Karon MacLean


Office Phone #
On Leave July, 2021 - June, 2022

Academic Information

B.S., Biological Sciences & Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University (1986); M.S., Mechanical Engineering, MIT (1988); Engineer, Center for Engineering Design, Univ. of Utah (1988-1990); Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, MIT (1996); Member of Research Staff, Interval Research Corp. (1996-2000); Assistant Professor (2000); Professor (since 2010), University of British Columbia. Peter Wall Fellow, 2001; Killam Research Fellow (2007); UBC Charles McDowell Award (2008).


Computers give us access to and control over data and machines, but they have also taken away the handles our bodies evolved to use. My research's central goal is to restore physicality to computer interaction, take it away from the desktop and embed it into the world at the best point of use. I use haptic (touch) force feedback as part of a multimodal HCI design toolbox, and apply design techniques to real problems and contexts to better understand its ideal uses and deployment. The applications I've found most exciting to date are those that require continuous and/or expressive control or navigation - for example, manipulating streaming media, drawing and sculpting, controlling musical instruments, affective displays, and computer-mediated interpersonal affective communication. Other promising areas are those where other senses are overutilized (driving), or a system is being monitored with low attention (the pager of the future).

Selected Publications

Schneider, O. and K. E. MacLean (2016). Studying Design Process and Example Use with Macaron, a Web-based Vibrotactile Effect Editor. IEEE HAPTICS Symposium

Cang, L., P. Bucci, K. E. MacLean and A. Strang (2015). "Economical Dynamic Surface Sensing: Recognition of Affective Touch and Toucher." Int'l Conference on Multimodal Interaction (ICMI), pp. 147-154.

Seifi, H. and K. E. MacLean (2015). VibViz: Organizing, visualizing and navigating vibration libraries. IEEE WorldHaptics (WHC'15).

Sefidgar, Y., K. E. MacLean, S. Yohanan, M. Van der Loos, E. A. Croft and J. Garland (2015). "Design and Evaluation of a Touch-Centered Calming Interaction with a Social Robot." Transactions on Affective Computing PP(99): 1-15.

Gleeson, B., K. Currie, K. E. MacLean and E. A. Croft (2015). "Tap and Push: Assessing the Value of Direct Physical Control in Human-Robot Collaborative Tasks." Journal of Human Robot Interaction 4(1): 95-113.

Yohanan, S. and K. E. MacLean (2012). "The role of affective touch in human-robot interaction: Human intent and expectations in touching the Haptic Creature." International Journal of Social Robotics (SORO); Special Issue on Expectations, Intentions, & Actions 4(2): 163-180.

Levesque, V., L. Oram, K. E. MacLean, A. Cockburn, N. Marchuk, D. Johnson, J. E. Colgate and M. Peshkin (2011). Enhancing Physicality in Touch Interaction with Programmable Friction. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '11), Vancouver, Canada, ACM Press.

MacLean, K. E. (2009). "Putting Haptics into the Ambience." IEEE Transactions on Haptics 2(3): 123-135.

MacLean, K. E. (2008). "Foundations of Transparency in Tactile Information Design." IEEE Trans on Haptics 1(2): 84-95.

Swindells, C., MacLean, K. E., Booth, K. S., Meitner, M. (2007). "Exploring Affective Design for Physical Controls", in Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '07), CHI Letters, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 933-942, ACM Press.

Luk, J., Pasquero, J., Little, S., MacLean, K., Hayward, V., Levesque, V. (2006). "Haptics as a Solution for Mobile Interaction Challenges: Initial Design Using a Handheld Tactile Display Prototype", in Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '06), CHI Letters, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 171-180, ACM Press. ( Best of CHI award ).

Forsyth, B. and MacLean, K. E. (2006). "Predictive Haptic Guidance: Intelligent User Assistance for the Control of Dynamic Tasks", IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 103-113, January/February 2006.

MacLean, K., Enriquez, M. (2003)., "Perceptual Design of Haptic Icons," in Proceedings of EuroHaptics, pp. 351-363.

MacLean, K. E., Snibbe, S. S., and Levin, G. (2000). "Tagged Handles: Merging Discrete and Continuous Control," in Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '00), CHI Letters, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 225-232, ACM Press.

Research Interests

human-computer interaction

Research Groups

Imager: Laboratory for Graphics, Visualization and HCI
DFP: Designing for People Cluster
SPIN: Sensory Perception & Interaction Research Group
CAIDA: Centre for Artificial Intelligence Decision-making & Action

Latest Courses

2021 Winter

CPSC 543 - Physical User Interface Design and Evaluation