Embedding Context-Awareness into a Daily Object for Improved Information Awareness: A Case Study Using a Mirror

Embedding Context-Awareness into a Daily Object for Improved Information Awareness: A Case Study Using a Mirror

Kaori Fujinami (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan) and Fahim Kawsar (Lancaster University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-857-5.ch004
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In this chapter, a case study on augmenting a daily object, mirror, for a contextual ambient display is presented. The mirror presents information relevant to a person who is standing and utilizing unshareable objects, e.g. a toothbrush, in front of it on the periphery of his/her field of vision. We investigated methods of interaction with the mirror by analyzing user preferences against contrastive functionalities. Experiments were conducted by a Wizard-of-Oz method and an in-situ experiment. The results showed that a short absence of the mirror function was not a big issue for the majority of participants once they were interested in presented information. The analysis also allowed us to specify requirements and further research questions in order to make an augmented mirror acceptable.
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One of the consequences of the convergence of pervasive technologies, including the miniaturization of computer-related technologies, the proliferation of wireless Internet, and advances in short-range radio connectivity, is the integration of processors and miniature sensors into everyday objects. Computing devices now pervade everyday life to the extent that users no longer think of them as separate entities. This development has revolutionized our perception of computing to the extent that we can now communicate directly with our belongings, including watches (Raghunath, 2000), umbrellas (Ambient Devices, 2004), clothes (Baurley, Brock, & Geelhoed, 2007), furniture (Kohtake et al., 2005) and shoes (Paradiso, Hsiao, & Benbasat, 2000). This allows us to acquire personalized information (meeting schedules, exercise logs) and use proactive information services (weather forecasting, stock prices, transportation news) in a timely fashion.

Major challenges in such technology-rich settings include perceiving information, facilitating sustained attention to information of interest, and maintaining awareness of changes in information in an unobtrusive way. Massive amounts of information have the potential to degrade daily living convenience or even create unsafe living conditions. Because of this, it is important to provide information in an appropriate way. This includes taking into consideration the proper media, timing, ease of understanding, location, identity, lifestyle, privacy concerns, and other factors where context-awareness plays a key role. A system that is aware of the context of a user’s activities senses information related to a user (contextual information), after which it may (1) present information and services to a user, (2) automatically execute a service, or (3) tag context to information for later retrieval (Dey, 2000). Numerous studies have addressed the methods and effects of context-aware computing (Addlesee et al., 2001; Beigl, Gellersen, & Schmidt, 2001; Brumitt, Meyers, Krumm, Kern, & Shafer, 2000; Dey, 2000; Want, Hopper, Falcao, & Gibbons, 1992). We have been examining the information overload issues, and investigating sensing technologies, middlewares, and service models for many years (Fujinami & Nakajima, 2005; Kawsar, Fujinami, & Nakajima 2005; Fujinami & Nakajima, 2006; Kawsar, Nakajima, & Fujinami, 2008; Fujinami & Inagawa, 2009), where a daily object is used to obtain user contextual information and/or to present information or provide a service.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Personalization: In Human Computer Interaction, personalization is used to denote the system feature that enables a user to customize the behavior of a system in his/her own personalized way. It involves using technology to accommodate difference between individuals and to represent their uniqueness.

Augmented Daily Objects: A daily object that is augmented with a computational capability to obtain user context and/or present contextual information to a user. People normally use objects to perform specific tasks. For example, they use doors to enter or exit rooms. Sensing the usage state(s) of an object by equipping it with one or multiple dedicated sensors allows a system to infer a user’s current or upcoming action. An augmented daily object is considered as the key element in an implicit interaction.

Wizard of Oz Experiment: A simulation-based user experiment. A subject interacts with a system that he or she believes to be autonomous, while an unseen experimenter actually operates or partially operates the system. The functionality that an experimenter performs might be implemented later, yet the complete implementation is considered irrelevant to the goal of the study.

Two-Way Mirror: A translucent panel that reflects light from the brighter side when the light intensity difference between the two sides of the panel is significant. In other words, bright colors projected onto the panel from behind can be seen from the front, while a reflection of an object placed in front of the panel is seen in the areas that are dark behind the panel.

Context Awareness: A system property that defines the capability of a system to handle context information of a user, a device, and/or a surrounding environment. Examples of context are the location and current activity of a person; remaining battery time of a mobile phone; the ambient light level of a room, etc. A context-aware system should support a user’s decision making by extracting relevant and necessary information from complex and huge amount of data, should perform automated tasks on behalf of a user, and should make a user feel inconvenient and uncomfortable without it.

Implicit Interaction: A style of human-computer interaction that does not require explicit commands from a user, i.e., a system can take appropriate actions to support a user’s primary task or related tasks autonomously. The input to such a system is usually the activity context of a user, and thus it is very natural to a user. In the implicit interaction paradigm, it is essential to consider the unobtrusiveness of the context acquisition as well as service provision mechanisms.

Peripheral/Ambient Display: A display situated at the periphery of human attention with abstract and aesthetic expressions. The display only attracts attention of a person when it is appropriate and necessary, which allows him or her to focus on the primary task at hand. The primary challenge is to design the display in a way that conveys important and just-in-time information without distracting and annoying the user.

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