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Summer 2013 interns at HP Labs – Kyle Rector


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


Kyle-Rctor_July-2013_web.jpgOregon native Kyle Rector has interned with HP before, working with the company’s System Interaction Engineering team in Corvallis, Oregon, while studying at nearby Oregon State University. After double majoring there in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Rector moved north to the University of Washington, where she is three years into her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering. Her specialty is accessibility, especially for people who are blind or have low vision. “There are some really interesting challenges when you remove your eyesight from interacting with technology,” Rector says. “And there are still a lot of areas in which this population isn’t being helped as it could.”


HP: Tell us about your Ph.D. research project

I’m really focusing on exercise for people with poor vision. They can’t easily get to an exercise class, for example. Then when they are there, instructors rarely know how to make their verbal instructions detailed enough to be useful. So they don’t go. I’m working on solutions that people can use to exercise independently, like a Kinect game that coaches yoga by tracking your movements and then offering you voice feedback to fix your pose. There will be a number of product ideas like that. I’ve been calling it ‘eyes-free exercise technology.’


HP: And what are you working on at HP Labs this summer?

It’s totally different! Here I’m working on email and information overload. I’m looking at how you can be alerted to really important messages that have dropped way down in your inbox. So that involves determining when a message is important and then when is the best time to be reminded about it – and how to remind you – so that you are likely to actually respond.


HP: That does seem very different. Is there a connection?

Well, this work and my own research are both studies in human-computer interaction. But one thing that happens when you are in a very focused field like accessibility is that you can get known only for that and I wanted to get a sense of the field of human-computer interaction as a whole. This internship is really helping add breadth in addition to the depth that my Ph.D. research will give me. And besides, the problems we’re addressing are really interesting.


HP: How did you hear about the internship opportunity?

My mentor here, Joshua Hailpern, sent my advisor at the University of Washington, Dr. Julie Kientz, an email saying he was looking for interns and she forwarded the information to me. Also, Joshua interned with the Google accessibility team a few years ago and more recently, I did, too. So we had that connection.


HP: What’s the best thing about interning here?

I like the diversity here – in the work that people are doing and in their backgrounds – and the opportunity you get to learn about things you’d never learn about otherwise. Our team goes to lunch together every single day, which I love. The camaraderie is really nice.


HP: What do you for fun?

I’m really into running and biking. And then I’ve been going to networking events in the Bay Area while I’m here; women in tech events, Girl Geek Dinners, things like that. I like to meet new people as much as I possibly can.

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