<< 2009-0 >>
Department of
Computer Science
Mike Sporting the
        Mark II CyberJacket

Michael McCarthy

Research Associate
Mobile and Wearable Computing Group
Department of Computer Science
University of Bristol
(contact details)

I've moved!
Since November 2007, I've been at Overlay Media.

Research Interests

I am interested in creating novel forms of interaction with computers situated in the "real world" (i.e. mobile, wearable and ubiquitous computers). Unlike computer users sat at a desk, real world users are unable to devote their full attention to their personal devices (this morning I bumped into two separate people who were attempting to walk and text at the same time!). So the question is: how can we design systems with this notion of limited attention in mind?

One way of achieving this is to equip systems with tools to determine their own context. For example, sensors can be used to capture information such as location, acceleration, temperature, etc. Given data from sensors, algorithms can form assumptions about the user's current context (running, walking, in a meeting, angry, upset, at work, at home, etc.) and the system can behave appropriately. It's possible, for example, for a mobile phone to divert calls to voice-mail if it knows its user is driving (see work by Ian Anderson).

I have done a lot of work with a particular type of context, namely positioning and position sensing. During my time as a PhD student I built two different ultrasonic positioning systems for use in indoor environments. I am currently working with inertial sensors and digital pens.

Current Research

I currently work as a PostDoc with Mike Fraser on a National Centre for e-Social Science project called the Mixed Media Grid (MiMeG). We are exploring ways in which we can capture interaction between co-located social scientists as they study, annotate and examine video clips. The aim is to provide a representation of the subtle forms of local interaction between one group of scientists for another group at a remote location. We have applied the Synchronous Buzz ultrasonic positioning system to the project and are currently exploring the use of sensors for capturing interaction with a paper-based interface.


Completed January 2007

My PhD was funded by the EPSRC within an Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) called Equator. As a member of equator, I was concerned, specifically, with the wearable and ubiquitous computing aspects of its research initiatives. During my work as a PhD student, I also participated in the Mobile Bristol Project - a collaboration between HP Labs, the Appliance Studio, and the University of Bristol Computer Science Department.

The particular focus of my thesis is positioning wearable computers using ultrasound. As part of the Bristol wearables group, my work falls into a pool of research aiming to develop technologies that make ultrasonic positioning more accessible. For us, this means tackling the various aspects of cost surrounding positioning (price, size, form factor, power consumption, configuration effort, configuration complexity, etc.) while, at the same time, improving on robustness and accuracy.

Paul Duff has developed an algorithm that automatically determines the position of transmitters within a positioning infrastructure. This autocalibration algorithm is intended to alleviate the costs involved with setting up the system. My work has looked at ways of applying Bayesian filtering techniques, such as the Kalman filter, to real-time positioning within a user centric or passive positioning system. This work is based on a system originally conceived by Cliff Randell and our supervisor, Henk Muller.

My thesis is titled The Buzz: Narrowband Ultrasonic Positioning for Wearable Computers. It details the design, implementation and evaluation of the Synchronous Buzz, an RF free positioning system published at ISWC 2003, and the Asynchronous Buzz, the concept of which was presented at LoCA 2006 (see also this tech note).


My publications are in the Computer Science Publication Database

Papers not in the database:

Conferences and Workshops

Departmental Seminars

I help organise weekly research seminars for the Computer Science Department. The purpose of these talks is to:

  • encourage communication and collaboration within the Department
  • increase the awareness of research going on outside the Department
  • provide a platform for researchers, both internally and externally, to present their research and receive feedback
  • instill a culture that encompasses the above points

See the Departmental Seminars Homepage for more details.


I am a long-time advocate of the sport of volleyball, having played for a number of years both in Canada and in the UK. I currently captain a volleyball team that plays in the premier league in England -- the English Volleyball Association First Division National League. My team is one of a number of teams that comprise a Bristol based club called the City of Bristol Volleyball Club. I serve as a committee member and as the club's webmaster.

© 1995-2006 University of Bristol  |  Terms and Conditions
Edit Page  |  About this Page