Vialab to receive $300,000 for new research

On June 22nd, the Honourable Ed Holder announced that UOIT researchers and trainees will receive $1.9 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s Discovery Grants program. Of this funding, $300,000 will be given to Vialab’s Dr. Christopher Collins in order to develop new techniques, purchase new equipment, and conduct training to allow for the development of new ways to present large volumes of text-based data easily to users.

During his speech at the announcement, Dr. Collins had this to say: “My laboratory focuses on new ways of visualizing big data, extracting meaningful information that makes those data relevant to groups like businesses and policy makers. The NSERC Discovery Grant and Discovery Accelerator Supplement enables us to explore how visualizing big-data can discover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences and other useful information that can help Canadians make informed decisions. The grants also assist the next generation of researchers, like the students in my lab, to become future leaders and innovators.”

This new funding will allow 10 students to work at Vialab, provide the ability to give them data science training, and increase the budget to enable the purchase of new equipment for the lab.

After the announcement, a tour of the lab was given to the Minister, MP Pat Perkins, and the President of NSERC, Dr. Mario Pinto, during which members of Vialab gave demos to showcase their research projects. The reception they received was favorable, and the demos being shown impressed many of the guests.

The UOIT and NSERC news websites have the full story.

Credit for the photos goes to: Kalvin Taylor/UOIT

Presenting TandemTable at Graphics Interface 2015

We are happy to announce that Erik Paluka and Christopher Collins are headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia to present their work on TandemTable at the Graphics Interface 2015 conference. Their paper, entitled “TandemTable: Supporting Conversations and Language Learning Using a Multi-Touch Digital Table”, encapsulates how the research activity in the vialab goes beyond just information visualization and deals with many different types of interfaces.

New Equipment Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

This afternoon Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), made the John R. Evans Leaders Fund national announcement, which included $55,000 in equipment funding for the vialab.  New equipment to be procured includes state of the art eye tracking and motion capture systems, and two high resolution multi-touch and pen displays.  These new pieces of equipment will help us to conduct state of the art research into new visualization and interaction techniques to provide efficient and pleasurable ways to explore, analyze, and make decisions about data in domains as diverse as digital humanities, healthcare, and business analytics.

The news website has the full story.

Seminar: Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning by Carrie Demmans Epp

Carrie Demmans Epp from the TAGLab at University of Toronto will give a seminar entitled “Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning” as part of the UOIT Computer Science seminar series.  Ms. Epp shares research interests with members of the vialab, including technology for language learning, as exemplified in our projects TandemTable and our collaboration with Quillsoft on the iWordQ series of applications.  The details of the seminar are below.  The talk will be webcast live and archived.

When: Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 @ 3:30pm

Where: UA 4170

Who: Carrie Demmans Epp, University of Toronto

Title: Adaptive Technologies to Support Language Learning

Abstract: Technology use is deeply rooted within language learning. From the early use of language labs and more recent use of multi-media, we have seen the wide use of technology by language learners. This talk will present two adaptive language-learning tools and discuss their deployment in various cultural and educational contexts. The first tool is a computer-based pronunciation tutor for Russian (ProTutor) and the second is a mobile-based English communication support and study tool (VocabNomad). Both systems employed representations of the user’s knowledge (learner models) to drive their adaptive content recommendation and personalized feedback.

These adaptive features helped to motivate learners, enabled their self-regulation, and supported learning activities and outcomes. Their use by high school and university students also demonstrated the need for them to be accompanied by appropriate pedagogical practices when used as support tools in formal learning environments.

Biography: Carrie Demmans Epp is a doctoral candidate in human-computer interaction at the University of Toronto. She completed her BSc (Computer Science and Russian) and MSc (Artificial Intelligence in Education) at the University of Saskatchewan. She has recently finished visiting researcher terms with the Open Learner Models at Birmingham group (UK) and the Graduate School of Language, Communication, and Culture at Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan). She was a recipient of the 2013 Weston Fellowship and is a current Walter C. Sumner Memorial Fellow.

Carrie’s work focuses on the development and use of adaptive educational technology and the mechanisms that are used to provide feedback to learners within these environments. Her work bridges populations and has included university students, underprivileged children, students in special education settings, and language learners.


HCI and Information Visualization MSc and PhD Positions at UOIT

  • Vialab is at capacity and not accepting new students for fall 2018.

Dr. Christopher Collins, Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization, is seeking highly motivated MSc and PhD students for funded research positions in information visualization, visual analytics, and human-computer interaction. Positions are available on an ongoing basis, including Fall 2015. Successful candidates will join the visualization for information analysis lab (, a well-equipped research facility at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Canada. UOIT, founded in 2002, is Canada’s newest university, located just 40 minutes east of the vibrant and multicultural city of Toronto.

Research Themes

Themes of research at the vialab include visual text analytics, interaction design for gestural and multi-touch interfaces, social media analytics, and computer-assisted learning. In our world of big data, experts who can research, design, implement, and manage projects to sift through, analyze, and reason about data are in very high demand. Business intelligence, data science, and text analytics are some of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Graduates of the vialab are equipped with interdisciplinary skills in data analytics, visualization, interaction design, and research management and leave the lab well-equipped for a variety of opportunities with governments, business, industry, and academia.

Example new project areas include designing intuitive guidance for visual text analytics (how to help people use visualizations effectively), and investigating ways to infer and respond to user state (frustration, engagement) with a variety of state-of-the-art sensor hardware. Many topic areas are possible upon agreement with the supervisor.

Skills Needed

Good candidates will have:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, information visualization, and/or human-computer interaction (non-traditional candidates with demonstrated technical skills are invited to apply)
  • Strong programming skills
  • Demonstrated design skills or an interest in learning about design
  • Good written and oral communication skills (in English)
  • Be excited to join a creative, motivated, fun team of people!


Funding is provided at levels commensurate with other Canadian and American universities as long as the student is in good standing in the graduate program. Students also receive full funding to attend international conferences (e.g. ACM CHI, ACM ITS, IEEE VIS) to present their research. Doctoral students are encouraged and supported to participate in internship opportunities at industry partners.


Interested applicants should email as soon as possible and include a CV and a statement describing your interest in the lab’s research. After an initial contact, candidates will be encouraged to apply through the official application process.

More information about the CS Graduate Program at UOIT is available at


UOIT Password Research featured in New York Times and other media

The password security research of vialab researchers Christopher Collins and Rafael Veras, and collaborator Julie Thorpe from the Faculty of Business and Information technology has been featured by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ian Urbina in a feature article in the New York Times Magazine.  In his article, “The Secret Life of Passwords“, Urbina investigates the stories behind the passwords we use.  Through the concept of keepsake passwords, the article investigates the evocative stories hidden in passwords. Our research relates to this work in that we have been investigating the numeric and linguistic patterns in passwords, in terms of how these patterns affect security as well as how these patterns reveal the culture and language.

Our research has also been featured in additional media, including:

We have also been featured on UOIT Homepage, including and article entitled “Heartbleed update: UOIT researchers analyze why consumers use weak passwords


vialab @ IEEE VIS 2014

This year four of us are attending IEEE VIS in Paris, France to present work by lab members and collaborators. Lab members are presenting on two papers. DimpVis, by Brittany Kondo and Christopher Collins, presents a new object-centric temporal navigation technique for information visualization. #FluxFlow, by U of Toronto doctoral candidate Jian Zhao and colleagues, including vialab’s Christopher Collins presents a visual analytic system to detecting anomalous patterns in social media. #FluxFlow received an honorable mention for best paper at IEEE VAST.

Lab members are also presenting three posters.  Lexichrome by Chris Kim and Christopher Collins introduces a visualization which reveals the colors evoked by text.  Visitors are invited to upload their own texts to see the chromatic fingerprint. Rafael Veras and Christopher Collins will present an exploration of uneven tree cut models for automatic emphasis and abstraction of visualized hierarchies.  Finally Brittany Kondo, Hrim Mehta, and Christopher Collins will present the IEEE InfoVis best poster winner, Glidgets: interactive glyphs for dynamic graphs.

Christopher Collins was also the co-chair of the IEEE VIS Doctoral Colloquium, a full day event for senior doctoral students to present their research programme and request advice and feedback from distinguished researchers in their field.  Chris also has been leading the redesign of the website for the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee, which launched just before the conference.

Congratulations to all the lab members for their hard work and achievements!

Congratulations Brittany Kondo, M.Sc.

Congratulations to Brittany Kondo who successfully defended her M.Sc. thesis. Her work on object-centric temporal navigation for information visualizations featured two major projects, one on time-varying information graphics and one on dynamic graphs. This work will be published in November in both a full paper and a poster at IEEE VIS in Paris. Brittany has been a core member of the vialab for four years, since being hired after third year undergrad as a research assistant.  Brittany is accomplished student, having received support for this research through an NSERC SurfNet Special Projects award, an ICCD Scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and a finalist award for the Google Anita Borg Scholarship.  Brittany leaves the lab to join Oculus Info in Toronto in September.

Sentiment and Semantics Talk at CANVAS 2014

Today I gave a talk on sentiment and semantics in visual text analytics at CANVAS 2014, the Canadian Visual Analytics Summer School.  The summer school gathers together graduate students, academic, and industry researchers in visual analytics from across Canada. There have been many great talks which are going to be archived online. My talk today introduced students to the language technologies we most often use in the lab, including NLTK.  I also discussed our work on visualizing semantics and sentiment in various research projects, as well as highlighting some great research by other people.  Check out the slides!

Visualize your Tweets with SentimentState

We have just launched a new visualization of emotion as expressed on Twitter.  Visitors to SentimentState can use the tool to explore the overall positive/negative score of tweets for a selected user over time.  Filters allow for analysis of various emotions such as surprise, disgust, and joy, as expressed in the NRC’s emotion lexicon graciously provided by Saif Mohammad.

Try it now with your own account to reveal how your emotions are expressed in Twitter over time!

We are interested in feedback on this project – email with your comments.  We hope to expand the search to allow views based on hashtags and geolocations.

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