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Wen, James

Wen, James
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Phone or fax: +64 3 364 2987
Location: Room 109, Old Maths Building

Personal Information:

Position: 2014

James loves shoestring traveling, getting lost in new cities, sleeping under park benches and...well, maybe more the traveling and getting lost parts.  Actually, maybe not even the getting lost part all the time, which is probably why he is, for his doctoral thesis,  investigating into pedestrian navigation.  

With so many people finding standard cartographic maps a challenge to read and with mobile devices growing increasingly powerful, the potential for improvements over traditional maps--such as using augmented reality to show the nearest café on a smartphone--is an attractive one.  But will tools that seek to simplify navigation tasks do such a good job of it that the lack of effort on our part causes us to lose our ability to form mental maps?  If so, we could find ourselves overly dependent on our mobile devices and completely lost should our devices fail because of dead batteries or disruptions in GPS signal.

James is looking into the relationship between the usability of mobile pedestrian navigation tools and the creation of cognitive maps.  By better understanding this relationship, it may be possible to make navigation tools that strike a better balance between ease-of-use and mental map formation.  In this way, we can hope to enjoy a rich and rewarding interaction with technology rather than be dumbed down by it, finding ourselves potentially helpless and at the mercy of its mercurial ways.

James is from Queens, New York, received his Bachelors of Arts, Phi Beta Kappa, in physics and computer science from Cornell University and his Masters of Science, Sigma Xi, in computer science and visualization from Brown University.  Before joining the University of Canterbury, he developed user interfaces at IBM Research,
worked on’s reader, and founded Positive Motion, Inc., a mobile
education software company.  Outside of the techy stuff, James enjoys creating traditional animation, playing music, tossing a football around, and swing dancing.


  • Wen, J., Deneka, A., Helton, W., Dünser, A. & Billinghurst, M (2014). Fighting Technology Dumb Down: Our Cognitive Capacity for Effortful AR Navigation Tools, chapter 50, pages 525-536. Springer International Publishing.[More]
  • Wen, J., Deneka, A., William, H. & Billinghurst, M. (2014). Really, it's for your own good...making augmented reality navigation tools harder to use.[More]
  • Wen, J., Helton, W. & Billinghurst, M (2013). If Reality Bites, Bite Back Virtually: Simulating Perfection in Augmented Reality Tracking. In CHINZ 2013.[More]
  • Wen, J., Helton, W. & Billinghurst, M (2013). Classifying Users of Mobile Pedestrian Navigation Tools. In OzCHI 2013.[More]
  • Wen, J., Helton, W. S. & Billinghurst, M (2013). A Study of User Perception, Interface Performance, and Actual Usage of Mobile Pedestrian Navigation Aides. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, pages 1958-1962. SAGE Publications.[More]



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University of Canterbury

University of Washington

Canterbury Development Corporation