Touch-Based Access to Mobile Internet: Recommendations for Interface and Content Design

Touch-Based Access to Mobile Internet: Recommendations for Interface and Content Design

Minna Isomursu (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland) and Mari Ervasti (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-499-8.ch014
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This chapter reports user experience findings from two field trials, where Mobile Internet access was supported through Near Field Communication (NFC)-based tag infrastructure, The first field trial was done in public urban environment with the infrastructure of 2650 tags and 248 users, and the other field trial dealt with mobile learning with the infrastructure of 11 tags and 220 users. The authors results show that touch-based interaction can provide enhancement to the Mobile Internet user experience. Touch-based access builds a semantic bridge between the physical context of use and the Mobile Internet experience, the user experience converges seamlessly into one where both the physical and digital worlds play a role. The authors report and analyze the subjective experiences of the end users collected during the field trials. As a result, they summarize recommendations for interface and content design.
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Internet content and services are becoming increasingly versatile and soon will integrate with practically all the imaginable and yet unimagined areas of our lives. It seems likely that internet use will not be limited to the boundaries set by desktop use, but rather will be needed and sought after also in mobile situations. The fast technological development of wireless networks and wireless communication devices seems to offer solutions that can make that happen. Modern urban environments are evolving towards Mark Weiser’s (Weiser, 1991) vision of Ubiquitous Computing, where all objects are computerized and networked.

The next wave of growth in the technology outside the traditional PC desktop use is often thought in mundane terms - with such things as cell phones and PDAs. In reality, we stand on the verge of an era that will see previously unimagined networked devices and objects (Meloan, 2003). There are already some exciting applications that span the technology spectrum. Such diverse networked “devices” offer concrete evidence of Metcalfe's Law (Metcalfe, 1995). Metcalfe, one of the developers of Ethernet, formulated that the usefulness of a network increases by the square of the number of nodes (users or devices) connected to the network. “In the future, everything of value will be on the network in one form of another,” says John Fowler, Software CTO of Sun Microsystems (Meloan, 2003). “And once they're on the network, we can aggregate data from those diverse devices, and then deliver that data to equally diverse devices - in informative and compelling ways. Most people think of a PC or a PDA as things connected to the network,” continues Fowler. “But here we are connecting trees, race cars, and astronauts to the network. It's going to become a much more seamless spectrum.”

We currently see a rise to various concepts that integrate the physical world with the virtual one. One of the most popular is the ability to access electronic information from virtually any objects, a vision of the “Internet of Things” (ITU Internet Reports 2005; Saint-Exupery, 2009), as a parallel to the real Internet. Industry and academia have shown big interest in the “Internet of Things” (IoT) in which the Internet extends into our everyday lives through a wireless network of uniquely identifiable objects. Here real world objects have an individual digital presence as embedded computers or visual markers on everyday objects allow things and information about them to be accessible in the digital world; physical objects are uniquely identified and described in a standardized way which facilitates access to and interaction with them.

The Mobile Internet has shown that technological advances and service availability alone do not result in widespread adoption and use (Constantiou et al., 2007). There are still challenges in the Mobile Internet hindering usage and slowing down adoption rates. An example of such a challenge is our limited understanding of how the Mobile Internet differs from the traditional internet experienced through a fixed desktop environment (Isomursu et al., 2007).

Research on mixed reality user interfaces (Milgram et al., 1994) has explored how our physical environment could be enhanced with digital content and services by mixing digital information and affordances with our physical world. The Internet of Things implies a symbiotic interaction among the real/physical, the digital/virtual worlds: physical entities have digital counterparts and virtual representation; things become context aware and they can sense, communicate, interact, exchange data, information and knowledge. NFC (Near Field Communication) technology provides one alternative for adding a link between an object in the physical world and digital content and services associated with that object. This link can be used by direct physical manipulation to provide digital services through a physical interface. These kinds of physical mobile interactions make it possible to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual world in an intuitive way (Falke et al., 2007). The combination of RFID and visual tagging of everyday physical objects and NFC-enabled devices can foster the “Internet of Things” where every resource that surrounds us and its associated services are available through some kind of networking and programming infrastructure (López-de-Ipiña et al., 2007).

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