Future Computing Environments

Weekly Discussion Group on Future Computing Environments

Fall Quarter 1996

CS 8011H

Time and Place: Tuesdays 5-6:30pm, GCATT building, Home Information Infrastructure Lab

We are currently meeting over in the GCATT building, second floor, the Home Information Infrastructure Lab. For those who want to leave together from CoC, we will assemble in the lobby on the first floor at 4:45pm.


General information

Current week

Previous quarters

The general focus this quarter is on future computing environments in the home. See Home Automation Links for some pointers relating to the topic.

We will read about current work in the area and try to live out the experience in an appropriate atmosphere on or off campus.

We may also use Classroom 2000 technology as a means of recording the discussions.

Sources of Potential Readings



Chris Atkeson and Gregory Abowd



Software Mechanisms for Communicating Appliances
Jen Mankoff (jmankoff@cc.gatech.edu)



Rob Orr (rjo@r49h228.res.gatech.edu)

Tuesday's FCE meeting will focus on "the embedded internet", and specifically what microcontrollers, reliable light-weight operating systems, and embedded computer applications are doing for making computers ubiquitous and invisible to the user (ok, ok...so this is largely what the whole seminar is about). A good summary article on this topic was published in the October issue of Wired. An analogy is made there between the evolution of electric motors and one possible path for computing. The electric motor a century ago was large, had to be installed and operated by specialists, and was fairly expensive. Over the intervening decades, the motor has shrunk in size, increased in reliability, and has become so trivial to use that today we hardly notice them even though they are in widespread use. A similar phenomenon may occur in computing. Central to this possibility is the use of reliable light-weight operating systems (and accompanying microcontrollers) such as OS9, pSOS, JavaOS, and Inferno. These OSes, unlike dominant systems such as UNIX or Windows, offer reliability, small size, portability, and low cost, while like their larger progenitors allow networking of small embedded devices.

Speculative examples of devices that these technologies might help bring about are given in another October Wired article. These objects, such as interactive wallpaper and a flexible screen travel planner, are also shown at Philips "Vision of the Future" magazine. Also interesting are other issues of this magazine.

n On a more down-to-earth note, currently available kitchen cyber-devices have been sighted at www.diba.com and in a mail-order catalog. Also, home automation and networking pages can be found at www.smart-house.com and www.cnet.com.

This month's "issue" of Phillips Electronics' Vision of the Future discusses possibilities for future hospitals, including a centralized network, patient monitoring, entertainment, etc.

Also available on this page are the other issues of Vision of the Future. Last month, Gregory pointed out the issue on "Personal Touch" products, but there are also issues on the future home, and the future of public buildings and streets. They're all worth checking out.


Indoor positioning and the home
Santi Becera and Anind Dey

The topic for this week is techniques for achieving indoor positioning and the value of such a service in the home. The objective is to discuss what potential positioning systems are practical and possible in the home and what kinds of services become possible with positioning.



Design exercise
Jen Mankoff

This week, we are going to split into groups of 3 and work on some scenarios for the home of the future. We'll bring along some tools and equipment (paper, crayons, wierd tools from in jen's house, etc) for inspiration and as something to work with.

We plan to spend about the first hour designing, and then depending on the state of our collective creative juices either continue designing or start presenting the ideas.

Next time you go home (or run an errand) ... start noticing all the things you have to compensate for, and start thinking about what computers could do for you.


Specifications for smart homes
Chris Atkeson

There have been several attempts to provide "specifications" for the kind of services we have been discussing. One is described in http://www.cselt.stet.it/fipa/tokyo/cfp1.htm A possible seminar topic is to discuss this, and some alternatives if we can track them down, and see what we think:
  1. What are the goals of providing such a specification? - it seems to me the hard problem is how to allow many designers/programmers to provide components of a smart home, that have some chance of working together.
  2. Are such specifications useful, or will other forces drive what happens?
  3. What level should the specification be?
  4. What elements of each specification or type of specification are desirable?


The Intel perspective
Paul Osterlund, Intel

Paul will be visiting the FCE seminar and give us a perspective on what Intel's plans are for the home.


Wearable Computing and Augmented Reality
Thad Starner, MIT Media Lab

Special location This lecture will be held in Room 102 of the College of Computing.

To date, personal computers have not lived up to their name. Most machines are constrained to desktops and interact with their owners for only a small fraction of the day. Smaller and faster notebook computers have made mobility less of an issue, but the same staid user paradigm persists. Wearable computing hopes to change the premises of human-computer interaction. A person's computer should be worn, much as eyeglasses or clothing are worn, and interact with the user based on the context of the situation. With heads-up displays, unobtrusive input devices, personal wireless local area networks (Personal Area Network), and a host of other context sensing and communication tools, the wearable computer can act as an intelligent assistant, whether it be through automatic memory aids (Remembrance Agent), augmented reality, or intellectual collectives.

Thad Starner is one of the premier researchers in wearable computing. After the lecture, Thad will assist us in the development of our very own wearable computer for use in Cyberguide.

General Information

Readings will either be included on this page as links or will be made available each week on the file cabinet behind Gwen Baker's desk (264 CoC).

To subscribe to the mailing list for FCE, send a request to Majordomo@cc.gatech.edu with the line 'subscribe future your-address (Your Name)' in the body of the message.

For questions regarding this web site or the FCE group, please contact: abowd@cc.gatech.edu

Future Computing Environments Georgia Institute of Technology