This website is now archived

December 1st, 2013 by Teemu

It is about time to retire this website that I have rarely updated for the past few years. A new website has been created for Ubilife to host research project descriptions, publications, contact information and the like. The new website’s address is easier to remember and its design is fantastic thanks to red419:

I have promised to myself (again) to keep it up-to-date. Let’s see what happens :)

This old website shall remain here for the time being.

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Change of host

September 5th, 2011 by Teemu

The end is near. If all goes well, before the conclusion of the year I will be wearing tails, the penguin outfit. I will be thanking my supervisors, colleagues, friends and family for all their great support. A dream that has been driving my work for the past years is finally realising.

A consequence of finishing studies is that the university is eager to end services such as e-mail address. I received a reminder of this threat a few days ago when an automated message warned me that my UEF email account would be removed by September 15th. While the e-mail address validity period can be extended, it won’t last forever. Hence, I have decided to create a new domain for my website and a personal e-mail address that is not connected to any particular affiliation or corporation.

Figuring out a name for the domain was tricky. I wanted to combine the basic elements of my research interest into a short and meaningful name. Ubilife reflects the ubiquitous computing aspect of my research and targets it to all aspects of life. I contemplated also name ubicate (ubiquitous + educate) and some other combinations but it became clear that my interest in ubiquitous computing does not only concern education but also healthcare, agriculture, tourism and general well being, to name but a few areas. Ubilife is an interdisciplinary hub providing research materials, reports, software and communication tools for researchers with a genuine desire to make the world a better place through context-aware applications. The main focus will be on areas that are in most need for help, i.e. developing countries. However, the research results, particularly software, will be applicable elsewhere as well.

Ubilife is in its infancy and it will take a while before it can be launched at full scale. I have already some nice ideas of projects that could be placed under various sectors (e.g. agriculture, education, healthcare). Each sector will eventually have its own sub-section of the website where the projects are placed. I will be working on this mostly on my free time which is currently quite limited. I therefore invite fellow researchers with good hearts and willingness to change the world from the grass root level to join the Ubilife construction process.

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Reviving UEF @ SA

June 3rd, 2010 by Teemu

Strangely enough this blog seems to become active only when the author is located in South Africa. I arrived here on Monday and this time with my better half. Our aim is to endure enjoy South African winter for three months while doing a fair bit of research/studying and also experience the world cup atmosphere. I will stay mostly at Meraka/CSIR and occasionally visit also University of Pretoria. Among writing some papers and proceed with my main course of research, I will enjoy the following appetizers and desserts as well:

  • Adding some intelligence to UFractions in form of smart blocks with Andrew Smith and Thato Foko from Merak
  • Come up with new project ideas with Thato
  • Seek to collaborate with Serious Game Research Group at UP
  • Work on the future version of TekMyst
  • Prepare for Autumn evaluations of LieksaMyst and Heroes of Koskenniska
  • Visit Tanzania to support Bagamoyo mobile game development (more on this in an undefined future post)
  • Visit Zambia to do some voluntary teaching of basic IT skills

Quite surely I have forgotten many things, and new tasks are likely to emerge as the time passes. Let’s see how well this to-do list holds. Please keep checking up on the page for more stories and hopefully some pictures as well.

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Of those who secure our cozy lives…

October 14th, 2009 by Teemu

According to Thato it is good to stay in good terms with local gate guards as they can make one’s life miserable if they so wish. For example, they can check your car and bags every single time you pass the gate.  I’ve been following Thato’s advice and made friends with some of the guards. After chatting a moment with them, it is evident that some do not even have what one would call a basic education in Finland. They all are very interested to hear more about this distant land and some even said in determined tone that they would come one day to visit me in Finland. I hope their plan will be realised one day.

Out of curiosity I asked from one guard about working hours and salary. The answer was bit of a shock. By working 12 hour shifts (day or night) they earn only about 2000 Rands per month, which is approximately 200 euros. And these guards at CSIR are probably better off than many other working in smaller places. Despite the long working hours and low salary they still keep smiling (if you smile back at them). Some even asked if they could come to work in Finland but I had to shatter their dreams by telling that they would probably be unemployed as there are no such guard culture in Finland. Should they find a guard job in Finland, they would probably get a tenfold salary compared to what they get now, and working hours would be more human.

One guard told me that she’s studying basic computing skills and she would really like to study more but she can’t due to lack of a computer. So I had a talk with Thato and he agreed to help me to put up a notice on the intranet bulletin board at Meraka saying something like: “A Finnish researcher is looking for a computer to be donated to his gardener”. Apparently for the guards being explicit about studying something can be dangerous in terms of losing a job. Thato told me about a guard he knew who was studying second year studies at university while working but when the company found out they fired him. Life is tough for some of us.

Tomorrow I will be departing from South Africa back to snowy Finland. It has been interesting time filled with work. As a result, two 15-18 page papers have emerged and another one planned to be written with Thato and Andrew (a guy with tangible technologies). Tomorrow I will still pay a visit to University of Pretoria to meet old contacts there.

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Braai @ Thato’s

October 14th, 2009 by Teemu

On Sunday we had the pleasure of being invited to Thato’s home to share a lovely braai (South African barbeque) with Precious, Mosedi and a bunch of friends. I made my own special braai with mushrooms and corn while the others ate mostly meat. It was first time to relax for a moment here. I ended up staying over night in Centurion and woke up after 6:00 to drive with Thato to the UEF campus at Meraka.

I did my utmost to upload pictures here but the connection at the UEF office at Meraka died suddenly on Monday afternoon (result of a thunder perhaps?) and was not restored yet. Connection at Entabeni (small “village” of residences located at the CSIR premises) is veeeery slow so I must wait until I get back to Finland to upload those pictures.

Here are the pictures!

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Campus Kickstart

October 11th, 2009 by Teemu

I left Polokwane on Thursday and travelled with Satu, Rolda and Anna to Pretoria. Me and Anna jumped out the car at CSIR/Meraka where Ilkka and Erkki were greeting us. Together we went to the house which has been rented for the researchers and professors of the satellite campus University of Eastern Finland (UEF, is Univ. of Joensuu until the end of this year). It was very hectic in Polokwane and stay at UEF’s campus at Meraka Institute hasn’t been any calmer. On Friday we had the pleasure to meet the Finnish Ambassador of South Africa who was kind enough to pay a visit to the opening ceremony of the founding phase of the UEF campus at Meraka. Although the ambassador obviously is a very busy lady, she listened through all our talks and seemed to be genuinely interested in what’s going on at the new UEF campus.

The campus project has kicked off pretty well and we’ve already made new friends and of course reunited with old ones. Meraka was very kind to offer us an old meeting room as our first office to get started with. The room has a large table, about 20 chairs and cabinets at back. With some inspiration I hope we’ll be able to turn it into a relaxed working environment for creative minds. First step is to get proper equipment. I already carried with me from Finland small video projectors, laptops, video cameras, audio recorders and all sorts of necessary gadgets. Yesterday we went shopping for more equipment such as a printer, tripod, cables, WLAN routers etc. Anton also brought a couple of neat tablet pcs. I think with these instruments we can really start making some great research together with South African colleagues.

Among all the busyness with setting up the office, I had some time last night and today to finish a paper which I intend to submit to Pervasive 2010 conference. The paper will present a brand new architecture for developing viable and portable pervasive learning spaces. I feel lucky because this conference is held in Helsinki which means that I will save lots of money from traveling costs. It is kind of sad that one has to choose a conference not based on its scientific value but based on geographic location (i.e. the closer the better). I wish I would have a decent pool of money for traveling to conferences so I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Now, here are some pictures which I finally managed to upload. There are shots from Meraka/Pretoria and from University of Limpopo.

UEF Office 1 UEF Office 2
University of Eastern Finland Office

Mr Thato
Mr. Thato sharing a morning tea

Edtech Reunion
EdTech Reunion

Erkki and Mike
Erkki and Mike having an interesting discussion on Monday

Ashes, Robert and Erkki
Barbeque at Satu’s place – Ashes and Robert form 2/3 of the Team Joensuu in Limpopo

Simple vegan
Sometimes life of a vegan has simple ingredients

Anna, Mike and Erkki
Anna (1/3 of the Team Joensuu), Mike and Erkki. Thanks, Mike, for the meal!

Lunch party
Lunch party in Limpopo

Long hours
Long hours of database definition

Ambassador 1
Erkki addressing the Finnish Ambassador (third lady from left)

Ambassador 2
The ambassador addressing the audience. We have a video recording of the event so hopefully we’ll have time to release part of the footage soon.

Hungry researchers
Sometimes even researchers must eat (yes, we are not machines)

Shopping for the campus
Shopping for the new campus

UEF office equipped
Serious work at the UEF campus at Meraka

Worldcup preparations
Just not to spoil the entire Saturday with working, we had a nice drive around Pretoria. It seems that the country is getting ready for next June.

Sunset 1
Lovely sunset over the Pretoria downtown.

Sunset 2
Another attempt to capture the sunset.

Union buildings
At the Union Buildings.

That’s all, folks!

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Edtech Delta Goes to South Africa

October 6th, 2009 by Teemu

I arrived to University of Limpopo, South Africa yesterday after spending a sleepless night traveling from Joensuu via Helsinki, London and Johannesburg. It has been very nice to meet old and new friends. Traveling with Erkki is always an adventure and usually things happen at extremely fast pace and in great abundance. For example, yesterday we dropped by at Meraka Institute just to say hi to Thato (a fine post-doc researcher who spent some months in Joensuu earlier this year) but we ended up meeting perhaps half of the staff and agreeing upon several activities to come. At Meraka we are establishing a remote campus for University of Eastern Finland and have some researchers staying there for variable periods of time in the future. Then, after spending only 15 minutes with 3 master students, Erkki had given each of them a MSc thesis topic and assigned them tasks to write first 5 pages by this Thursday. Those who know how things work in our group (edTech delta) are comfortable with this style of task management but I heard that Langa, a local MSc student, was even horrified of the work load that Erkki gave him. But however work-intensive it may be, it works very well. Our satellite campus at Meraka will be fully operational within a week or two from here, that’s guaranteed.

So what’s my role here in South Africa then? Well primary intention is to help Anna, Ashes and Robert with their eHeritage project in which, together with local stakeholders and researchers, they innovate and develop a culturally contextual museum database and portal system for local museums to ensure the digital conservation and distribution of heritage materials. I have been providing them with as much remote as possible through the means of Internet communication tools but face-to-face meetings are still most effective. Visit to Polokwane is only about 4 days and 3 nights long but during this time we hope to finish the detailed architectural design of the museum system and have some simple module implementations done. This implies lots of work and not so much spare time but that is fine. I am very proud of the work that the Joensuu team has done here in Limpopo and I am confident that the end result will blow the minds of the local stakeholders (in a positive way of course).

Secondary objective for my stay is to build technical infrastructure for convenient operation of the edtech delta group in South Africa. For this purpose I carried with me video cameras, audio recorders, projectors, laptops and other necessary equipment for our new office. Meraka has given us one old meeting room in their building where the equipment will be used. I chose portable equipment so as to allow the edtech researchers to perform tasks on the field and send interesting video reports of the research activities. Video conferencing will also be enabled and hopefully used much once a good connection to the Internet is fixed (thanks to Thato for taking care of it!). My stay here is very short (~10 days) this time but I hope to be able to return next year with Monika to spend few months here for some serious research.

I wanted to add some pictures to this post but it seems that the University of Limpopo Internet access blocks the Word Press file upload system for some strange reason. So pictures and more reports are coming up later!

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Living exercise

August 27th, 2009 by Teemu

Firstly, apologises for a long period of silence. Many things have happened since the last post but I won’t do an overview here. I have slightly updated some of the project pages to cover the current status.

On Tuesday and Wednesday me, Carolina, Kitak and Hyunjae (new Korean guy from the MNLAB) drove with Erkki to Vuokatti to participate a seminar called Liikunnasta kansalaistaito, loosely translates to “Physical exercise as everyday skill”. It was organised by a project preparation group which aims to start a very long project (~15 years) with an aim to change the lives of the people to include more physical activities. The project will follow children (and their families) from pre-school stage all the way to the adulthood, hopefully getting them to move more. The role of technology is apparent as it can be used to support, facilitate, empower, evaluate and organise physical activities so that they are intervowen in everyday lives of the target groups.

Earlier Heikki Piirainen from Snowpolis invited Erkki to give a workshop in Vuokatti about possibilities of ubiquitous (educational) technologies in the arena of physical exercise and sport. We PhD students were naturally delegated the task to create a show, and so we did. After a couple of hours of brainstorming (Carolina being the main dynamo), we came up with an idea of basing the workshop on how a normal home environment can be transformed to include more physical exercise while living. I call this living exercise as it effectively interweaves physical exercise into an everyday living environment.

Despite of not knowing much about sport pedagogy or physiology of a human being, we went about and created a scenario based on a true case in Korea. In Paju, South Korea, exists a Ubi-Park which is used to demonstrate state-of-the-art technologies in an urban setting. One of the attractions is so-called Upside-Down House which is literally built upside down. What spectacular about this house is that it has been built to facilitate physical exercise in the context of everyday living — just what we were looking for! For example, in order to enter the house, one must walk through a spiral path within a time set by a timer. If the gate is not reached by the time designated by the timer, the tenant must return back to the beginning of the spiral and try again. Another example of the technology used in the house is integrated to tv-watching activity. In order to watch television, one must first use a dancing game and reach a certain score in order to get a token, which in turn can be used to power up the television for 10 minutes. Admittably, many of these technologies would be rather annoying to live with but the concept is great — put an obese family inside and they will lose weight (this effect was demonstrated in a Korean tv-show based on the Upside-Down House).

Other workshop presentations were very different from ours. They all were monologues, thus being far from the original meaning of the concept of workshop which actually involves some work such as hands-on activities. Our presentation was fairly short and after followed definition of the scenario (introduction to an obese Korean family) and then the audience was asked to pen down some current activities of the family members and what is the physical impact of these activities. Then we gave them a task to brainstorm how various technologies could be used to improve/promote physical exercise in these everyday activities. As a result we got quite nice ideas such as (sorry, I can’t remember all of them):

  • An indoor bicycle to power up television
  • Give the bookworm son an audio book and send him riding a bicycle while listening to the book. A certain amount of biking will yield a certain amount of telly time
  • A device that measures what you eat and what you consume. Access to fridge/food is denied if the balance is not met
  • Couch that gives applauds to father for getting up (he is a couch potato)
  • Sensors on the couch to detect lazy couch potato
  • Produce energy for the house via physical activities
  • Reversed escalator to traverse between floors

There were more very nice ideas but unfortunately I did not write them down at that moment. Given that the audience had only 15 minutes of brainstorming time, I think we got quite nice ideas and not everybody gave their ideas.

After the brainstorming session we show video clips of the Upside Down house (sorry, can’t post/link them here for copyrights) and these clips seemed to amuse the audience (the show as made as a comedy).  Finally, we discussed about feasibility of some of the ideas and Erkki made some concluding remarks. I think the workshop was pretty successful especially taking into consideration that it was the last session of the day and many had had an early wake-up.

If the project kicks off as the big boys and girls hope it would, we might have excellent possibilities to integrate our knowhow in educational technology, pervasive gaming and ubiquitous sensors into systems which are not only context-aware but also bodily-aware. For example, Heroes of Koskenniska could be tranformed from Conversation with the nature to Conversation with the nature AND the body. Now that’s a killer idea!

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Back in Joensuu

April 4th, 2009 by Teemu

Yesterday I arrived back to Joensuu feeling tired but happy. It was a successful and enjoyable trip and I look forward to going back for a longer period of time somewhere in the future. On the April 1st I drove with Eeva to Polokwane in Limpopo province where we attended a workshop. Erkki was giving a presentation and he wanted us to speak a bit about our game and let people try it a bit. So we did and again those who were brave enough to try it seemed to like it. The game clearly has a stable technical background and game concept (thanks to Ubique Lab), as well as a solid, intriguing story (thanks to Eeva). Hopefully in the future kids all over the world can play it with their own phones. They are in fact looking forward to that. At least in South Africa.

Now it is time to concentrate on other kinds of challenges, namely SciMyst2009, biosphere project and my PhD process. It will be another superbusy month.

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Finished with testing and lions

March 29th, 2009 by Teemu

On March 25th we tested UFractions at a school in Zeerust. It was the last test in South Africa. As usually, the children were absolutely engaged and did not want to finish playing. It would be very interesting to see whether Finnish children would show similar enthusiasm and engagement.

After the test session Christo organised a visit to a nearby lion farm. It is sad thing that these animals have to live behind fences and will never really experience true freedom. However, they seemed to enjoy human company as they were raised with human presence. This was the only time I saw live lions – hopefully next time I will have a chance to witness wild lions on the savannah. Well,  let’s have a look at some big cats then!

In addition to lions, the farm had also two tigers who definitely had enough food to eat and were not hungry for some exotic Finnish meat.

These lions just loved some proper scratching.

This particular male was too lazy to get up and come closer.

On the otherhand, this cat was really looking forward to taste a Finn.

Dogs and cats were quite used to each other’s presence.

This white lion was quite adorable.

Little cubs had dinner time.

The cub was very peaceful after having some food to eat.

However, this one did not eat and it reflected on his behaviour.

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