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, harnessing the full potential of technology by designing intuitive interfaces that fit and adapts to us instead of the other way around. My current research encompasses the design and development of new sensory-substitution systems, Human-Centered AI approachers and interactions to enhance sensorial and cognitive capabilities. 

Teaching | Current

Planning a graduate level course on Design Thinking & Innovation

Postgraduate supervision

Ph.D. Completed

1. Benjamin Petry (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Designing Music-Sensory-Substitution Systems that Support Music-Making for People with Hearing Disabilities

2. Priyashri Sridhar (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Towards Development and Evaluation of Tangible Interfaces that Support Learning in Children

3. Shi Yilei (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Enabling Touch Interactions on Everyday Passive Surfaces

Ph.D. In Progress

1. Samantha Chan (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Development of Memory Augmentation Technology to Support and Improve Everyday Memory

2. Samitha Elvitigala (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Uncovering the Potential of the Foot as a Source of User Information 

3. Roger Boldu (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Revealing Inaccessible on-the-go Information by Augmenting Human

4. Sachith Muthukumarana (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Human-Computer Integration for Augmenting Human Perception in Sports.

5. Tharindu Kaluarachchi (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: A Human-Centered Machine Learning Approach to Create Tools to make AI Accessible to Non-Expert Users

6. Shamane Siriwardhana (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Applications of Self Supervised and Multimodal Deep Learning Methods to Develop Affective Artificial Intelligence

7. Vipula Dissanayake (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Towards emotion recognition in the wild

8. Moritz Messerschmidt (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Context-Aware On-Body Haptic Feedback for Mobile Interaction

9. Kunal Gupta (Co-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Using Context and Physiological Cues to Improve Emotion Recognition in AR/VR

10. Prasanth Sasikumar (Co-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Augmented Virtual Teleportation

11. Ihshan Gumilar (Co-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Exploring How AR/VR Cues Can Increase Brain Synchronization In Collaborative Tasks

12. Nastaran Saffaryazdi  (Co-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Using Multimodal Measures for Emotion Recognition in Conversational Settings

MEng Completed 

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

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

3. Yvonne Chua (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: Evaluating Immersive Virtual Reality in Primary School Classrooms

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

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

6. Pablo Gallego (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: ChewIt. An Intraoral Interface for Discreet Interactions.

MEng In Progress 

1. Chamod Weerasinghe (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: TBD

2. Andrew Reis (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: TBD

3. Juan Pablo (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: TBD

4. Jiashuo Cao​ (Main-Supervisor)
Thesis Title: TBD


  • 2020 Honourable mention, World Changing Ideas Awards by Fast Company for Prospero project
  • 2020 Honourable mention (Best World Changing Idea APAC, Experimental categories), World Changing Ideas Awards by Fast Company for M-Hair project
  • 2019 Winner, Public Good Award (Gold) by Designers Institute, NZ, Best Design Awards for MussBits project
  • 2019 Best Paper Honourable mention, Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference for ChewIt Project
  • 2019 Honourable mention, Innovation By Design Award by Fast Company for MussBits project
  • 2019 Finalist (Experimental Category, General Excellence Category, Design APAC Category) Innovation By Design Award by Fast Company for ChewIt project
  • 2019 Finalist, Velocity 100K Challenge, University of Auckland Entrepreneurship Challenge
  • 2018  People’s choice award of Discovery video competition by Royal Society Te Aprangi  for FingerReader project
  • 2018 Finalist, World Changing Ideas Award by Fast Company for FingerReader project
  • 2018 Best Short Paper Award, Sensor-based Activity Recognition and Interaction
  • 2017 Finalist, Impact Awards by D&AD for FingerReader project
  • 2017 Finalist, Golden Pin Design Awards by Taiwan Design Centre for FingerReader project
  • 2017 Best Short Paper Award, Augmented Human International Conference for inSight Project
  • 2016 Excellence in Research Award, Singapore University of Technology and Design
  • 2016 INK Fellowship by INK
  • 2016 Most Promising Technology Award by InnoveFest unbound Singapore
  • 2016 Singapore Design Award, Design Business Chamber Singapore for FingerReader
  • 2016 Steve Howard Award, Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference for MussBits paper
  • 2015 The Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka (TOYP) award by Junior Chamber International Sri Lanka
  • 2014 Young Innovator under 35 (MIT TR35) award, Asia Pacific by MIT Technology Review
  • 2014 Best Paper Award, Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference, for PaperPixels Project
  • 2014 Finalist of Singapore Challenge at Global Young Scientist Summit
  • 2005 NUS Research Scholarship, National University of Singapore 
  • 2002 Engineering Dean’s List of Excellence, National University of Singapore 
  • 2001 NUS Undergraduate Scholarship, National University of Singapore
  • 2000 Best Student,  Royal College, Sri Lanka


Direct the Augmented Human Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, with the vision of Humanizing the Technology: designing technologies that learn and adapt to us instead of the other way around.

Areas of expertise

Human-Computer Interaction

Assistive Augmentation

Design Thinking & Innovation

Human-Centered Machine Learning 

Committees/Professional groups/Services


  • 2017: Technical Program Co-Chair, Augmented Human International Conference 
  • 2016: Program Committee member, Human Agent Interaction International Conference
  • 2015:  General Chair of the international Augmented Human Conference
  • 2015: Program Committee member, SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Work in progress track.
  • 2014: Chair, Assistive Augmentation workshop at SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
  • 2014: Workshop Committee member, SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
  • 2014: Senior Program Committee Member Augmented Human International Conference
  • 2013: Program Committee member, ACM conference on CHI-SIG, Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia
  • 2013: Program Committee member "1st International Workshop on Multimedia-enabled Aids for the Impaired
  • 2007: Organizing Committee member Spatial Audio for Mobile Devices Workshop in conjunction with MobileHCI’07. 

Editorial Board

  • 2020:  Associate Editor, Augmented Reality


  • 2011-current: I review ~5-8 papers each year for many academic conferences including Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), User Interface Software and Technology  (UIST), Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI), Designing Interactive Systems (DIS), Computer-Human Interaction of Australia (OZCHI) Australasia, Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia, Augmented Human International Conference (AH), Asia Pacific Conference on Computer Human Interaction (APCHI), International Conference on Entertainment Computing (ICEC) and IEEE Virtual Reality(IEEE VR).

External Examinations, Promotions & Judging

  • 2018: Professorial promotion review for City University of Hong Kong 
  • 2012-current: External PhD examiner for 2 PhD theses
  • 2013 -2018: External Examiner for Automation & Mechatronic Systems Course, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore
  • 2011: Judge, National Junior College (NJC) Future Challenge Competition

Committees and Professional Memberships

  • 2018-present: Senior member of Association for Computer Machinery (ACM).
  • Senior member status recognizes those ACM members with at least 10 years of professional experience and 5 years of continuous Professional Membership who have demonstrated performance through technical leadership, and technical or professional contributions
  • 2015-present: Steering committee member of Augmented Humans Conference
  • 2016-present: Member, The Design Society
  • 2016-present: Advisor, Singapore Sri Lanka Business Association (SSLBA)

Grant Reviewing

  • 2019-present: Accessor for MBIE Grants


  • Dr.Reijntjes School for the Deaf in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
  • National Council for the Deaf, Sri Lanka 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • 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


Contact details

Alternative contact

Primary office location

Level 5, Room 511
New Zealand

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