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Professor Thomas Pederson

“No one knows exactly how yet, but people and computers will definitely work more efficiently together in the future,” says Thomas Pederson, new professor of informatics at University West.

Congratulations on your second professorship!

“Thank you. That’s right, I have been a professor of computer science at Malmö University for a few years and now I am also a professor of informatics at University West. Starting this autumn, I will divide my time between the Department of Business, Economics and IT and the Department of Engineering Science. This means that I have colleagues who work with both social sciences and technology. Most of my work has taken a computer technology approach, so it is a great advantage to be able to become part of a broader perspective.”

What attracted you to University West?

“I have worked at several universities, including in Copenhagen and most recently at Malmö University. University West interested me because it is a young, smaller university with close connections to regional industry and with ambitions to establish itself in international research. I also saw the opportunity to contribute to expanding the university’s expertise in computer science.

After working here for a year, I am very positively surprised by the openness and supportive culture of the university. There is also a clear focus on strategic and realistic goals.”

Was your choice of research field obvious?

“As a teenager, I played a lot with computers. Programming did not attract me; I was more interested in fonts, layout, creating music and other fun things to do on a computer. After high school, I chose between studying computer science or graphic design. I ended up studying computer science at Umeå University, and when I started looking at the subject of human-machine interaction, I understood that I had found the right place for me.”

What is your research about?

“My main field of research is interaction between humans and computer systems. Among other things, I work with new interaction platforms and how people can use them in new, smart ways. Here, augmented reality (AR) is very interesting. It is already in our smartphones, but in the future the technology will probably also make it easier for people to collect and process information when making decisions. There are many ways it can be useful, such as in the manufacturing industry when operators have to make quick decisions or learn new tasks.”

“Another hot area of research within AR is how we can provide the brain with information without experiencing distractions and interruptions, so-called subtle communication. Because it happens unconsciously, it means that we can do several things at the same time. For example, this could be of interest to the automotive industry when designing vehicle safety systems.”

What are you currently focusing on most?

“In the autumn of 2022, the university will start a new programme focused on the development of the next generation of self-driving vehicles. As the programme director, I currently spend a lot of time preparing.”

“In another exciting project, we are investigating whether augmented reality can facilitate the production of wooden trusses. The fitters in one of Derome’s factories will test receiving instructions from AR glasses instead of from laptops and mobile phones and what benefits it can provide.”

“In my new role as professor at Business, Economics and IT, I look forward to getting to know new colleagues and helping to strengthen research and education in such areas as immersive media, where Open Lab will certainly play an important role.”

What challenges are there in the research field?

“Digitalization impacts our daily lives in many ways. Increasing amounts of data are being collected and the algorithms are becoming faster and more advanced. And as more and more decisions are made automatically using algorithms, important ethical questions arise: To what extent do we want decisions to be made automatically? What limits should be placed on interactions between humans and machines? Researchers like myself can try to identify where boundaries should be set, but society has to ultimately decide what it wants.”

What motivates you?

“I like to question why we do things in a certain way, and I like to speculate on how we will solve different tasks in the future. But honestly, personally I am not always so quick to stay on top of new technology. When an excited student friend showed me how to click on some of the world’s first websites in the early 90s, it took six months before I realized what a huge impact the web would have for all of us.”

Watch the video where Thomas talks about how AR glasses can be useful in the manufacturing industry.

Contact: Thomas Pederson