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HandWiki. (2022, September 29). Human-Computer Interaction Institute. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Human-Computer Interaction Institute." Encyclopedia. Web. 29 September, 2022.
Human-Computer Interaction Institute

The Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) is a department within the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is considered one of the leading centers of human-computer interaction research, and was named one of the top ten most innovative schools in information technology by Computer World in 2008. For the past three decades, the institute has been the predominant publishing force at leading HCI venues, most notably ACM CHI, where it regularly contributes more than 10% of the papers. Research at the institute aims to understand and create technology that harmonizes with and improves human capabilities by integrating aspects of computer science, design, social science, and learning science. Depending on the selected coursework that the student decides to take (in addition to some core classes), they are able to form a schedule specific to the field they are interested in. For example, if a student is specifically interested in pursuing a user experience design profession, they are able to choose courses that focus mainly on the design process behind applications. If the student is interested in product management or project management, they can select electives that encourage group work and cross-collaboration across majors so that they may learn some of the tasks of these professions. A list of courses and course descriptions is included below. HCII offers an HCI major for undergraduates, as well a master's degree and a PhD in HCI. Students from various academic backgrounds come together from around the world to participate in these programs. Students enter the program at various stages in their academic and professional careers, with various levels of experience. HCII research and educational programs span a full cycle of value creation. The cycle includes research on how people work, play, and communicate within groups, organizations, and social structures. It includes the design, creation, and evaluation of technologies and tools to support human and social activities.

information technology user experience design evaluation

1. History

Founded in 1993, the HCII is a place where students and faculty work to understand and create technology that harmonizes with and improves human capabilities, goals, and social environments through interdisciplinary research and education in design, computer science, and behavioral and social sciences. Though housed in the School of Computer Science, the institute is truly interdisciplinary and includes faculty and students from CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tepper School of Business, College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute of Technology and Software Engineering Institute, as well as computer science. HCII also works closely with colleagues from other universities in Pittsburgh and around the world, and collaborates with researchers in companies that range from local startups to multinational corporations.[1]

2. Academics

2.1. Degrees Offered

The institution offers degrees in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies.

Doctoral Degrees[2]

  • Ph.D. in HCI

Graduate Degrees[3]

  • Master of Human-Computer Interaction (MHCI): Carnegie Mellon's MHCI program is the first program in the world designed for human-computer interaction and user experience design careers. It is a full one year (3 semester) program running from August-August that covers topics including user experience design, prototyping, user-centered research, interface programming, and designing for emerging technologies. The program's flagship component is a seven-month rigorous Capstone project, in which small teams of students work with an industry client and faculty advisors to create a technological innovation. Clients have included NASA, Bloomberg, American Eagle Outfitters, Mastercard, and more.[4]
  • Accelerated Master of Human-Computer Interaction: Available only to current CMU undergraduate students majoring in human-computer interaction. These undergraduate seniors can start the program in their senior spring semester and complete the program in an additional summer and fall semester.
  • Master of Educational Technology and Applied Learning Science (METALS): A full one year (3 semester) program that covers the creation of educational technologies based on research and cognitive science in array of settings.
  • Master of Human-Centered Data Science (HCDS): A concentration that focuses on human-centered data in the Masters of Computational Data Science program, a cross-program between the Human-Computer Interaction, Language Technologies Institute, and Computer Science departments. The Masters of Computational Data Science is a 16-month program that dives into the topics of design, engineering, and large information systems.[5]
  • Master of Science in Product Management (MSPM): A 12-month cross-program between the School of Computer Science and Tepper School of Business that trains students in business, management, technology, and user experience.

Undergraduate Degrees[6]

  • HCI Secondary Major
  • HCI Minor


Students across different degrees are able to choose from the coursework on the institute's website. Students are required to take core courses and some approved electives for graduation. These courses span a wide range of topics and can be from Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, the College of Fine Arts, the Tepper School of Business, the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Robotics Institute, the Software Engineering Institute, or more. Find the list of courses with descriptions and faculty associated here:

2.2. Notable faculty

  • Jodi Forlizzi is the Charles M. Geschke Director of the HCII Institute. She has been a faculty member with the department since 2000. She specializes interaction design and received a self-defined Ph.D. in human computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007.[7] She has a background of fine arts with a bachelor's degree in illustration from University of the Arts. She is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery's CHI Academy and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center has honored her for excellence in human-robot interaction design research.[8]
  • Robert Kraut is a Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction. His interests lie with social computing, design, and information technology.[9] In 2016 he received the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science – SCS Allen Newell Research Award for his research on "Designing Online Communities."[10]
  • Amy Ogan is an assistant professor at the HCII department with interests in emerging technologies for education. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon two times, first as undergraduate with degrees in Spanish, Computer Science, and Human-Computer Interaction, second with a doctoral degree in Human-Computer Interaction. She is a recipient of the Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowship due to her interest in youth education and development.[11]
  • Karen Berntsen is an award-winning Associate Teaching Professor in the HCII department whose work has been featured in educational materials, books, websites, and museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. She comes from a traditional design background, possessing a BFA in drawing and printmaking and an MS in Interactive Media. At CMU, she specializes in teaching interaction design, typography, information and architecture.[12]
  • Geoff Kaufman is an assistant professor in the HCII department who received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Ohio State University and B.A. in psychology from Carnegie Mellon.[13] His work focuses on studying the psychological impact of fictional narratives, games, and computer-mediated interactions and creating new technology for social change. Most notably, his work about experience-taking, or the psychological process of simulating the reality of a fictional character, can impact real-life behaviors, such as volunteering and voting. Dr. Kaufman has uncovered that creating deep connections with fictional worlds can increase empathy and reduce prejudice. Relatedly, Dr. Kaufman guided the formulation of a model of “embedded design” during his postdoctoral research at Dartmouth College, that is, concealing the underlying intentions of a game to increase its positive social impact without sacrificing player enjoyment.[14]
  • Skip Shelley is faculty director of the MHCI program at Carnegie Mellon as well as an associate teaching professor in the HCII department. Shelley possesses over 30 years of experience in human-computer interaction and held leadership positions at MAYA Design, LotterShelly, and Summa Technologies prior to joining the CMU team full-time in 2016.[15]
  • Chris Harrison (computer scientist) is a computer entrepreneur, working in the fields of human-computer interaction, machine learning, and sensor-driven interactive systems. He is an assistant professor at CMU and the director of the Future Interfaces Group[16] within the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. He has previously conducted research for AT&T Labs, Microsoft Research, IBM Research and Disney Research. He is also the CTO and co-founder of Qeexo,[17] a machine learning and interaction technology startup. Having authored several papers, and with 25 patents to his name, Harrison is best known for his work in ubiquitous computing and wearable technology.
  • Jessica Hammer is an assistant professor at the HCII Institute. She is also jointly appointed by the Entertainment Technology Center at CMU. She combines game design with various research methods in order to understand how games affect how players think, feel, and behave.[18] Jessica Hammer has worked on many video games, including games for National Institute of Health and for Nokia.

Additional Faculty

Find more notable faculty here:

3. Research

The Human-Computer Interaction Institute spans three floors of Carnegie Mellon's Newell-Simon Hall and two buildings on nearby South Craig Street. In both locations, students and researchers can take advantage of the HCII's heterogeneous distributed computing environment, experimental computers and systems, wide variety of labs and workspaces, kitchen, and configurable social space. Our main resources are the User Studies Laboratory, Design Facilities: Verge, the DevLab Physical Prototyping Laboratory, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center and various faculty labs.

Some fields in which notable research is currently being done at the HCII are Learning Technologies, Tools and Technology, Human Assistance, Robotics, Arts and Entertainment, and the Entertainment Media Center (ETC).

3.1. Research Centers[19]


The goal of LearnLab is to enhance learning sciences primarily in science discipline with the collaboration of scientists and instructors. [20]

Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center

The Quality of Life Technology Center aims to develop intelligent systems that can better the lives of elderlies and people with disabilities. The center is run by Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh.[21]

3.2. Notable Projects

Class Insight

While much of education research is focused on student performance, this research turns the focus to the development of the teacher.

Almost all K-12 instructors receive in-depth training on how to teach. This is not true for college, where professors are hired for being content experts, not for being experts on how to teach. This research investigates how smart classrooms can sense in-class activities and provide feedback and teaching training to novice college instructors. Currently, we focus on teaching better discursive practices, such as asking more content-based questions instead of just lecturing in order to increase student participation. In these classrooms, both the students and the instructors are learning and practicing new things.

The project recently earned a Teachers as Learners grant (created in 2017 to “fund education research on the science of teaching and expand our understanding of teachers as learners and as agents of change in education”) from the McDonnell Foundation.  Full story: $2.5m grant received to study the science of teaching.

Spoke Sense

A Wearable Fitness Tracker for Wheelchair Athletes

Information provided by traditional fitness trackers is not always relevant to athletes of all abilities. For example, what if you don't take steps?  

The SpokeSense system, a fitness tracker for wheelchair athletes, consists of a variety of sensors packed into a small, laser-cut case. In order to collect real-time data from both the left and right wheels of the sport chair, a case is attached to the center of both wheels. The system measures core metrics, including speed, distance, intensity zones, acceleration and braking. It can also measure the athlete's position relative to gravity, or tilting, which is something unique to the sport. Wheelchair basketball players often tilt onto one wheel to extend their reach -- for example, to reach for a jump ball -- and an athlete might want to know the angle or how long they maintained the tilt.

IoT Coffee Table

Communicates what the environment is sensing

Today people increasingly find themselves in spaces that invisibly sense them. The increasing use of cameras, motion detectors, and microphones means spaces often know people are present and can hear what they are saying. Our research investigates different ways for smart environments to communicate what they perceive. We draw ideas from phenomenology and from work on ambient displays. We want to design systems that make it easy for people to perceive that the room perceives them such that can effortlessly shift their social performance. Our current work focuses on the design of a coffee table that lets people know the room can sense people, can sense their location, and can hear what they say.

Find out about more projects from faculty here:

Find out about MHCI Capstone projects here:


  1. "About | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  2. "Ph.D. in HCI | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  3. "Masters Programs | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  4. "Master of Human-Computer Interaction | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  5. "Learn With Us - Overview | Carnegie Mellon University - Language Technologies Institute". 
  6. "HCI Undergraduate Programs | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  7. "Home | Jodi Forlizzi" (in en). 
  8. University, Carnegie Mellon. "Forlizzi Named Director of Human-Computer Interaction Institute - News - Carnegie Mellon University". Retrieved 2018-02-08. 
  9. "Home Page | Robert E. Kraut" (in en). 
  10. ""Understanding Online Communities" Earns SCS Allen Newell Research Award | Human-Computer Interaction Institute" (in en). 
  11. "Faculty Spotlight: Assistant Professor Amy Ogan | Human-Computer Interaction Institute" (in en). 
  12. "Karen Kornblum Berntsen | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  13. "Blurring the Line between Self and Other: The Transformative Impact of "Experience-taking" with Characters in Fiction and Games". 
  14. "Geoff Kaufman | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  15. "The MHCI Program Welcomes Lee Hillman and Skip Shelly to Leadership Team | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  16. "About Us". 
  17. "About Us". 
  18. "Jessica Hammer". 
  19. "Research | Human-Computer Interaction Institute". 
  20. "LearnLab – Part of the Simon Initiative". 
  21. University, Carnegie Mellon. "QoLT Center - QoLT Center - Carnegie Mellon University" (in en). 
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