Interaction

Interaction

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-653-7.ch001
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From Desktop Computing To Ubiquitous Computing To Everyware

Since the introduction of the Personal Computer (PC), in the mid 80´s, i.e. the “PC era” we have witnessed a tremendous development in the area of digital technology. In just 20 years the computer has transformed from being a slow, clumsy and stationary unit to become a lightweight, mobile, and instantly accessible device that has found its way into our everyday lives (Greenfield, 2006). Today, the modern computer is so highly interwoven and blended into our everyday lives, activities, routines, hobbies, and leisure hours that we have started to use terms like embedded, ubiquitous and pervasive computing to describe this disappearing character of modern IT. This development was predicted 15 years ago by Mark Weiser who stated that: “For ubiquitous computing one of the ultimate goals is to design technology so pervasive that it disappears into the surrounding” (Weiser, 1991) and in his paper “The computer for the 21st century” he continue to argue that: “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”.

Today and in a foreseeable future this trend is likely to continue. Many of our surrounding everyday physical environments are changing character as they get blended with new digital material. They are becoming increasingly interactive in a way we have not earlier experienced. These new interactive environments are often portrayed as being responsive, active, sensitive, and in a constant dialogue with us as users or inhabitants. While this trend started out with quite simple and small-scale examples of so called TUIs (tangible user interfaces) in which a user can interact with, and manipulate, digital material though the interaction with physical objects, this trend is now developing on a large scale basis due to the development of new transmaterials (Brownell, 2005), i.e., physical material with interactive characteristics, and with current movements towards the creation of ubiquitous computing landscapes realized through e.g. interactive wall installations, mobile devices and small size computers. This trend is captured in terms like ambient intelligence (e.g. Lindwer, et.al., 2003; Aarts, 2005; Gárate, et.al., 2005) smart environments (e.g. Siegemund, et.al., 2005; Das & Cook, 2006), interactive environments (Pinhanez, & Bobick, 2003) and interactive architecture (e.g. Zellner, 1999). Malcolm McCullough (2004) has argued in his book “Digital ground” that this change towards fully interactive environments has fundamental implications for both the area of architecture as well as computing as we used to know it.

While it sure has been a fast moving transformation concerning the role, form and function of the computer over the last 20 years this transformation do, on the other hand, have some milestones that can be extracted from this process.

In the mid 80s the focus was very much directed towards the computer per se and how to develop it to fit human needs including the development of the graphical user interface (GUI) and better input and output devices (including better screen resolution, the mouse, WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers) de facto standards for GUIs, etc. While this focus on the development of the computer itself was successful there were some voices raised about the danger of applying a machine-centered orientation to life instead of a person-centered view (Norman, 1993). In line with this argument a lot of attention were given to the area of human-computer interaction (HCI) in which a human-centered approach was adopted to guide the design of new digital technologies.

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