An electrifying new incentive
A message from the Sustainability Office.
Does your department have a vehicle in need of replacement? Have you considered exploring an electric option?
Waterloo is launching a new incentive for departments to electrify fleet vehicles. Any unit replacing a conventional combustion engine vehicle can receive a $10,000 internal incentive to convert to an electric vehicle (EV).
EVs will play an important part of reducing emissions from Waterloo’s fleet, which accounts for around 1 per cent of the campus’ total emissions. The campus has been expanding hybrid purchases over the past several years, and in 2021 purchased its first fully electric vehicle, but the pace of adoption needs to be accelerated to achieve the Waterloo’s climate action targets.
“One barrier that often comes up for EVs is the up-front purchase price,” says Mat Thijssen, Director of Sustainability. “Although there are many operational savings on energy and maintenance from an EV that make them cost-competitive or very close to cost-competitive over their lifespan, that up-front cost can be a challenge.”
The subsidy hopes to overcome that, and it can be combined with any other applicable government rebates or grants to support the EV purchase or charging station installation.
With many vehicle manufacturers expanding their EV product lines, there are a larger number of electric car, cargo van, and even truck options that can help build out a low-carbon fleet.
System recognizes hand gestures to expand computer input on a keyboard
This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
Researchers are developing a new technology that uses hand gestures to carry out commands on computers.
The prototype, called “Typealike,” works through a regular laptop webcam with a simple affixed mirror. The program recognizes the user’s hands beside or near the keyboard and prompts operations based on different hand positions.
A user could, for example, place their right hand with the thumb pointing up beside the keyboard, and the program would recognize this as a signal to increase the volume. Different gestures and different combinations of gestures can be programmed to carry out a wide range of operations.
The innovation in the field of human-computer interaction aims to make user experience faster and smoother, with less need for keyboard shortcuts or working with a mouse and trackpad.
“It started with a simple idea about new ways to use a webcam,” said Nalin Chhibber, a recent master’s graduate from the University of Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science. “The webcam is pointed at your face, but the most interaction happening on a computer is around your hands. So, we thought, what could we do if the webcam could pick up hand gestures?”
The initial insight led to the development of a small mechanical attachment that redirects the webcam downwards towards the hands. The team then created a software program capable of understanding distinct hand gestures in variable conditions and for different users. The team used machine learning techniques to train the Typealike program.
“It’s a neural network, so you need to show the algorithm examples of what you’re trying to detect,” said Fabrice Matulic, senior researcher at Preferred Networks Inc. and a former postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo. “Some people will make gestures a little bit differently, and hands vary in size, so you have to collect a lot of data from different people with different lighting conditions.”
The team recorded a database of hand gestures with dozens of research volunteers. They also had the volunteers do tests and surveys to help the team understand how to make the program as functional and versatile as possible.
“We’re always setting out to make things people can easily use,” said Daniel Vogel, an associate professor of computer science at Waterloo. “People look at something like Typealike, or other new tech in the field of human-computer interaction, and they say it just makes sense. That’s what we want. We want to make technology that’s intuitive and straightforward, but sometimes to do that takes a lot of complex research and sophisticated software.”
The researchers say there are further applications for the Typealike program in virtual reality where it could eliminate the need for hand-held controllers.
The study, Typealike: Near-keyboard hand postures for expanded laptop interaction, authored by Chhibber, Matulic, Vogel, and team-member Hemant Bhaskar Surale, was recently published in the journal for the proceedings of ACM Human Computer Interaction.
Authority on preparing for the jobs of tomorrow to kick off OHD Speaker Series
A message from Organizational and Human Development (OHD).
Dr. Michelle R. Weise has been announced as the first keynote in the Waterloo Staff Conference speaker series taking place in February and March. This OHD-hosted event, taking place on Tuesday, February 8, at 10:30 a.m., is open to all UWaterloo employees as we ramp up to the two-day Staff Conference taking place in early April.
“We are delighted to have Dr. Michelle R. Weise kick off the 2022 pre-conference speaker series,” says Melanie Will, Director of OHD. “Taking the best learnings from her award-winning book, research and experience, we will be inspired to new perspectives on continuing education and preparing ourselves for the future of work.” Michelle is a sought-after scholar, speaker, consultant and widely recognized authority on preparing working-age adults for the jobs of today and tomorrow. She was named one of 30 management and leadership thinkers in the world to watch in 2021 by Thinkers50.
Michelle serves as an advisor to countless businesses and organizations, and in 2020 published Long-Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet. Her commentaries on redesigning higher education and developing more innovative workforce and talent pipeline strategies have been featured in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review and on PBSNewshour.
Professor receives award for study on employee knowledge sharing
By Patty Mah. This article was originally published on the School of Accounting and Finance website.
School of Accounting and Finance Associate Professor Krista Fiolleau, PhD and her co-authors Leslie Berger, PhD and Carolyn MacTavish, PhD, associate professors at Wilfrid Laurier, were awarded the Best Paper Award from the Journal of Management Accounting Research (JMAR).
The Journal for Management Accounting Research is published by the American Accounting Association (AAA), the largest community of accountants in academia. Through its membership, leading-edge research, and publications, the AAA help to shape the future of accounting in expanding contributions to address key issues for scholarship, education, and practice. The JMAR Best Paper Award is presented annually to the JMAR paper deemed to have the greatest potential impact on management accounting research.
The award-winning paper, “I know something you don’t know: The effect of relative performance information and the individual performance incentives on knowledge sharing,” expands our understanding of counterproductive effects of knowledge sharing within a workplace that implements incentive systems and performance enhancing tools. In environments where sharing information between employees is useful, tools such as relative performance information (RPI) and individual performance incentives, can lead to losses in efficiency when employees choose not to share information or choose to share inaccurate information. The paper suggests that it may be useful for an organization to monitor metrics other than simply output performance effects when implementing tools to measure collaboration and sharing behaviour of their employees. The paper was originally published in the Summer 2019 volume of the Journal of Management Accounting Research.
Prof. Fiolleau is an associate professor with the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo. An accredited Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Prof. Fiolleau’s research interests include accounting ethics, ethical reasoning, and use of accounting information in decision-making.
Hanging up on campus telephones
A message from Information Systems & Technology.
The University is seeking proposals for the supply and implementation of a modern unified communication solution, which will replace the current campus telephone and voicemail system. Implementation of the successful solution is expected to begin in mid-2022.
Motivation behind the change
The equipment and support for our current VOIP/Analog telephone environment (which uses Avaya and Skype for Business products) is reaching end of life. More recently, as we continue to adjust to the changing working and learning landscapes, it is important the University be able to provide a flexible solution that supports these distributed environments, better integrates with existing communication and collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, while enhancing the overall user experience.
Please note, until the new solution is in place, units may continue to migrate to the Skype for Business softphone client. Information about the move to a primarily softphone client model is available on the project website.
Questions about this work can be directed to Steve Bourque, director, technology integrated systems, IST.
Don't get held up: ransomware seminar coming on Friday
The next entry in the Professional Development Advisory Group (PDAG) seminar series will feature Information Systems & Technology staff member Terry Labach and is entitled "Because That’s Where the Money is: Ransomware as a Growth Industry."
"Despite years of experience, Internet-based financial crime continues to plague businesses and organizations," says the talk's background blurb. "Financial losses due to ransomware continue, instigated by relentless cybercriminal gangs spread across the world. Higher education institutions are not immune to such attacks. Terry will review some of the most audacious ransomware attacks of the past few years. He’ll demonstrate how the victimized organizations were vulnerable and how they could have defended themselves. Could it happen here?"
Nathan Lee will moderate the event.
Terry Labach has worked at UWaterloo since 2004. He is currently a member of IST's Information Security Services team. He has previously worked supporting software infrastructure at University of Calgary, Enbridge Pipelines, IBM, and Maplesoft, and has also worked as a software developer at the University of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Cancer Centre, and Skyplan, where he wrote flight planning software. On a personal level, his musical life as a harmonica player and Kitchener Blues Festival volunteer has been disrupted by the COVID times. With gyms being closed so often during the pandemic, he has developed from an occasional runner to an obsessive runner.
Nathan Lee is a member of the Project Management Office in IST and has worked at UWaterloo since 2017. He is a co-chair in the PDAG committee.
The event takes place Friday, January 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Microsoft Teams. This session will be recorded. Visit the PDAG seminar page for upcoming events.