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Jacob Wobbrock receives Google Faculty Research Award

Monday, March 3, 2014

iSchool Associate Professor Jacob O. Wobbrock will receive a 2014-15 Google Research Award for his proposal, “Smart Touch: Improving the accessibility of touch screens on Android tablets and smartphones for people with motor impairments.”  iSchool Ph.D. student Martez Mott will work with Wobbrock on the project.

This year, Google received 691 proposals from 46 countries on 6 continents, and made 115 awards, for a 16.6% award rate.

“With this award, we will be able to develop software for a fundamentally more accessible kind of touch screen,” said Wobbrock. “Our research will discover how to enable people of all abilities to touch however is most natural for them, even if they have motor impairments or are situationally impaired by using touch screens on-the-go. Whatever the intended touch point, it will be resolved instantaneously by our state-of-the-art pattern matching techniques.”

Ultimately, the software produced, called Smart Touch, will be released for download and capable of running invisibly in the background on Android-based devices, making touches more accurate for all users however they may naturally touch tablets or smartphones.

"Being awarded the Google Faculty Research Award is great validation that we're working on an interesting and challenging problem. It's really satisfying to get this type of recognition and support,” noted Mott.

Google research awards are intended to support “cutting-edge research in Computer Science, Engineering, and related fields,” and are structured as unrestricted gifts to universities to support the work of world-class faculty members at top universities around the world.

This is Wobbrock’s second Google Faculty Research Award. His proposal, co-authored by Wobbrock’s co-advisee Jeff Huang, Ph.D. ‘13, was entitled “Cursor mining in web search” and received funding in 2011. Jeff Huang is now a professor of computer science at Brown University.

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