Computational Thematic Analysis

We are currently designing, developing, and deploying tools that help non-technical researchers explore discourse from online communities, like Reddit and Facebook. This project grew from Robert Gauthier's PhD research, beginning with an examination of how Reddit can support an individual's recovery from addiction. It has now grown into a free, open source tool: The Computational Thematic Analysis Toolkit.

We have already deployed the toolkit to assist with health research in collaboration with Dr. Jean Costello and Homewood Research Institute and Dr. Samantha Meyer and the Canadian Immunization Research Network. For further detail see these selected publications:

  • Robert P Gauthier, Mary Jean Costello, and James R Wallace. 2022. “I Will Not Drink With You Today”: A Topic-Guided Thematic Analysis of Addiction Recovery on Reddit. In Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 20, 1–17.
  • Robert P. Gauthier and James R. Wallace. 2022. The Computational Thematic Analysis Toolkit. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 6, GROUP, Article 25 (January 2022), 15 pages.

Games for Health

We develop novel games that educate, entertain, and promote health and well being. This research often draws on psychological theories, such as Self Determination Theory or the Proteus Effect.  Current students in the HCI+Health Lab are exploring how we can design games that motivate behaviour change, and that engage friends and family in cognitive therapy. For examples of this work, see:

  • Marcela C. C. Bomfim, Sharon I. Kirkpatrick, Lennart E. Nacke, and James R. Wallace. 2020. Food Literacy while Shopping: Motivating Informed Food Purchasing Behaviour with a Situated Gameful App. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–13.
  • Tina Chan, Robert P. Gauthier, Ally Suarez, Nicholas F. Sia, and James R. Wallace. 2021. Merlynne: Motivating Peer-to-Peer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a Serious Game. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 5, CHI PLAY, Article 250 (September 2021), 23 pages.

Past projects

Quantum Cats

Our debut outreach game, Quatum Cats, teaches players about fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics and is available on Google Play and the App Store. This project was a collaboration between the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo and the Institute for Quantum Computing.

Shared decision making in health


We are investigating the how technologies like large, interactive displays and mobile devices can help us explore, understand, and interpret the vast amounts of data available to healthcare workers, policymakers, and individuals at home. Students in the HCI+Health Lab approach this research from both basic and applied perspectives to develop sensemaking and decision-making tools. 

This research is a collaboration with Professor Stacey Scott at the University of Guelph, and through working with health care partners across Canada such as the Arthritis Society and the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance. We have also collaborated with Professor Joon Lee and the Health Data Science Lab to create a prototype visualization tool for the MIMIC-II data set that is available for use online

This research has been published at leading HCI conferences such as the ACM Conference on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces (ISS) and the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). 

Fatigue on large, touch-interactive displays

Fatigue study configuration

We explored how existing models of fatigue for mid-air interaction can be applied to understand fatigue on large-multi-touch displays, known as the 'gorilla arm effect'. We found that the models work well with some optimization of key parameters. This research was conducted in collaboration with Professor Daniel Vogel and the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab in the Cheriton School of Computer Science. 

Smart surveys 

Blue check mark

We explored barriers to the use of smartphone applications as a means of collecting context-sensitive data. Our initial focus was understanding the perceptions around sharing potentially sensitive information via smartphone, and how we can motivate individuals to do so for altruistic purposes such as improving the healthcare system.  

This research was conducted in collaboration with Professor Josephine McMurray at Wilfrid Laurier University and MetricWire, and was funded via a SSHRC Insight Development grant.

Interaction via handheld and wearable devices 

Watchcasting enables users to interact with nearby displays using an off-the-shelf smartwatch

We have also explored the use of mobile and wearable devices to interact with nearby data, for example data displayed on a projected screen in a meeting room. We have developed and evaluated prototypes across smartphone and smartwatch devices, called Smartcasting, Tiltcasting, and Watchcasting. 

This research was conducted in collaboration with Professor Edward Lank and the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab in the Cheriton School of Computer Science.