ACI2016: 3rd International Conference on Animal-Computer Interaction
In cooperation with the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction)

15th - 17th of November 2016, in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

About ACI2016

Animals have interacted with technology for a long time. Already in the ‘60s, bears were wearing tracking devices within conservation research; while mice and pigeons were working with operant chambers in task-driven behavioral experiments. In the ‘80s, great apes were using early touch-screen computers to learn human language in comparative cognition studies, followed in the ‘90s by dolphins using underwater keyboards for similar communication tasks. Meantime, cows were being introduced to early robotic milking systems thanks to the latest advances in agricultural engineering. Until recently, the development of these technologies has been driven by disciplines other than Interaction Design.

However, in recent years interaction designers and members of the HCI community have begun to take an interest in the interaction between animals and technology, explicitly addressing questions pertaining to the usability and experience of such technologies from the perspective or animal users, to the design processes that inform animal-computer interactions, or to the articulations between animals' physiology, psychology, sociality and interaction design. Interaction designers have also begun to tackle the challenges involved in extending user-centered design solutions and practices beyond the human species.

As a result, an increasing body of work is shaping the emerging discipline of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) including:

  • Studying and theorizing the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, with regards to specific animal activities or interspecies relations (e.g. influence of robotic milking systems on cows’ social dynamics; effects of quantifying technology on human-dog relations; impact of wearable biotelemetry on wildlife).
  • Developing user-centered technology that can: improve animals’ welfare by enabling the fulfillment of their needs (e.g. environmental control and interactive stimulation for captive animals); support animals in tasks humans might ask of them (e.g. specialized interfaces for working dogs); foster interspecies relationships (e.g. human-animal interfaces for co-located or remote interaction).
  • Informing user-centered approaches to the design of technology intended for animals, by systematically exploring, adapting and evaluating theoretical and methodological frameworks and protocols derived from both HCI and animal science (e.g. rapid prototyping and agile iteration; preference testing).

As a field of research and practice, ACI extends the study and design of interactions with computing systems to animals beyond humans, whilst still including humans themselves as members of the kingdom animalia. By taking a multispecies perspective, ACI acknowledges the evolutionary continuities existing between species, thus pushing the boundaries of interaction design in terms of participating agents, methods and applications.

Such a perspective could yield benefits that go well beyond animal wellbeing and the improvement of human-animal relations. It could strengthen HCI as a discipline and contribute to the pursuit of some of the HCI community’s aspirations. For example, the development of multispecies research practices and design frameworks could enable designers to better account for the cognitive and ergonomic diversity of their prospective users. ACI could also broaden participation in interaction design, providing inclusive technology to support multispecies communities, and lead to the development of more sustainable forms of technologically supported living. In the longer term, by bringing more-than-human voices to the design table, ACI could help us revisit anthropocentric biases in human activity and interspecies interaction, and contribute to the exploration of alternative models that can better support biodiversity and foster environmental restoration.

Building on a series of ACI events (Special Interest Group meeting at CHI2012; workshops at NordiCHI2014, BHCI2015 and CHI2016; congress at ACE2014 and ACE2015), to advance this area of research and practice, and to support the emergence of ACI as an academic discipline, ACI2016 will be held for the first time as an independent conference and will take place at The Open University (OU), which is home to the OU’s Animal-Computer Interaction Lab.