Human Computer Interaction and Design (HCID)

Degree:
Human Computer Interaction and Design (HCID)

ECTS:
120 ECTS

Field of Study:
Computer Science and Information Technology

Duration:
2 years, full-time

Eligibility:
Hold a Bachelor of Science or be in the final year of studies of... (read more).

Tuition fees & scholarships:
For EU and non-EU citizens.
More information.

Language of Instruction:
English
More information.

Human Computer Interaction and Design (HCID)

Why study Human Computer Interaction and Design at EIT Digital?

Smart devices (mobile phones, PDAs, tablet computers), smart products (car, navigation) and smart environments (ambient intelligence) are enabling new services that require innovative interfaces. Human Computer Interaction and Design (HCID) focuses on the study, design, development and evaluation of novel user interfaces, interactive systems and services.

The EIT Digital Master’s degree HCID is an interdisciplinary programme where our User-Centred Design approach places the users at the centre of the design process. By combining human aspects (at a cognitive, aesthetic and sensory-motor levels) to technological and business aspects, we create new products and services with great usability and user experience, and a solid customer demand, which often translate into commercial success.

HCID serves as the bridge to new products and services. Students learn how to design and define how people interact and live with the modern ever-changing technical world.

"Through design we can force a change - hopefully for the better, for all things and for all people. Join the revolution."

Dr. Mika P. Nieminen
Human Computer Interaction and Design Coordinator


Who can apply?

If you wish to apply to this programme you must have a Bachelor of Science in, or be in your final year of studies of:

  • Computer Science
  • Information Systems
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Electrical Engineering/Electronic

In special cases students from industrial design, media technology, computational linguistics, and cognitive sciences with sufficient skills in mathematics, software design and programming can be considered.

Kindly note that relevant work experience can compensate a non-strictly matching bachelor degree. Please justify your work experience in your motivation letter or resume. Once your papers are received, the selection committee will make the final decision on whether your bachelor's and work experience are sufficient as prerequisites for the track you have applied for.

How is the programme structured?

All EIT Digital Master School programmes follow the same scheme:

  • Students study one year at an ‘entry’ university and one year at an ‘exit’ university in two of EIT Digital’s hot spots around Europe.
  • Upon completion, graduates receive degrees from the two universities and a certificate awarded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
  • The first year is similar at all entry points with basic courses to lay the foundation for the chosen technical programme focus. Some elective courses may also be chosen. At the same time, students are introduced to business and management. During the second semester, a design project is combined with business development exercises. These teach how to turn technology into business and how to present a convincing business plan.
  • In between the first year and the second year, a summer school addresses business opportunities within a socially relevant theme.
  • The second year offers a specialisation and a graduation project. The graduation project includes an internship at a company or a research institute and results in a Master thesis with a strong innovation and entrepreneurship dimension.

To learn more about the I&E minor please click here.

Where can I study Human Computer Interaction and Design?

What can I study at the entry and exit points?

Entry - 1st year, common courses

Each Entry University in HCID provides an introduction course to HCI, working knowledge to the design and implementation of interactive systems, necessary usability evaluation methods and a multi-disciplinary design project.

Aalto University (Aalto), Finland

Link to the university: https://into.aalto.fi/
Programme
Contact: Mika P. Nieminen

FIRST SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

Select one of the following courses:

Elective major courses:

Select at least 2 ECTS over the two semesters:

Compulsory I&E courses:

SECOND SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses

Elective major courses

Compulsory I&E courses

Université Paris-Saclay (UPS) - formerly Université Paris Sud, France

Link to the university: https://www.universite-paris-saclay.fr/en

Programme

Contact: Sarah Fdili Alaoui

The programme is listed under the master's programme HCID

FIRST SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

  • HCID-101 - Fundamentals of Human-Computer Interaction (5.0 ECTS)
  • HCID-102 - Design of Interactive Systems (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-104 - Evaluation of Interactive Systems (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-201 - Design project in Human-Computer Interaction (5.0 ECTS) (both semesters)
  • HCID-103 - Introduction Programming of Interactive Systems (5.0 ECTS)
  • LANG-010 - French Language and Culture (2.0 ECTS)

Elective major courses:

  • HCID-501 - Interactive Information Visualization (2.5)
  • HCID-502 - Photo-realistic Rendering (2.5)
  • HCID-503 - Gestural and Mobile Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-504 - Mixed Reality and Tangible Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-505 - Groupware and Collaborative Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-506 - Virtual Humans (2.5)
  • HCID-507 - Intelligent Multimodal Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-508 - Internet of Things & HCI (2.5)
  • HCID-509 - Creative Design (2.5)
  • HCID-510 - Digital Fabrication (2.5)
  • HCID-511 - Introduction to Machine Learning (2.5)

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • HCID-110 - Innovation & Entrepreneurship Basics (6.0 ECTS)

SECOND SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

  • HCID-202 - Advanced Design of Interactive Systems (2.5)
  • HCID-204 - Advanced Evaluation of Interactive Systems (2.5)
  • HCID-201 - Design project in Human-Computer Interaction (5.0) (both semesters)

Elective major courses:

  • HCID-501 - Interactive Information Visualization (2.5)
  • HCID-502 - Photo-realistic Rendering (2.5)
  • HCID-503 - Gestural and Mobile Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-504 - Mixed Reality and Tangible Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-505 - Groupware and Collaborative Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-506 - Virtual Humans (2.5)
  • HCID-507 - Intelligent Multimodal Interaction (2.5)
  • HCID-508 - Internet of Things & HCI (2.5)
  • HCID-509 - Creative Design (2.5)
  • HCID-510 - Digital Fabrication (2.5)
  • HCID-511 - Introduction to Machine Learning (2.5)

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • HCID-115 - Business Development Lab 1 (3.0)
  • HCID-215 - Business Development Lab 2 (6.0)
  • HCID-210 - Innovation & Entrepreneurship Advanced (5.0)
  • HCID-220 - Summer School (4.0)

University of Twente (UT), The Netherlands

Link to the university: https://www.utwente.nl/en/
Programme

Contact: Mariët Theune (m.theune@utwente.nl), Dirk Heylen

The master's programme is provided by Interaction Technology.

Compulsory major courses:

Elective major courses:

Compulsory I&E courses:

SECOND SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

Elective major courses:

Compulsory I&E courses:

Elective I&E courses (Choose one)

First Semester

Second Semester

Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Spain

Link to the university: http://www.fi.upm.es/
Programme
Contact: Prof. Elena Villalba Mora

FIRST SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

Elective major courses

  • None

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • Introduction to Innovation and Entrepreneurship Management (7 ECTS)

SECOND SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

Elective major courses:

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • Entrepreneurship and Business Modelling (6 ECTS)
  • Internship Business (5 ECTS)
  • Summer School (4 ECTS)

Elective I&E courses (Choose one)

  • Digital-based Services Creation (2 ECTS)
  • Launching of ICT Products/Services (2 ECTS)

Polytechnic University of Milan (POLIMI), Italy

Link to the university: http://www.polimi.it/
Programme

Contact: Franca Garzotto

This entry is best suited for applicants with a degree in Computer Science Engineering. This means a strong base of ICT, computer science, programming and engineering courses in your transcript of records, including math courses at academic level (e.g. calculus, discrete or stats) and physics. A competitive academic record (of more than 3.4/4 or 4.24/5 or B+) is also needed. Please note that the admission committee of Polimi can specify additional constraints on the individual study plan on the basis of previous studies, in order to compensate possible lacks in basic prerequisites.

FIRST SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

  • 097685 - Advanced User Interfaces (6 ECTS)
  • 089183 - Data Bases 2 (5 ECTS)
  • 089184 - Software Engineering 2 (5 ECTS)

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • 052795 - Strategy & Marketing (10 ECTS)

SECOND SEMESTER

Compulsory major courses:

  • 089318 - Hypermedia Applications (5 ECTS)
  • 095898 - Computing Infrastructure (5 ECTS)

Compulsory I&E courses:

  • 052804 - Designing Digital Business Innovation Lab (10 ECTS)
  • I&E Summer School (4 ECTS)

Elective major courses:

Choose one HCI course (5 ECTS):

FIRST SEMESTER

  • 089175 - Videogame Design and Programming (5 ECTS)
  • 093212 - Design and Implementation of Mobile Applications (5 ECTS)

SECOND SEMESTER

  • 050566 - Interaction Design Studio (5 ECTS)
  • 095948 - Process and Service Design (5 ECTS)
  • 093206 - Multidisciplinary Project (5 ECTS)
  • 090951 - Philosophical Issues of Computer Science (5 ECTS)
  • 093834 - Interdisciplinary Course of Robotics (5 ECTS)

Choose one ICT course (5 ECTS):

First Semester:

  • 089214 - Artificial Intelligence (5 ECTS)
  • 052534 - Recommender Systems (5 ECTS)
  • 095943 - Principles of Programming Languages (5 ECTS)

Second Semester:

  • 090958 - Computer Graphics (5 ECTS)
  • 097683 - Machine Learning (5 ECTS)
  • 089165 - Computer Security (5 ECTS)

Exit - 2nd year, specialisation

Aalto University (Aalto), Finland

Link to the university: https://into.aalto.fi/display/en
Programme

Contact: Mika P. Nieminen, mika.nieminen@aalto.fi

Specialisation: Computational Interaction

Aalto University offers a specialisation in Computational Interaction. Students learn to apply methods from computer science, engineering, and mathematics to inform understanding of human-computer interaction and to design and adapt human-computer interfaces. Such methods build on for instance machine learning, optimisation, statistical modelling, natural language processing, control theory, signal processing and computer vision, among others. Emerging application topics include computational and data-driven design, interactive AI, conversational agents, interactive visualization, cognitive and behavioral modeling, and novel user interface technology.

The specialisation is offered by the Aalto University School of Science and the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering and it builds on internationally recognized research and education in human-computer interaction, computational intelligence in games, and advanced machine learning methods.

Compulsory courses:
Language course: Compulsory degree requirement, both oral and written requirements (3 ECTS)
SCI-E1010 Introduction course for Master's students: Career and working life skills (1 ECTS)
CS-E3210 Machine Learning: Basic Principles (5 ECTS)
ELEC-E7851 Computational User Interface Design (5 ECTS)
CS-E5425 I&E Study Project (6 ECTS)

Elective Courses (minimum 10 ECTS):
DOM-E5129 Intelligent Computational Media (5 ECTS)**
CS-E4840 Information Visualization (5 ECTS)**
ELEC-E7890 User Research (5 ECTS)
ELEC-E7870 Advanced Topics in User Interfaces (3 ECTS)

Only one of the following can be included to the elective courses:
CS-E4890 Deep Learning (5 ECTS)
CS-E4600 Algorithmic Methods of Data Mining (5 ECTS)
ELEC-E8125 Reinforcement learning (5 ECTS)

* If machine learning basics have been studied at entry, select more electives on agreement with academic coordinator
** Course currently offered during spring semester

Antti Oulasvirta is an Associate Professor at the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering where he leads the ERC-funded research group User Interfaces. His research interests include computational design, interactive AI, and behavioral and cognitive models. Read more information about the research group at http://userinterfaces.aalto.fi

Perttu Hämäläinen is Aalto’s professor of computer games, with 6 years of game industry experience prior to joining Aalto. His research and teaching topics include game design and computational intelligence techniques in games and media. For example, his group has developed state-of-the-art movement control algorithms for physically based game characters and Augmented Climbing Wall, an award-winning AR system that combines computer games with sports and exercise. For publications and videos, see http://perttu.info

Mika P. Nieminen, is a senior lecturer and a post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Science. He coordinates the HCID programme for the EIT Digital Master School in general and locally at Aalto, while also teaching several of Aalto’s first year courses. His research interests include UCD at large, and user involvement and user-centered design competencies in particular.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden

Link to the university: https://www.kth.se/
Programme

Contact: Patric Dahlqvistpatricd@kth.se; Cristian Bogdanpatricd@kth.se

Specialisation: Mobile and Ubiquitous Interaction

KTH offers a specialisation in mobile and ubiquitous interaction with courses in design, development and implementation of mobile and physical interaction. The two schools involved, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and CSC (Computer Science and Communication) complement each other in mobile technology, user-centred design and design for physical interaction. KTH is well fitted for this specialisation with a strong research background in areas like CSCW, mobile computing and User Centred Design of communication media. Furthermore, KTH offers a unique and integrated education and research environment with world-leading telecom industries located in Stockholm / Kista. Other facilities accessible to the master's students include a mobile services lab, a haptics lab, a usability lab, a physical computing lab and a new center for information visualization (vic-sthlm.se) featuring ultra-high-resolution displays, holographic displays, eye tracking devices and multitouch surfaces.

Compulsory courses:

One of the following:

Elective Courses:

Patric Dahlqvist is a Lecturer at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He has over 20 years of experience teaching in the area of HCI. His main interests are Usability evaluation and methodology for understanding the user context. He has prior been at Stockholm University.

Cristian Bogdan is Associate Professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. His main research interests are in Human-Computer Interaction, developing novel methods for interaction design, design for user understanding of novel technologies such as electric vehicles and smart grids, as well as new methodologies and technologies for interactive systems development. Cristian worked previously at the Vienna University of Technology with interface modelling and at the Interactive Institute with physical interaction.

Université Paris-Saclay (UPS) - formerly Université Paris Sud, France

Link to the university: https://www.universite-paris-saclay.fr/en
Programme

Contact: Sarah Fdili Alaoui

Specialisation: Situated Interaction

Université Paris-Saclay (formerly Université Paris Sud) offers a specialisation in situated interaction: students will learn how to design, develop and evaluate interactive applications and interfaces tailored to the user needs and adapted to their contexts of use. They will be trained to the state-of-the-art in novel interaction techniques, including mixed reality, tangible interfaces, immersive environments, interactive visualization and collaborative interaction.

Compulsory courses:

  • HCID-301 - Fundamentals of Situated Interaction (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-302 - Virtual and Augmented Reality (5 ECTS)
  • HCID-303 - Advanced Programming of Interactive Systems (5 ECTS)
  • HCID-310 - Innovation & Entrepreneurship study (6 ECTS)

Theses:

  • HCID-400 - Master thesis work (30.0 ECTS)

Elective courses (pick 4, 10 ECTS):

  • HCID-202 - Advanced Design of Interactive Systems (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-204 - Advanced Evaluation of Interactive Systems (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-500 - HCI Project (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-501 - Interactive Information Visualization (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-502 - Photo-realistic Rendering (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-503 - Gestural and Mobile Interaction (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-504 - Mixed Reality and Tangible Interaction (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-505 - Groupware and Collaborative Interaction (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-506 - Virtual Humans (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-507 - Intelligent Multimodal Interaction (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-508 - Internet of Things & HCI (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-509 - Creative Design (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-510 - Digital Fabrication (2.5 ECTS)
  • HCID-511 - Introduction to Machine Learning (2.5 ECTS)

Sarah Fdili Alaoui is an assistant professor at LRI-Université Paris-Sud 11, part of the LRI HCC (ex InSitu) research team in interaction design, human computer Interaction and interactive arts. She is a media artist, a choreographer, a dancer and a Laban Movement Analyst. She holds a PhD in Art and Science from University Paris-Sud 11 and the IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and LIMSI-CNRS research institutes. She has an MSc from University Joseph Fourier and an Engineering Degree from ENSIMAG in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science.

University of Twente (UT), The Netherlands

Link to the Univesity: https://www.utwente.nl/en/
Programme
Contact: Dirk Heylen, Mariët Theune (m.theune@utwente.nl)

Specialisation: Intelligent Systems

Context-aware agents and decisions are key to supporting systems that perform automated reasoning and learn automatically from the user and the environment. We look at tools and methods that can deal with incomplete, uncertain and ambiguous real-life data, and we examine cognitive architectures and mental models that define the internal reasoning of the agents. You will learn to apply strategic interaction styles and to use existing platforms to design and develop multi-agent systems.

Further information can be found here.

Compulsory courses:

1. Research proposal for the graduation project (4 ECTS)
2. I&E minor thesis (6 ECTS)

Elective courses:

Dirk Heylen is full professor in Social Intelligent Computing at the University of Twente, working in the Human Media Interaction group. His research interests cover both the machine analysis of human (conversational) behaviour and the generation of human-like (conversational) behaviour by virtual agents. He is especially interested in the nonverbal and paraverbal aspects in conversation and what these signals reveal about the mental state (cognitive, affective, social).

Mariët Theune is assistant professor at the University of Twente, working in the Human Media Interaction group. She has a background in computational linguistics and her research interests include automatic language generation, interactive storytelling, serious games and interaction with embodied conversational agents.

Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Spain

Link to the university: http://www.fi.upm.es/
Programme
Contact: Elena Villalba Mora (evillalba@fi.upm.es)

Specialisation: Accessible and Adaptive Interaction

Universal Design implies taking into account the diversity of sensory, physical and cognitive abilities of the users of the system. Some users will have limitations in their abilities, which may be permanent, temporary, situational or contextual. The usability-based concept of accessibility implies that designers should work for reaching adequate levels of effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction across the diversity of users.

To reach good accessibility a combination of two approaches is required: design for all and assistive products. Design for all, also known as inclusive design, is the design of products to be accessible and usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for specialized adaptation.

But design for all is not always enough, as some persons with disabilities require specific adaptations to be able to use ICT. These adaptations are called assistive products, which are any product (including devices, equipment, instruments and software), especially produced or generally available, used by or for persons with disability for participation; to protect, support, train, measure or substitute for body functions, structures and activities; or to prevent impairments, activity limitations or participation restrictions.

Further information can be found here.

Compulsory Courses (15 ECTS):

I&E Study (6 ECTS)

Master Thesis (30 ECTS)

Elective Courses (choose 15 ECTS):

Dr. Eng. Elena Villalba Mora is a Professor (Associate) at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain, in the Computer Science field, concretely in Human Computer Interaction; with more than 14 years’ experience in User Experience, eHealth and eInclusion. She holds a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications Engineering and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, both from the Technical University of Madrid (Spain).

Technical University of Berlin (TUB), Germany

Link to univerisity: https://www.tu-berlin.de/menue/home/

Programme

Contact: Sebastian Möller, Saman Zadtootaghak (Saman.Zadtootaghaj@qu.tu-berlin.de)

Specialisation: Multi-Modal Interaction

Sebastian Möller is full professor at TU Berlin and at the same time leads the Strategic Research Lab on Quality and Usability at TU Berlin. His research interests include speech processing, speech-based and multimodal interaction, quality perception and prediction of audio-visual services, user behavior modeling, and usable security and privacy.

Saman Zadtootaghaj is a researcher at the Telekom Innovation Laboratories of Deutsche Telekom AG. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Information Technology at IASBS, and his Master's at the University of Tehran in 2015. The topic of his Master's thesis was "A Learning Based Algorithm to Detect Region of Interest in Cloud Gaming". Since January 2016, Saman is working as a research scientist at the Quality and usability Lab of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, TU-Berlin and working on Quality of Experience linked to mobile gaming.

TU Berlin offers a specialisation in multimodal interaction with courses in speech signal processing and speech technology, speech recognition, emotion and situation recognition, image analysis, vision-based interaction, and biometrics. The focus will be on innovative interaction paradigms, both from the technical as well as from the user side. In order to follow these topics, a good set of mathematical (signal processing) and computer-science competences will be necessary. TUB is particularly suited for educating this topic, as it has a multidisciplinary group of professors and researchers with a background ranging from electrical engineering and computer science to psychology. Study and Master thesis projects can be performed on campus in conjunction with Telekom Innovation Laboratories (T-Labs) as an EIT partner, as well as with numerous scientific institutions intensively collaborating with TUB in the near surroundings (DFKI, Fraunhofer institutes, HPI, etc.).

Further information can be found here.

Compulsory courses (6 ECTS):

Specialisation electives (12 ECTS):

Digital Image Processing (6 ECTS)

Project: Statistical Methods in AI and ML (9 ECTS)

Eyetracking in Human-Machine-Systems (6 ECTS)

University of Trento (UNITN), Italy

Link to the university: https://www.disi.unitn.it/

Programme

Contact: Massimo Zancanaro (massimo.zancanaro@unitn.it)

Specialisation: Cognitive Interaction

The University of Trento (UNITN) offers a specialisation in cognitive interaction which studies the mental and cognitive processes that are underlaying language, vision, and interaction. This specialisation provides the student with the interdisciplinary training in language science, neuroscience, psychology, computational methods for the statistical analysis of large amounts of language and perceptual data, and in interface design. Theoretical knowledge will be supplemented by experience acquired in substantial practical projects carried out in research and industry labs.

Further information can be found here.

Compulsory Courses (6 ECTS):

Elective Courses (choose 24 ECTS):

Thesis (24 ECTS)

Internship (6 ECTS)

Massimo Zancanaro is a full professor of Computer Science at the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science of the University of Trento and the head of the Intelligent Interfaces and Interaction (i3) at Fondazione Bruno Kessler. His research interests are in the field on Human-Computer Interaction and specifically on the topic of intelligent interfaces for which he is interested in investigating aspects related to the design as well as to study the reasons for use and non-use.  He co-edited two books and co-authored more than a hundred papers in journals (among them Artificial Intelligence, User Modeling, TOCHI, IJHCS) conferences (including IJCAI, CHI, IUI, UMAP) and peer-reviewed symposia. At present, he serves as vice-chair for the Italian Chapter of the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction. 

What are the career opportunities?

Graduates from the HCID master’s programme qualify for jobs in international and local organisations in both technical and business roles. Graduates could become:

  • User experience (UX) or interaction designer
  • UX Architect
  • Usability engineer
  • Interactive systems engineer
  • Human factors expert
  • Business developer
  • Product manager
  • Consultant

Through their multidisciplinary attitude, HCID graduates are valuable in open innovation settings where different aspects (market, users, social aspects, media technologies) come together. They can choose to work within companies that provide value-added products and services, such as game companies, e-learning, web developers, and entertainment. An alternative path would be to start your own company to provide product or technology development, media content, business development or consultancy services.


Application Period 2 Deadline: 17 April 2020

Have questions? We are here to help!

Related stories

"I want to make the world accessible for all people"

Jan Jaap de Groot

Jan Jaap de Groot

EIT Digital Master School alumnus builds social startup in the magical world of apps for visually impaired people

Imagine you are wandering around a foreign city trying to make sense of the signposts in a language you do not speak. You feel lost in translation. This is how blind or visually impaired people must feel like every day, thought Jan Jaap de Groot. He decided to use his EIT Digital Master School entrepreneurial education to develop a digital alternative to vision for this audience and use that expertise in his other company.

De Groot’s inspiration struck when he was walking in the halls of the Université Paris-Saclay, when he started his first year of the two year EIT Digital Master School programme Human Computer Interaction and Design. Being a Dutch guy, he could read the signage plates but did not understand all the words. That is when he thought: ‘This is what blind people must feel like: not being able to read and not knowing where you are! Can I develop something to help visually impaired people? The idea stayed with him during his masters. And it evolved.

Thesis

In his second year of the dual degree Master’s, at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, he was writing a thesis on the subject. First, he analysed the market. In the Netherlands more than 320.000 people have a visual impairment, 85 per cent of these are fifty years or older and there is an increase in the number of I visually impaired people, according to viso.org. Visually impaired and blind people encounter the most problems inside their house, De Groot found out. For example, being unable to distinguish a can of tomato paste from a similarly-shaped can of beans. If they could scan a barcode that tells them what they would otherwise see, their lives would be a lot easier. At that time there were no apps on the market for visually impaired people that resembled this idea.

Internship

He decided to do his internship at in Enschede-headquartered the company Appnormal.com. He had done some summertime work there before and the owners had made already another app for people with a visual impairment. He continued his research on the possibilities of making an app for visually impaired people, which later became the basis for his social startup Speechlabel, that he cofounded with the founders of Appnormal in December 2018, the year of his EIT Digital Master School graduation. “We want to make the world accessible for all people.”

App Speechlabel

Speechlabel is both the name of the company and the app that visually impaired and blind people can use to scan objects via special stickers to learn what they are. The user, or a friend or relative needs to first create labels in either an iOS or Android smartphone app by scanning the barcode or NFC labels on objects. The app recognizes the thirteen most common types of barcodes and all common types of NFC tags.

When the product is scanned, the object name can be recorded and typed as a label in the app. The smartphone now can work as a scanner for barcoded products.

For objects without barcodes, one can make order dedicated sticker labels to put on these items. Labels can then be made for example for bagged leftovers to be frozen. Speechalabel sells also washing and dryer machine resistant NFC buttons that can be used on clothing, so people can sort their clothes by themselves. When then the smartphone is pointed at a labelled product, the app will speak out the recorded information.

“The app is fully accessible and voice-based. Every step of the order process is explained by the built-in screen reader of the smartphone.”

Ideally, the app would be connected to the European Bar Code database, called GS1 database, which would increase the ease of use in the app.  “But it is very difficult to get access to this database,” says De Groot. “Currently, we are looking for collaborations with the biggest supermarkets.”

Alongside fast moving consumer goods, De Groot also sees people using Speechlabel for scanning their medicines. “People who cannot read their prescriptions well can scan the barcode to confirm they have the right medication.”

The stickers could also be used for public spaces. “Like a sticker next to an information board, so the app can read out loud what it says on there. Numbers on doors, now often are in braille, but only ten per cent of the visually impaired people know braille. This could be a good alternative.”

CLOUD

A next step in the development roadmap is the cloud storage. “At the moment, all labels are stored locally on the phone of the user. When we have an online database in the cloud, relatieves will also be able to support remotely on their own smartphones. We will need to have accounts that can be synchronised with the cloud. There are privacy and security matters to solve. We need to build good backups to ensure that the labels will not be lost.”

Scaling up Q1

One of the EIT Digital Master School entrepreneurial lessons he took to heart was to see Europe as the home market and not just his own country. The basic platform therefore is already built for a  multilingual structure. In Q1 of 2020 De Groot will add an English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese language version. “We found out that if we want to make a profit, we need to go international. Potential customers are small in one country, but worldwide it is a huge market. The power of the app is that it can be scaled to a worldwide audience.” Worldwide there are 37 million blind people and 124 million visually impaired people, estimates Vision2020.nl, that is part of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

International

As soon as the cloud function is available, Speechlabel wants to hit the international  market.

International expansion throws up new logistical questions. “Our app combines digital and physical products. The physical part depends on delivery. The shipment itself is quite a challenge. How do we verify that a shipment reaches its destination? What will happen if someone in the USA says the order has not arrived? We could really use some help in our international expansion. Every country has different delivery tariffs, different consumer rights and different VAT rules. On top of this, the post tariffs have recently increased. We already ship our stickers internationally sometimes, so we suffer from this. Outside the Netherlands we can’t include the shipping prices anymore in our pricing. This will impact the internationalisation.”

Market validation

Another lesson De Groot applied was market validation. “You have to validate the market. As a software developer it is very easy to build something. But before starting to build, you have to verify the product need among people outside of your own familiar circle. I tested Speech label with more than a hundred people. That was not easy to do. I sent the app to them, gave instructions and measured  the statistics and conducted interviews. I then produced a prototype and received positive feedback from them.”

Business model

The app launched in 2019 at Ziezo, the largest fair in Europe for visually impaired people, where the founders had a booth. This year they share a booth with their collaboration partner LowVisionShop. Speechlabel’s business model depends on the sales of stickers. The social startup is not yet profitable. It might get to break even this year, hopes De Groot. “Maybe in 2021 there will be some profit to share.”

De Groot does not expect this will be the goose that lays the golden egg. “Speechlabel is just a small part of my enterprise. A kind of voluntary work to do something good. The money should come from his other companies Voertuigexpert B.V., which provides detailed information on Dutch vehicles based on licence plates, and his Abra B.V.

Abra

The expertise he builds with Speechlabel is giving purpose to his consultancy company Abra BV, which he founded already in 2014 as a sole proprietor and later transformed into a closed corporation. He is specialised in making accessible apps for all users. “In 2021, companies need to comply to new legislation to make apps and websites accessible for impaired people. The expertise I built with Speechlabel, I now can use to consult all government organisations and companies to comply. Because I have the knowledge to do so. That means that Abra can be big in making and consultancy on building apps for visually impaired people.

Abra is short for abracadabra, says De Groot. “The world of apps is magical, abra, the first letters of abracadabra helps all people to enter it.”

Magic in this case is about giving the blind or visually impaired people digital powers to scan the world around them.

Degree:
Human Computer Interaction and Design (HCID)
ECTS:
120 ECTS
Field of Study:
Computer Science and Information Technology
Duration:
2 years, full-time
Eligibility:
Hold a Backelor of Science or be in the final year of studies of... (read more).
Tuition fees & scholarships:
For EU and non-EU citizens.
More information.
Language of Instruction:
English
More information.

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