I am a PhD student at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Washington, Seattle (UW), working with my advisor Prof. Jon Froehlich and in close collaboration with Prof. Jeffrey Heer.

My research interests are at the intersection of HCI, data visualization, urban informatics, and computational social science, and their application in domains such as accessibility and sustainability. In my PhD, my main focus is on urban accessibility. I am working on building tools that can improve understanding of urban accessibility and can serve as a tool for advocacy, urban planning, and policymaking. To do this, I am reappriopriating online street-view imagery to assess sidewalks (Project Sidewalk) and utilizing data visualization techniques to communicate about urban accessibility.

My research is supported by the Google PhD Fellowship 2020 in Human Computer Interaction.

I was in the Computer Science department of University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) for the first two years of my PhD. At UMD, I worked in the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL). Prior to joining PhD, I was a research scholar at IIIT-Delhi. I worked with Prof. Amarjeet Singh in the Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing (MUC) research group and collaborated with Prof. Yuvraj Agarwal (CMU) and Prof. Anind Dey (UW, then CMU) on my research.



Oct'20 Invited speaker for the NWFSC Monster Seminar Jam Series
Oct'20 Recipient of the 2020 Google PhD Fellowship in Human Computer Interaction for my thesis work on designing interactive tools for urban accessibility! | Press: Allen School News | Google AI News
Aug'20 Paper on Urban Accessibility as a Socio-Political Problem published in CSCW 2020! Presenting a talk at the virtual conference in Oct 2020. See paper for more details.
Jun'20 Started a research internship at Autodesk Research, Toronto, Canada in the User Interface (HCI and Visualization) Research Group working with Justin Matejka.
Oct'19 Won the Amazon Catalyst Award for $10K for funding my thesis work on interactive tools for assessing urban accessibility! Press: Allen School News | CoMotion News
Sep'19 Keynote speaker at the Washington State transportation conference WSRO!
Jul'19 Some non-academic news: Started a new personal music project "Suroporna" for pursuing my lifelong passion for singing. Check out my Youtube channel and listen to my covers!
Jun'19 Paper on my internship work with Microsoft Research on last-few-meters wayfinding problem accepted at ASSETS 2019! Off to Pittsburgh in October 2019!
May'19 Featured on a Seattle local news channel, Kiro 7 News talking about Project Sidewalk!
Mar'19 CHI 2019 paper on Project Sidewalk won the Best Paper Award!
Dec'18 Paper on Project Sidewalk accepted in CHI 2019. Going to Glasgow, UK to present it! :)
Oct'18 Poster presentation and demo of our interactive tool to visualize physical accessibility in ASSETS 2018.
Jun'18 Started a research internship in Microsoft Research, Redmond, USA with Enable and Ability Group working with people with visual impairments.
Apr'18 Student Volunteering at CHI'18 in Montreal, Canada.
Oct'17 Presented and demoed Project Sidewalk in ASSETS 2017 in Baltimore, MD.
Sep'17 Moved to University of Washington, Seattle at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering for pursuing PhD in Computer Science and Engineering.
Feb'17 Patent filed on the work done during Summer 2016 internship at Adobe Research, San Jose, CA.
Feb'17 Presented a talk on Project Sidewalk at the WalkHackNight II organized by Transportation Techies in DC.
Jan'17 Became lead grad student for Project Sidewalk.
Dec'16 Paper on Novice Thermography accepted in CHI 2017!
Aug'16 Got RAship for Crowd Powered Street-Level Accessibility project with Prof. Jon Froehlich!
May'16 Started internship at Adobe Research with the Big Data Experience Lab!
Mar'16 Awarded ACM-W Scholarship 2016 for attending CHI 2016.
Feb'16 Paper accepted in CHI 2016 Workshop on Future of Human-Building Interaction.


Research Interests

My research interests are broadly in the areas of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Urban Informatics. I enjoy multidisciplinary application-oriented research that involves designing, developing, and evaluating systems in the real world, and that can be applied to solve high value social problems. My current and past work falls within these sub-domains: accessibility, sustainability, data visualization for social good, computational social science, ubiquitous computing, and smart spaces. I also have an interest to work in ICTD or technology for development.

Ongoing Research Projects

Interactive Visual Exploration of Urban Accessibility at Scale
Advisor: Jon Froehlich (UW) (January 2018 - present)
Collaborator: Jeff Heer (UW)

This work focuses on utilizing accessibility data sources to build novel interactive visualization tools. I am leading the research and development efforts for building an interactive system that provides an at-a-glance visualization of urban accessibility using data collected from Project Sidewalk and other city data sources. As part of this effort, we are also developing a personalizable accessibility model that can assess and score accessibility of regions based on specific user preferences and/or needs of mobility impaired users (e.g., manual wheelchair user vs powered wheelchair user).
Paper(s): ASSETS 2018 Poster

Project Sidewalk: Enabling Crowd-powered Sidewalk Accessibility Data Collection · ·
Advisor: Jon Froehlich (UW) (August 2016 - present)
Accessible cities are essential for a truly inclusive society. This project looks into developing scalable methods for collecting and using accessibility data for novel Assistive Location-based Technologies (ALTs) to support people with mobility impairments. In particular, we are using crowdsourcing techniques to collect street level (sidewalk) accessibility data about cities. We are also working towards novel applications that will aid stakeholders such as people with mobility impairments to plan their travel efficiently, and city governments to prioritize accessibility efforts in cities.
Paper(s): award icon CHI 2019 · ASSETS 2017 Poster

Past Research Projects

Urban Accessibility as a Socio-Political Problem · ·
Advisor: Jon Froehlich (UW) (June 2019 - June 2020)
Collaborator: Jeffrey Heer (UW)

In this project, we studied the problem of urban accessibility from a socio-political perspective by taking a multi-stakeholder perspective. We interviewed five stakeholder groups: policymakers (e.g., elected officials), department officials (e.g., Department of Transportation officials), accessibility advocates, people with disabilities, and caregivers. We surface the underlying, often invisible, socio-political issues that hinder accessible infrastructure development. Based on the findings, we present a Civic Interaction Space that will allow technologists to explore the role of civic tech in enabling cross-stakeholder communication.
Paper(s): CSCW 2020

Designing for the Last-Few-Meters Wayfinding Problem for People with Visual Impairments · · (June 2018 - Sept 2018)
Mentors: Alex Fiannaca, Meredith Ringel Morris, Ed Cutrell, Melanie Kneisel
This work was done during a summer at Microsoft Research, Redmond. In this project, we studied the problem of navigating the last few meters of a destination when GPS technologies fail for people with visual impairments. Current GPS systems brings a user to the vicinity of a destination but not to the exact location, causing challenges such as difficulty locating building entrances or a specific storefront from a series of stores. We studied this problem space in two studies: (1) the formative study aimed at understanding challenges, current resolution techniques, and user needs in this navigational context; and (2) in the design probe study, we developed and used a vision-based system called Landmark AI that provided different forms of information; we studied their utility in addressing some of the challenges in the last few meters. Based on these investigations, we articulated a design space for systems addressing this challenge, along with implications for future systems to support precise navigation for people with visual impairments.
Paper(s): ASSETS 2019

Exploring the Role of Thermography in Creating Novel Human-Building Interactions
Advisor: Jon Froehlich (UMD) (September 2015 - August 2016)
Collaborator: Matthew L. Mauriello (PhD Student, UMD)

In this project, we investigated the potential to engage the public in new Human-Building Interactions by expanding their ability to: perform energy audits, survey public infrastructure, and contribute to urban energy analysis.
Paper(s): CHI 2017 · CHI 2016 Workshop

Personal Energy Monitoring in Smart Homes · ·
Advisor: Amarjeet Singh (IIIT-Delhi) (July 2013 - July 2015)
Collaborators: Yuvraj Agarwal (CMU) and Anind Dey (CMU)

This goal of this project was to explore the use of smartphone sensors and electricity meter for inferring daily activities and identifying the individuals who performed them. The results of this study is published in the EnergyLens paper (ACM e-Energy 2014). The system architecture was evaluated for shared living spaces and a room-level energy apportionment system called WattShare (ACM BuildSys 2014) was built. It was part of the larger HumanSense Project.
I worked on building an end-to-end energy apportionment and feedback system for smart homes with an objective of providing occupants with relevant information about their personal energy consumption at the right time. It is based on the original EnergyLens system.
Paper(s): ACM e-Energy 2014 · ACM BuildSys 2014

Personal Activity Monitoring in Shared Spaces
Advisor: Amarjeet Singh (IIIT-Delhi)(March 2014 - October 2014)
Kumar Padmanabh (Bosch Labs, Bangalore)

This project aimed to develop insights into personal activity monitoring in shared spaces, specifically in the home environment, through the use of pervasive computing technologies. In particular, we wanted to leverage the smartphone, a rich source of information, to develop insights for personal activity monitoring and feedback services for the DIY sector. The objective was to do so in the context of using power tools in home environments.

SensorAct: An Occupant-centric Middleware for Buildings
Amarjeet Singh (IIIT-Delhi) (November 2012 - May 2013)
Collaborator: Mani B. Srivastava (UCLA)
As part of the Energy Team in IIIT-D, I worked on SensorAct, a middleware for building management. It interfaces with diverse building sub-systems and sensing systems; makes the data available and allows sharing of data and control with users in a secure manner keeping in mind privacy issues.
Paper(s): IEEE UIC 2015 · NSDI 2013

Bandwidth Management Framework for Multicasting over Wireless Mesh Networks
P. V. Krishna (VIT University, Vellore)(September 2011 - May 2012)
As a Masters student, I took up an independent research project wherein I developed a bandwidth management framework for performing multicasting over wireless mesh networks. This was later converted into my Masters Project.
Paper(s): IJIEE 2012


Me on the Web

Google Scholar Profile   DBLP - Manaswi Saha   Quora Profile   YouTube Channel