Associate Professor Suranga Nanayakkara


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Associate Professor


Suranga Nanayakkara is an Associate Professor at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, the University of Auckland (UoA). Before joining UoA, Suranga was an Assistant Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and a Postdoctoral Associate at the Fluid Interfaces group, MIT Media Lab. He received his PhD in 2010 and BEng in 2005 from the National University of Singapore. In 2011, he founded the "Augmented Human Lab" to explore ways of creating ‘enabling’ human-computer interfaces as natural extensions of our body, mind and behaviour.

Suranga is among that rare breed of engineers that has a sense of “humanity” in technology. This ranges from practical behavioral issues, understanding real-life contexts in which technologies function, and understanding where technologies can be not just exciting or novel, but have a meaningful impact on the way people live. The connection he feels to the communities in which he lives and with whom he works is a quality that will ensure his research will always have real relevance.

His work is most important to the people whose lives it most directly impacts: those who face challenged to function in the world due to sensory deficits in hearing or vision. What also makes Suranga’s contributions important is that they are not only applicable to those specific communities. Because of his emphasis on “enabling” rather than “fixing,” the technologies that Suranga has developed have a potentially much broader range of applications. With publications in prestigious conferences, demonstrations, patents, media coverage and real-world deployments, Suranga has demonstrated the potential of advancing the state-of-the art in Assistive Human-Computer Interfaces. For the totality and breadth of achievements, he has won many awards including young inventor under 35 (TR35 award) in the Asia Pacific region by MIT TechReview, Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka (TOYP), and INK Fellowship 2016.

Research | Current

Exploring ways of creating Assistive Augmentations, enabling users to carry out a task or even turn them users into “super-humans” with capabilities well beyond the ordinary regardless of where they stand in the continuum of sensorial ability and disability. Our current research encompasses the design and development of new sensory-substitution systems, user interfaces and interactions to enhance sensorial and cognitive capabilities. We apply our research work in diverse application domains,  including:

  • Assistive Technologies to support people with sensory impairments
  • Interfaces to support Independent-living for aging population
  • Interfaces to support Learning
  • Interactive media for community engagement
  • Interfaces to support personalized and continuous rehabilitation 

Teaching | Current

Planning a graduate level course on Design Thinking & Innovation

Postgraduate supervision

Ph.D. Completed

1. Benjamin Petry

Thesis Title: Designing Music-Sensory-Substitution Systems that Support Music-Making for People with Hearing Disabilities


Ph.D. In Progress

1. Priyashri Sridhar
Thesis Title: Towards Development and Evaluation of Tangible Interfaces that Support Learning in Children

2. Samantha Chan
Thesis Title: Development of Memory Augmentation Technology to Support and Improve Everyday Memory
3. Samitha Elvitigala
Thesis Title: Uncovering the Potential of the Foot as a Source of User Information 
4. Shi Yilei
Thesis Title: Touch Interactions on Daily Non-touch-enabled Surfaces

5. Roger Boldu
Thesis Title: TBD

6. Sachith Muthukumarana
Thesis Title: Exploring ways of creating context-aware interfaces to support everyday tasks of elderly users.


MEng Completed 

1. Yong Kin Fuai
Thesis Title: Foot.Note: Designing a Cost-Effective Plantar Pressure Active Monitoring System for Diabetic Foot Ulcer Prevention 

2. Thisum Buddhika 
Thesis Title: Expanding Hand Grasp Interactions for Context-Aware Applications

3. Yvonne Chua
Thesis Title: Evaluating Immersive Virtual Reality in Primary School Classrooms

4. Shamane Siriwardhana
Thesis Title: Application of Universal Successor Features Based Deep Reinforcement Learning for Target Driven Visual Navigation

5. Vipula Dissanayake
Thesis Title: CompRate: Towards Continuous Sensing of Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability using Built-in Accelerometer of Smart Wearables

6. Pablo Gallego
Thesis Title: ChewIt. An Intraoral Interface for Discreet Interactions.


Best Short Paper Award, iWOAR '18

In recognition of the research paper ‘Exploring Accelerometer-based Step Detection by using a Wheeled Walking Frame’ presented at the 5th International Workshop on Sensor-based Activity Recognition and Interaction. 

Best Short Paper Award, AH’17

In recognition of the research paper ‘InSight: A Systematic Approach to Create Dynamic Human-Controller-Interactions’ presented at the 8th Annual Augmented Human International Conference.

Excellence in Research

Awarded by Singapore University of Technology and Design, in recognition of research excellence over a period of time with impact in the scholarly field, interdisciplinary contributions across fields, broader impact to society, translation to practice, commercialization, and teaching practice.

INK Fellow 2016

Awarded by INK, which is India’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories. Every year, INK identifies the minds that are redefining their field of work, and the world around them.

Most Promising Technology Award

Awarded for the Project zSense at InnoveFest unBound 2016, South East Asia’s largest innovation festival.

Singapore Design Award (Product - Gold Category)

Awarded for the Project FingerReader by Design Business Chamber Singapore.The Singapore Design Awards (SDA) honours outstanding designers, design students and design practices from across the world and it remains the leading design award in Southeast Asia.

Steve Howard Award for Best Paper, OZCHI’16 

In recognition of the research paper ‘MuSS-Bits: Sensor-Display Blocks for Deaf People to Explore Musical Sounds.’ presented at the 27th Annual CHISGI Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference.

The Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka (TOYP) award 

An award given by Junior Chamber International Sri Lanka for outstanding achievement in
Scientific and Technological Development.

Young Innovator under 35 (MIT TR35) award, Asia Pacific region  

An award given by MIT Technology Review for top young innovators under the age of 35.

Best Paper, OZCHI’14

In recognition of the research paper ‘PaperPixels : A Toolkit to Create Paper-based Displays’ presented at the 25th Annual CHISGI Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference.

Finalist, Singapore Challenge, GYSS’14 2014

In recognition of the white paper ‘Smart adaptive interfaces for ageing gracefully’ submitted to Global Young Scientist Summit 2014.

NUS Research Scholarship 

A full scholarship awarded by the National University of Singapore to pursue Doctoral research.

Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the year

Awarded in recognition of outstanding contribution towards the promotion of cricket in the National University of Singapore.

Engineering Dean’s List of Excellence

Awarded by the National University of Singapore in recognition of the outstanding academic results.

NUS Undergraduate ScholarshipA full scholarship awarded by the National University of Singapore to pursue undergraduate studies.

Best Student of the College (academic)

Awarded by Royal College, Sri Lanka in recognition of the best overall academic results in all academic streams in the school and GCE A level Examination results. 


Direct the Augmented Human Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Areas of expertise

Human-Computer Interaction

Assistive Augmentation

Design Thinking & Innovation

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Editorial Boards

Human-Centric Computing and Information Sciences (HCIS) journal. Augmented Human Research journal.
Advanced Robotics Journal.

Professional Memberships

Senior Member, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
President, Lanka Lions Cricket Club, Singapore (LLCC), 2015 Vice-president, Lanka Lions Cricket Club, Singapore (LLCC), 2012-2015 Secretary, Lanka Lions Cricket Club, Singapore (LLCC), 2010

Conference Organization: Chairing

Steering Committee Member, Augmented Human International Conference (AH)| Technical Program Co-Chair, AH’17 | General Co-Chair, AH’15| Chair, CHI’14 workshop on Assistive Augmentation

Conference Organization: Program Committees

ACM HAI’16 | ACM MM’16 Demo | CHI’15 WIP | OZCHI’14 | AH’14 | OZCHI’13 | OZCHI’12 | Mai-I 2013

Conference Organization: Organising Committees

Spatial Audio for Mobile Devices Workshop in conjunction with MobileHCI’07

Services as a Reviewer

ACM MM’17 AH’17 ||CHI’17 | OZCHI’16 | CIS-RAM’15| CHI’14 | OZCHI’14 | Mobile HCI’14 | IEEE TLT| ACM TIIS | OZCHI’13 | CHI’13 | AH’13 | DIS’12 | APCHI’12| OZCHI’12 | ICEC’10 | IEEE VR’10

External Services: Volunteering

National Junior College (NJC) Future Challenge Competition, 2011 SUTD Technology and Design Challenge, 2011
Dr.Reijntjes School for the Deaf in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
National Council for the Deaf, Sri Lanka 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Huber, J., Shilkrot, R., Maes, P., & Nanayakkara, S. (Eds.) (2018). Assistive augmentation. Singapore: Springer. Pages: 178.
  • Shilkrot, R., Huber, J., Steimle, J., Nanayakkara, S., & Maes, P. (2015). Digital digits: A comprehensive survey of finger augmentation devices. ACM Computing Surveys, 48 (2)10.1145/2828993
  • Shilkrot, R., Huber, J., Steimle, J., Nanayakkara, S., & Maes, P. (2015). Digital digits: A comprehensive survey of finger augmentation devices. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 48 (2), 30.2-30.29. 10.1145/2828993
  • Cortes, J. P. F., Ching, T. H., Wu, C., Chionh, C. Y., Nanayakkara, S., & Foong, S. (2015). BWard: An optical approach for reliable in-situ early blood leakage detection at catheter extraction points. Proceedings of the 2015 7th IEEE International Conference on Cybernetics and Intelligent Systems, CIS 2015 and Robotics, Automation and Mechatronics, RAM 2015. 10.1109/ICCIS.2015.7274626
  • Olberding, S., Steimle, J., Nanayakkara, S., & Maes, P. (2015). CloudDrops: Stamp-sized pervasive displays for situated awareness of web-based information. PerDis 2015 - Proceedings: 4th ACM International Symposium on Pervasive Displays. 10.1145/2757710.2757718
  • Withana, A., Peiris, R., Samarasekara, N., & Nanayakkara, S. (2015). zSense: Enabling shallow depth gesture recognition for greater input expressivity on smart wearables. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 3661-3670. New York, NY, USA: ASSOC COMPUTING MACHINERY. 10.1145/2702123.2702371
  • Shilkrot, R., Huber, J., Wong, M. E., Maes, P., & Nanayakkara, S. (2015). FingerReader: A wearable device to explore printed text on the go. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2363-2372. New York, NY, USA: ASSOC COMPUTING MACHINERY. 10.1145/2702123.2702421
  • Zoran, A., Shilkrot, R., Nanyakkara, S., & Paradiso, J. (2014). The hybrid artisans: A case study in smart tools. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 21 (3)10.1145/2617570


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Level 5, Room 511
New Zealand

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