to watch dogs using the prototype technologies and find out more about new devices currently in progress such as a new diabetes alarm, also developed in partnership with Medical Detection Dogs. Visitors will also be able to attempt to perform tasks wearing special ‘doggy-vision’ goggles and boxing gloves imitating paws helping them better understand the challenges faced by working dogs.

The OU will also be exhibiting its work on the Rosetta space craft on the ‘Catch a Comet’ exhibit alongside Imperial College London, University College London and The University of Kent. Visitors to the stand will be able to discover what comets are made of via an interactive 3D comet sculpture and figure out what happens to a comet’s tail as it zooms past the Sun. The Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition opens to the public on Tuesday 1 July 2014.

ACI Lab organises workshop on Co-Designing with Dogs

On the 12th and 13th of April 2013, The Open University’s Animal-Computer Interaction team hosted the first ever workshop on Co-Designing with Dogs. Among its key participants the event counted four dogs who attended with their human trainers from UK charity Dogs for the Disabled. The workshop was the first in a series of four within the More-than-Human Participatory Research project, led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

One of the aims – perhaps the most important aim – of Animal-Computer Interaction as a research discipline is to develop a user-centred approach to the design of technology intended for animals. Not only does this mean developing technology which is informed by the best available knowledge of animals’ needs and preferences. Crucially it also means involving animal users in the development process as legitimate stakeholders, design contributors and research participants.

Of course, anyone who wishes to involve animals as design contributors and research participants in the development of technology is faced with a non-trivial challenge: that of recognizing and accounting for the animals’ individual agency and specific contribution to the process. Humans are so used to relying on verbal communication and to assuming shared meanings between interlocutors that it is hard to see how it might be even possible to recognize and account for another’s agency and contribution when verbal communication cannot be relied upon and shard meanings cannot be assumed.

The aim of the Co-Designing with Dogs workshop was to investigate issues surrounding the participation of animals in ACI research. Particularly the workshop aimed to explore ways of supporting their autonomous agency and allowing them to contribute their design preferences throughout the design process. To explore these issues in concrete terms, we focussed on a specific case study, kindly provided by Dogs for the Disabled, whose delegates were the heads of canine training, Helen McCain, and client liaison, Duncan Edwards, and their dogs Willoughby and Arian (respectively Helen and Duncan’s companions), and Cosmo and Winnie (both training assistance dogs).

Assistance dogs are trained to interact with everyday technology (e.g. switching lights, opening doors, loading washing machines, etc.) on behalf of their assisted humans. However, the technology they are trained to use is not designed for them and thus presents them with an array of usability and experience challenges. This is where ACI comes in: we plan to design a series of plug-on, dog-friendly computing interfaces for various domestic appliances to support assistance dogs in their tasks, thus improving their welfare and professional life. But in order to do this we need to know how to involve dogs as autonomous and competent contributors in the design process. The workshop tackled this problem by focussing on two objectives: trying to understand how a dog might see the world, and using that understanding as input into a design and ‘projected’ evaluation exercise.

Guided by Dogs for the Disabled‘s delegates, the main activities of the first day aimed at helping human attendees to understand how dogs might see the world. We humans did a number of training exercises that pushed us out of the human perspective and towards a canine perspective. It was an enlightening experience, which informed the design exercises of the following day. Having learnt that switches and door handles are particularly difficult to negotiate for assistance dogs, we set out to re-design those interfaces from a more canine perspective. To do so, we had to go back to the functional components of those control systems while re-thinking their affordances in terms of experiential choices spontaneously expressed by dogs in their daily natural behaviours. Of course, coming up with radically new ideas wasn’t enough: we needed to think of research methods that would allow dogs to assess those ideas and bring to our attention ideas of their own.

Needless to say, the Co-Designing with Dogs workshop raised many more questions than it answered: What does it mean to participate in research? Do animals need to understand what’s going on in order to participate? What does it entail taking animals’ autonomous agency seriously? Is giving animals a choice between different designs enough? How can we enable them to express design ideas of their own? Where do we start from when we want to ‘design-with’ animals? Do we start from the functionalities needed to support a task or from the behaviours freely expressed by animals in situations that have nothing to do with the task? And I could go on.

But isn’t asking such questions what really counts? Isn’t turning our attention to animals – in a genuine endeavour to understand what they might want of interactive design and how they might want to co-design with us – that can ultimately recognise them as research participants rather than mere research subjects? Isn’t looking at animals with commitment and responding to animals with respect that can enable us to see them with more clarity and co-design the future with them?

Ubicomp’12 Best Paper nomination for Dog Tracking research

Clara Mancini and Janet van der Linden from The Open University’s CRC, plus Jon Bryan and Andrew Stuart from Retrieva co-authored a paper on the use of tracking devices with dogs in domestic contexts. The research found that the use of the technology influenced the both humans and dogs, changing both parties in the relationship and the relationship itself. The work was nominated for Best Paper and presented at the 14th International Conference in Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp’12) in early September. Here are the paper’s full reference and abstract:

Mancini, C., van der Linden, J., Bryan, J., Stuart, A. (2012). Exploring Interspecies Sensemaking: Dog Tracking Semiotics and Multispecies EthnographyProceedings ACM Ubicomp 2012, ACM Press, New York, pp. 143-152.

Abstract: The domestic use of tracking technology with pets is on the rise, yet is under-researched. We investigate how tracking practices reconfigure human-dog relationships changing both humans and dogs. We question the sensemaking mechanisms by which both humans and dogs engage in context-based meaningful exchanges via the technology’s mediation. We show how an indexical semiotic perspective could inform the development of interspecies technology. Finally, we discuss the methodological issues raised by doing research with animals and propose an interspecies semiotics which integrates animal companions and animal researchers’ accounts into ethnographic observation.

ACI at Minding Animals 2012

In early July, Mancini (The Open University) gave a presentation about ACI at Minding Animals 2012.

The conference, which took place from the 4th to the 6th and had nearly 500 attendees, was organised by Minding Animals International (a network of over 3,000 academics, artists, activists and advocates, dedicated to the study and protection of nonhuman animals) as well as Utrecht University’s Ethics Institute, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Philosophy Department. During the event experts in animal philosophy, ethics, advocacy, welfare, behaviour, cognition and emotions came together to discuss their work under this year’s theme: “Building Bridges between Science, the Humanities and Ethics”.

The programme, which included hundreds of talks, nearly a dozen keynotes, several study circles and panels, a few film projections and two public lectures, featured world-class figures in animal-related science. The opening lecture was by Nobel Laureate John Coetzee (Professor of Modern Dutch Literature at Utrecht University) while the closing lecture was by world-famous cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff (Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado). Other keynote speakers and panellists included the likes of Harriet Ritvo (Prof of History at MIT), Peter Singer (Prof of Philosophy at Princeton), Dale Jemieson (Prof of Environmental Studies at NYU), Colin Allen (Prof of Cognitive Science and History & Philosophy of Science at Indiana), Raj Panjwani (Lawyer at the Supreme Court of India), and many others of comparable calibre.

Although it was important to talk about ACI with an audience of animal experts, such an audience might have either not seen the point of ACI or even see it as a dangerous endeavour. However, not only did Minding Animal’s audience seem to see the point of ACI, they seemed to see merit and importance in this new research area and its animal-centred perspective. Marc Bekoff, for one, had very encouraging words for the development of ACI, on the grounds that it seeks to make our world more “animal-friendly”, as he put it. This seems encouraging for any computing researcher who is interested in venturing into ACI: if most computer scientists don’t get ACI yet, animal scientists do!

Animal-Computer Interaction SIG at CHI’12

This year, the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’12) is hosting a Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting on Animal-Computer Interaction. The event is organised by Clara Mancini (The Open University), Shaun Lawson (University of Lincoln), Janet van der Linden (The Open University), Jonna Häkkilä (Nokia Research Center), Frank Noz (FrankNoz.com), Chadwick Wingrave (University of Central Florida) and Oskar Juhlin (Stockholm University).

Place and time: the meeting takes place at the Austin Convention Centre, Austin, Texas, USA, on the 10th of May 2012, at 14:30.

Abstract: User-computer interaction research is demonstrating growing interest in the relation between animals and technology (e.g., computer-mediated interspecies interactions and animal-computer interfaces). However, as a research area, this topic is still underexplored and fragmented, and researchers lack opportunities to exchange ideas, identify resources, form collaborations and co-operatively develop a coherent research agenda. The Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) SIG meeting aims to provide such an opportunity, promoting the development of ACI as a distinct area of research which is relevant to both animals and humans.

Find out more: on facebook: www.facebook.com/acisigchi – on the conference’s website: chi2012.acm.org/program/desktop/program.html#S21 – on the ACI blog: www.open.ac.uk/blogs/ACI/