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William Thies


Publications by William Thies (bibliography)

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Cross, Andrew, Cutrell, Edward and Thies, William (2012): Low-cost audience polling using computer vision. In: Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology 2012. pp. 45-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2380116.2380124

Electronic response systems known as "clickers" have demonstrated educational benefits in well-resourced classrooms, but remain out-of-reach for most schools due to their prohibitive cost. We propose a new, low-cost technique that utilizes computer vision for real-time polling of a classroom. Our approach allows teachers to ask a multiple-choice question. Students respond by holding up a qCard: a sheet of paper that contains a printed code, similar to a QR code, encoding their student IDs. Students indicate their answers (A, B, C or D) by holding the card in one of four orientations. Using a laptop and an off-the-shelf webcam, our software automatically recognizes and aggregates the students' responses and displays them to the teacher. We built this system and performed initial trials in secondary schools in Bangalore, India. In a 25-student classroom, our system offers 99.8% recognition accuracy, captures 97% of responses within 10 seconds, and costs 15 times less than existing electronic solutions.

© All rights reserved Cross et al. and/or ACM Press

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Chen, Jay, Hutchful, David, Thies, William and Subramanian, Lakshminarayanan (2011): Analyzing and accelerating web access in a school in peri-urban India. In: Proceedings of the 2011 International Conference on the World Wide Web 2011. pp. 443-452. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1963192.1963358

While computers and Internet access have growing penetration amongst schools in the developing world, intermittent connectivity and limited bandwidth often prevent them from being fully utilized by students and teachers. In this paper, we make two contributions to help address this problem. First, we characterize six weeks of HTTP traffic from a primary school outside of Bangalore, India, illuminating opportunities and constraints for improving performance in such settings. Second, we deploy an aggressive caching and prefetching engine and show that it accelerates a user's overall browsing experience (apart from video content) by 2.8x. Our accelerator leverages innovative techniques that have been proposed, but not evaluated in detail, including the effectiveness of serving stale pages, cached page highlighting, and client-side prefetching. Unlike proxy-based techniques, our system is bundled as an open-source Firefox plugin and runs directly on client machines. This allows easy installation and configuration by end users, which is especially important in developing regions where a lack of permissions or technical expertise often prevents modification of internal network settings.

© All rights reserved Chen et al. and/or ACM Press

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Paruthi, Gaurav and Thies, William (2011): Utilizing DVD players as low-cost offline internet browsers. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2011 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2011. pp. 955-958. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1978942.1979083

In the developing world, computers and Internet access remain rare. However, there are other devices that can be used to deliver information, including TVs and DVD players. In this paper, we work to bridge this gap by delivering offline Internet content on DVD, for interactive playback on ordinary DVD players. Using the remote control, users can accomplish all of the major functions available in a Web browser, including navigation, hyperlinks, and search. As our driving application, we map the entirety of schools-wikipedia.org -- encompassing 5,500 articles and 259,000 screens - to a double-layer DVD. We evaluate our system via a study of 20 low-income users in Bangalore, India. Using our DVD as reference, participants are able to answer factual questions with over 90% success. While most participants prefer to use a computer if one is available, for resource-poor environments the DVD platform could represent a viable and low-cost alternative.

© All rights reserved Paruthi and Thies and/or their publisher

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