Jacob, Robert

Jacob at CHI 1994
Robert Jacob speaks at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Boston, MA on April 24, 1994.

Robert Jacob, a Professor of Computer Science at Tufts University, is a pioneering investigator of new user interface software and interaction techniques. His research enabled experts in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) to apply system design, theoretical analysis, and quantitative measurement to the concurrent real-world interactions facilitated by contemporary, post-WIMP (“window, icon, menu, pointing device”) interfaces. Jacob’s current research group focuses on a new generation of brain-computer interfaces. While the primary application for brain-computer interaction to date has been for physically-disabled users, Jacob and his team aim to develop and evaluate brain measurement as input for adaptable user interfaces for the larger population.

Jacob at CHI 1991
Robert Jacob with Tom Hewett at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in New Orleans, LA on April 27, 1991.

In the 1990s, Jacob and others in the field of HCI observed a divergence from the WIMP or Direct Manipulation interaction style. As a new generation of post-WIMP interfaces emerged, Jacob led a research project introducing the notion of Reality-Based Interaction as a unifying concept to tie together a large subset of the new interaction styles. Although some experts considered the new interaction techniques to be disparate innovations developing on unrelated tracks, Reality-Based Interaction highlighted the ways in which the new interaction styles drew strength from building upon users’ pre-existing knowledge of the everyday, non-digital world. This focus on commonalities between the new interaction techniques aided researchers in their efforts to understand, connect, and analyze them.

Jacob is a member of the editorial boards of ACM TOCHI, Human-Computer Interaction, and the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies and has served as chair of ACM CHI, UIST, and TEI conferences. He was elected to the ACM CHI Academy in 2007.

“Rob Jacob has been a reliable and highly competent contributor to HCI research and in service to the ACM SIGCHI community.  His research helped clarify design principles for input devices based on integrality and separability, extending our understanding of direct manipulation principles. His work on eye tracking showed what was possible for research and explored the possibilities for eye-gaze interaction.  Rob was generous in supporting his students and in bringing newcomers to HCI with his regular tutorials at the CHI conference.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (Computer Science), Johns Hopkins University (1976)
  • M.S.E. in Mathematical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University (1974)
  • B.A. in Quantitative Studies, Johns Hopkins University (1972)


  • Professor of Computer Science (previously Associate, Assistant), Department of Computer Science, Tufts University (1994 – Present)
  • Vice President of ACM SIGCHI (2014 – 2015, 2001 – 2006, 1990 – 1993)
  • Visiting Lecturer, University College London Interaction Centre (2014)
  • Professeur Invite (Visiting Professor), Laboratoire de Recherche en Informatique, Universite Paris-Sud (2008)
  • Visiting Associate Professor, Media Arts and Sciences, Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2000 – 2001)
  • Computer Scientist, Human-Computer Interaction Lab, Naval Research Laboratory (1977 – 1994)


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