The Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering is a unique research and development initiative dedicated to making technology more useful, more usable, and more accessible. Lab:USE is a research unit in the Department of Mathematics and Engineering at the University of Madeira. Members of Lab:USE also have responsibilities in teaching in the various courses of the department, in particular in the Professional Master of Human-Computer Interaction that is offered in collaboration with the HCI Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.
Founded in 2005 under the leadership of Professor Nuno Jardim Nunes, Lab:USE is now headed by internationally recognized consulting designer Larry Constantine. In 2008, Lab:USE has once again expanded and now consists of 14 experienced researchers representing no less than 10 different nationalities.
The mission of Lab:USE is twofold:
- Bridging the gap between software engineering and interaction design by developing practical tools, techniques, and practices for software engineering approaches centered on human needs.
- Exploring and expanding the potential of computers in supporting human communication by designing and developing novel systems and interfaces and by investigating their usage and effectiveness in real world application.
Theory into Practice
We strive for a creative synergy between practical research and exploratory development that pushes the envelope but remains firmly anchored in the realizable and the practicable. We seek to test our ideas and prove our research by devising working tools and demonstrations. To these ends, Lab:Use is committed to collaboration with business and industry and to promoting technology transfer that ultimately leads to new products and services in the marketplace. Our projects and research interests are broad, reaching across the full product development life cycle. Our activities span the spectrum from investigating new modeling languages and design concepts to creating working software tools and operable systems that translate ideas into practice.
Tools for software engineering
Our focus in research on software engineering is on tools - conceptual as well as working tools - that support model-driven design and development. Our research interests center around the role of models and tools in design and development. We want to better understand how practicing designers and developers use tools in their work and how better models and tools can make them more effective. Our aim is to create innovative tools that demonstrably improve the efficiency and effectiveness of design and development processes, that lead to products that better serve the needs of real users in the real world, and that facilitate collaboration among interaction designers, software engineers, and developers.
Keywords in this line of research are:
- user interface and software architectures
- use-case modeling
- user and user task modeling
- meta-modeling and meta-languages
- modeling and diagramming tools
- usage-centered and activity-centered design
- abstract prototyping
- activity modeling
- work styles in design.
In this area of our research we aim to design, develop, and evaluate novel applications for the support of communication between humans and between humans and computers. Our intention is to develop and experiment with new technologies and bring them into practice in order to evaluate their effect and effectiveness in real usage environments, which can be professional work environments or public environments such as people’s homes, transportation, public facilities, tourism, etc.
The technologies and fields of investigation involved in this part of our research are multitudinous and include:
- interface and interaction design
- usage evaluation
- pervasive and ubiquitous computing
- social networks
- multimedia systems
- virtual environments
- collaboration systems
- semantic networks
- decision support
- artificial intelligence