While being in the north of England I stopped by in Newcastle at the Culture Lab. If the CHI-conference is a measure for quality in research in Human Computer Interaction Culture Lab is currently one of the places to be – if you are not convinced have look at Patrick Olivier’s publications. The lab is one of a few places where I think a real ubicomp spirit is left – people developing new hardware and devices (e.g. mini data acquisition boards, specific wireless sensor, embedded actuators) and interdisciplinary research plays a central role. This is very refreshing to… Continue reading

Jari Ikonen from the Finnish Ubicomp program contacted me last week – interestingly because I shared on this blog the information that I will be in Tampere – and it worked out that we met.

He showed and explained me the demola approach. I find this concept of teaching, training and innovation very exciting. In short demola offers space for students to work on challenging problems that are real and creates opportunities opportunities. Basically companies offer tasks/project to works on. Teams of students (potentially from different universities and fields) will work together to solve it as part of their studies… Continue reading

Given the technologies around us I sometimes wonder how close we are to a vision of ubiquitous computing. In this month IEEE Computer Invisible Computing column I had the pleasure to ask this question and share my view on it.

The short answer is: many technologies are ubiquitous but there is a lot more to come. In particular we see that many technologies (public displays, people centric sensing, and personal memory devices) are just around the corner and that they may have a large impact on how we perceive computing. For the long answer have a look at my article:… Continue reading

Pervasive 2009 had a really exciting program and provided a good overview of current research in pervasive and ubiquitous computing. Have a look at the proceedings of the pervasive 2009 conference. The Noh theater in Nara was a very special and enjoyable venue and it was organized perfectly – as one would expect when travelling to Japan.

The idea of having short and long papers together in the main track worked very well in my view. The number of demos and posters was much higher than in the years before – and that was great and very inspiring. Have… Continue reading

The closing panel at Ubicomp dicussed the last 10 years of ubicomp and potential future direction (with regard to community and technology). On the panel were Gregory Abowd, Hide Tokuda, Lars Eric Holmquist, Eric Paulos, and Albrecht Schmidt. In the following I will just describe some of the points I raised in my short statement.  For me the first observation is that many ideas that were discussed at the first HUC99 (the first ubicomp conference started by Hans Gellsersen) – and were considered very speculative ideas have become common products and services by… Continue reading

The opening keynote at Ubicomp 2008 was presented by Dr. Shim Yoon (Vice President Samsung SDS) on Realizing Ubiquitous Cities. She stated out with a few  scenarios of life in the future. Information is embedded into the environment – just in place and just in time – just what you need. Environments become pleasant and technologies look nice, so you can mistake a power distribution box for a sculpture. Cities will be really save as monitoring will be ubiquitous and continuous. Much of the vision is convincing and convenient (given that you have given up… Continue reading

AJ Brush and John Krumm organize for the people who are in Redmond for the Ubicomp PC meeting a visit to Microsoft. In the morning we got a tour at the home lab – Microsoft’s vision of future home environments – was quite interesting, but had to sign an NDA.After lunch we went over to Microsoft Research (which is in a new building). We got to see some cool demos. Andy Wilson showed us some new stuff moving the SURFACE forward (physics rocks!). I learned more about depth sensing cameras and Andy showed a fun application [1] – there… Continue reading

Last month Aliresa Sahami finished his master thesis on multi-tactile interaction at BIT Bonn and joined our group in Essen. Ali worked for me a student resesearch assistant at Fraunhofer IAIS. During his studies in Bonn we published an interesting workshop paper on mobile health [1] and gave a related demo at Ubicomp [2].

[1] Alt, F., Sahami Shirazi, A., Schmidt, A. Monitoring Heartbeat per Day to Motivate Increasing Physical Activity. Ubiwell workshop at Ubicomp 2007.

[2] Sahami Shirazi, A.; Cheng, D.; Kroell, O.; Kern, D.; Schmidt, A.: CardioViz: Contextual Capture and Visualization for Long-term ECG Data. In:… Continue reading

At social events of conferences interesting things happen. One issue with a borrowed key reminded me of a paper that colleagues in the smart-its project wrote several years ago – smart-its friends [1]. The central idea was to have means to connect objects (make them friends) by a gesture interaction, which is detected by comparing acceleration values. Technically it is feasible and highly interesting, but I wonder about the real world applicability – but the missing key may be evidence for it…

[1] Holmquist, L. E., Mattern, F., Schiele, B., Alahuhta, P., Beigl, M., and Gellersen, H. 2001. Smart-Its Friends:… Continue reading

Today I was reminded of a discussion in 1998 on the implications of computing technologies becoming cheaper and cheaper. Even then it seemed inevitable that many artifacts will include computational and perceptual qualities. The discussion was in the context of the European project TEA (technology for enabling awareness) where we built a context-aware phone [1]. Walter van de Velde suggested imagining that processors, sensors, communication will only cost cents (or will be virtually free as part of the production process) and we worked on the question: what products and services will emerge? One generic answer then was than any… Continue reading

In Frankfurt there was today an expert meeting on RFID and ubicomp organized by the Fraunhofer ISI. The purpose was a discussion about the impact of RFID technologies. The organizers will use our input to inform the creation of a document of technology assessment for the German parliament. The majority of the participants came from companies developing RFID technology or system.In the first part of my talk “RFID and Beyond” I highlighted results from two workshops where I was a co-organizer: PTA2006 and Pertec2007 held at the Pervasive and Percom conferences. The results were also published in 2 papers… Continue reading

At the CHI PC-meeting in Amsterdam I talked to a number of people – and it seems we are not the only one’s who are interested in interactive mirrors. It seems that breaking the physical limitations in time and space, a convention mirror imposes, creates some interest within the research community.

I talked to Boris de Ruyter about the Philips mirror project in the homelab and learned from Bo Begole about their work on interactive mirrors at PARC. It may be interesting to propose a workshop on interactive mirrors at one of the upcoming conference to get the people together… Continue reading

The Fraunhofer institute IAO opened today a new interaction lab in Stuttgart under the topic interaction with all senses. Prof. Spath, director of the Fraunhofer IAO, made a strong argument for new user interfaces. In his talk he discussed adaptive cruse control in cars as an example for user interface challenges.

My talk on “implicit interaction – smart living in smart environments” argues for a sensible mix of user centred design and technology driven innovation. As one example I used the Sensor-Knife which Matthias Kranz implemented.

Prof. Jürgen Ziegler, a colleague at the University of Duisburg-Essen… Continue reading

Over the last few days at Ubicomp 2007 in Innsbruck it was great to catch up with many people from the community. The discussions in the evenings are very inspiring and so were some of the talks.

We tried to explain the idea of ubiquitous computing to journalist and it seems they got the idea. And hence Ubicomp 2007 was featured in the Austrian Press:

Ubicomp 2008 will be in Korea.

Alireza Sahami presented our CardiViz project at the demo session at Ubicomp. We were very happy that the project that was the result of our IPEC course on developing mobile applications was accepted as a demo.

For more details see:Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Diana Cheng, Oliver Kroell, Dagmar Kern, Albrecht Schmidt. CardioViz: Contextual Capture and Visualization for Long-term ECG Data. Adjunct Proceedings of Ubicomp 2007 (Demo).

Jonna Häkkilä, Anind Dey, Kari Hjelt, and I organized organized the Ubiwell workshop (Interaction with Ubiquitous Wellness and Healthcare Applications) at this years pervasive. Alireza presented another paper on heartbeat monitoring there:Florian Alt,… Continue reading

In the resent month the question about ubiquitous, pervasive, ambient computing came up several times. An email by Jos Van Esbroeck motivated me to write my view on it…

Clarifying the terms seems an ongoing process as various communities and individuals use each of those terms for new things they are doing.

For me the best way to discriminate the terms ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, and ambient intelligence is by their origin, history and research communities.

The first term (ubiquitous computing, ubicomp) is linked to Mark Weiser and his vision of computing in the 21st century [1]. In the research… Continue reading

At Zurich Airport Orange and Nokia are running a large printed advert. At a first glance it looks just as a printed large scale poster. The TV screen in one poster and the projected writing on top of another poster are seamlessly integrated. The media design of the overall installation is appealing.

The active screen (could be a 50 inch plasma TV) is the screen of the mobile phone and shows the navigation application. In contrast to most other installations, where screens and printed posters are used, this appears right and it catches people’s attention.

There is work from Scott… Continue reading

The airport Köln-Bonn (CGN) has all the parking spaces monitored with a simple sensor (detects if there is a car or not) and provides displays at the entrance showing the number of open spaces and has active signage in the parking garage leading to the free spaces – additionally it is visualized above each space – probably more a maintenance functions to see if the sensor works.

(looking at the pictures I have probably parked on women-only parking spots…)

On my way home from Toronto it was surprising how many public displays I saw that provided me with ”information about the future”, e.g. telling me when I will be out of time to cross the road, when the next train is due or when my luggage will arrive. These kinds of predictions or contexts are simple to gather and easy to present and best of all: the human is in control and can act on the information. Overall it is reassuring even if the context information is wrong (this is another story about my luggage ;-).

Together with Boriana Koleva I organized the doctoral colloquium at Pervasive 2007 in Toronto. We had 9 students presenting and discussing their PhD work with us.

One central observation was that we come to a point where we have to make more and more ethical decisions. Many things that are technical feasible and harmless within the lab may have sincere implications in the real world. If technologies for tracking, tracing and mining (e.g. social network analysis, location based services, context-aware systems) are deployed beyond the lab the question of choice becomes a real issue – are users aware of it… Continue reading

Some weeks ago I saw for the first time one of the intelligent scales in the wild (=outside the lab). At that time I was really impressed how well it worked (sample size: n=1, product: banana, pack: no-bag, recognition performance: 100%). Last time I was too late so there was no time to play or see other people using it – but today I had some 5 minutes to invest.

The basic idea of the scale is simple and quite convincing. The customers put their purchase on the scales. A camera makes a guess what it is and the selection… Continue reading

Debora Estrin made an interesting statement. The “early challenges” (the thousands or millions of randomly scattered sensor notes) do not have much applicability outside the battlefield. The new challenges are heterogeneity (specific sensors with specific capabilities) and interactivity (basically sense-making is a process where humans are involved). She made the point that the logical consequence is that dealing with data is the essential issue and statistics have an increasing role. Furthermore these new research directions make a stromg call for application driven research. With these very insightful comments she criticised a lot of the current work in sensor networks. Especially… Continue reading

Gregor got for our Perci prototype (Supporting Mobile Service Usage through Physical Mobile Interaction) the best demo award. So it paid off that he spend a night configuring the data services on the phones for the US networks 😉 It is amazing that it is still quite an effort to configure data services for a new provider.

This year we (my previous group from LMU Munich) have a significant presence at PerCom. Form the 20 full papers the Embedded Interaction Research Group (www.hcilab.org) has 3, and additionally 1 of the 7 concise papers is from us. With a total of 207 submissions and an acceptance rate of around 10% this is quite an achievement for the team – and a good high point for the project before moving it to University of Bonn.

Gregor(y) Broll had the demo developed in the Perci-Project yesterday. Lucia Terrenghi and I had our talks today. And Gregor Broll, Sebastian… Continue reading

At PerCom 2007 (www.percom.org) Florian Michahelles (Auto-ID labs, ETH Zurich), Frédéric Thiesse (University of St. Gallen), John R. Williams (MIT Cambridge) and I are running the the PerTec workshop (www.autoidlabs.org/events/pertec2007). There is quite some interest in the topic and the range of topics is from technical to user interface and security.

In contrast to the workshop 1 year ago at Pervasive 2006 it seems that item level RFID-tagging is undisputed and that the only discussion point is when it is coming – in 6 month or 10 years. There is also still some discussion about what… Continue reading

10 years after I have got seen first see the crazy idea of wearable computing it appears that the technology is now really pushing into the marked. Even though one could argue whether or not this is really wearable computing (but this argument is as old as the idea of wearable computing). The last thing I would have expected 10 years ago was Bavarian Lederhosen with a built in user interface for an mp3-player. But nevertheless many challenges are still the same (integration with the aesthetics and fashion statement, durability and wash-ability, connectivity between computer and garment, integrated user interfaces)… Continue reading

At the Fraunhofer Forum at CeBIT I had the chance to talk about future transport solutions. One of my students in Munich (Michael Müller) is working on a pro-active transport container. In the project aware-goods (http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/~albrecht/awaregoods/) we looked into this domain already in 2000 at TecO together with SAP Research. Reiterating over the idea is really interesting as now the technology is really here – sensor network nodes are available, mobile phones offer massive processing power, there is ubiquitous data connectivity, and web service interfaces are available for many applications.

The big question is now on algorithms and… Continue reading

Thecla Schiphorst introduced us in her talk “PillowTalk: Can We Afford Intimacy? to the concept of Affectionate-Computing.The central question is really how can we create intimacy in communication an interaction with and through technology? The prototype showed networked soft objects, that include sensors that recognize tactile qualities and gesture interaction. There are more details in her paper published at TEI’07.

Nigel Davies from Lancaster University in the UK is visiting our group at Fraunhofer and b-it. It was really good to have some time – basically most of the day – to discuss interesting research questions and new direction in pervasive computing.

We discovered that we recently have both looked more into issues related to transport and tracking. I learned about possibilities for developing apps for the TomTom navigation system(which is running linux) and the trakm8 in-car-unit. We had a look at Michael Müller’s (master student I supervise in Munich) video of the smart transport container (more details on this… Continue reading