USE

Usable Smart Environments

The Usable Smart Environments (USE) project brings expertise in user-centered design, system development, and evaluation to real-world problems in the space of ubiquitous computing.

We are interested in applying the observe-design-build-assess cycle to such topics as conference room automation, augmented whiteboards, multi-display environments, and awareness, among others.

Conference Room Automation

An ongoing deployment of technology to improve usability and functionality in technologically-augmented conference rooms.

Augmented Whiteboards

Exploring ways of improving interaction with conventional office whiteboards.

Multi-display environments

Bottom-up approach to devising an infrastructure for coordinating interaction among multiple displays.

Supporting distributed collaboration

Investigating the role of awareness in supporting communication among distributed co-workers

 

Related Publications

2010
Publication Details
  • In Proc. CHI 2010
  • Apr 10, 2010

Abstract

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The use of whiteboards is pervasive across a wide range of work domains. But some of the qualities that make them successful—an intuitive interface, physical working space, and easy erasure—inherently make them poor tools for archival and reuse. If whiteboard content could be made available in times and spaces beyond those supported by the whiteboard alone, how might it be appropriated? We explore this question via ReBoard, a system that automatically captures whiteboard images and makes them accessible through a novel set of user-centered access tools. Through the lens of a seven week workplace field study, we found that by enabling new workflows, ReBoard increased the value of whiteboard content for collaboration.

Exploring the Workplace Communication Ecology

Publication Details
  • In Proc. CHI 2010
  • Apr 10, 2010

Abstract

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The modern workplace is inherently collaborative, and this collaboration relies on effective communication among coworkers. Many communication tools – email, blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc. – have become increasingly available and accepted in workplace communications. In this paper, we report on a study of communications technologies used over a one year period in a small US corporation. We found that participants used a large number of communication tools for different purposes, and that the introduction of new tools did not impact significantly the use of previously-adopted technologies. Further, we identified distinct classes of users based on patterns of tool use. This work has implications for the design of technology in the evolving ecology of communication tools.
2009
Publication Details
  • Book chapter in "Designing User Friendly Augmented Work Environments" Series: Computer Supported Cooperative Work Lahlou, Saadi (Ed.) 2009, Approx. 340 p. 117 illus., Hardcove
  • Sep 30, 2009

Abstract

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The Usable Smart Environment project (USE) aims at designing easy-to-use, highly functional next-generation conference rooms. Our first design prototype focuses on creating a "no wizards" room for an American executive; that is, a room the executive could walk into and use by himself, without help from a technologist. A key idea in the USE framework is that customization is one of the best ways to create a smooth user experience. Since the system needs to fit both with the personal leadership style of the executive and the corporation's meeting culture, we began the design process by exploring the work flow in and around meetings attended by the executive. Based on our work flow analysis and the scenarios we developed from it, USE developed a flexible, extensible architecture specifically designed to enhance ease of use in smart environment technologies. The architecture allows customization and personalization of smart environments for particular people and groups, types of work, and specific physical spaces. The first USE room was designed for FXPAL's executive "Ian" and installed in Niji, a small executive conference room at FXPAL. The room Niji currently contains two large interactive whiteboards for projection of presentation material, for annotations using a digital whiteboard, or for teleconferencing; a Tandberg teleconferencing system; an RFID authentication plus biometric identification system; printing via network; a PDA-based simple controller, and a tabletop touch-screen console. The console is used for the USE room control interface, which controls and switches between all of the equipment mentioned above.

DICE: Designing Conference Rooms for Usability

Publication Details
  • In Proceedings of CHI 2009
  • Apr 4, 2009

Abstract

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One of the core challenges now facing smart rooms is supporting realistic, everyday activities. While much research has been done to push forward the frontiers of novel interaction techniques, we argue that technology geared toward widespread adoption requires a design approach that emphasizes straightforward configuration and control, as well as flexibility. We examined the work practices of users of a large, multi-purpose conference room, and designed DICE, a system to help them use the room's capabilities. We describe the design process, and report findings about the system's usability and about people's use of a multi-purpose conference room.
2008
Publication Details
  • Workshop held in conjunction with CSCW2008
  • Nov 8, 2008

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It is increasingly common to find Multiple Display Environments (MDEs) in a variety of settings, including the workplace, the classroom, and perhaps soon, the home. While some technical challenges exist even in single-user MDEs, collaborative use of MDEs offers a rich set of opportunities for research and development. In this workshop, we will bring together experts in designing, developing, building and evaluating MDEs to improve our collective understanding of design guidelines, relevant real-world activities, evaluation methods and metrics, and opportunities for remote as well as collocated collaboration. We intend to create not only a broader understanding of this growing field, but also to foster a community of researchers interested in bringing these environments from the laboratory to the real world. In this workshop, we intended to explore the following research themes:
  • Elicitation and process of distilling design guidelines for MDE systems and interfaces.
  • Investigation and classification of activities suited for MDEs.
  • Exploration and assessment of how existing groupware theories apply to collaboration in MDEs.
  • Evaluation techniques and metrics for assessing effectiveness of prototype MDE systems and interfaces.
  • Exploration of MDE use beyond strictly collocated collaboration.
2007
Publication Details
  • Workshop at Ubicomp 2007
  • Sep 16, 2007

Abstract

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The past two years at UbiComp, our workshops on design and usability in next generation conference rooms engendered lively conversations in the community of people working in smart environments. The community is clearly vital and growing. This year we would like to build on the energy from previous workshops while taking on a more interactive and exploratory format. The theme for this workshop is "embodied meeting support" and includes three tracks: mobile interaction, tangible interaction, and sensing in smart environments. We encourage participants to present work that focuses on one track or that attempts to bridge multiple tracks.
Publication Details
  • Book chapter in: A Document (Re)turn. Contributions from a Research Field in Transition (Taschenbuch), Roswitha Skare, Niels Windfeld Lund, Andreas Vårheim (eds.), Peter Lang Publishing, Incorporated, 2007.
  • Feb 19, 2007

Abstract

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When people are checking in to flights, making reports to their company manager, composing music, delivering papers for exams in schools, or examining patients in hospitals, they all deal with documents and processes of documentation. In earlier times, documentation took place primarily in libraries and archives. While the latter are still important document institutions, documents today play a far more essential role in social life in many different domains and cultures. In this book, which celebrates the ten year anniversary of documentation studies in Tromsø, experts from many different disciplines, professional domains as well as cultures around the world present their way of dealing with documents, demonstrating many potential directions for the emerging broad field of documentation studies.
2006

The USE Project: Designing Smart Spaces for Real People

Publication Details
  • UbiComp 2006 Workshop position paper
  • Sep 20, 2006

Abstract

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We describe our work-in-progress: a "wizard-free" conference room designed for ease of use, yet retaining next-generation functionality. Called USE (Usable Smart Environments), our system uses multi-display systems, immersive conferencing, and secure authentication. It is based in cross-cultural ethnographic studies on the way people use conference rooms. The USE project has developed a flexible, extensible architecture specifically designed to enhance ease of use in smart environment technologies. The architecture allows customization and personalization of smart environments for particular people and groups, types of work, and specific physical spaces. The system consists of a database of devices with attributes, rooms and meetings that implements a prototype-instance inheritance mechanism through which contextual information (e.g. IP addresses application settings, phone numbers for teleconferencing systems, etc.) can be associated

Usable ubiquitous computing in next generation conference rooms: design, architecture and evaluation

Publication Details
  • International workshop at UbiComp 2006.
  • Sep 17, 2006

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In the UbiComp 2005 workshop "Ubiquitous computing in next generation conference rooms" we learned that usability is one of the primary challenges in these spaces. Nearly all "smart" rooms, though they often have interesting and effective functionality, are very difficult to simply walk in and use. Most such rooms have resident experts who keep the room's systems functioning, and who often must be available on an everyday basis to enable the meeting technologies. The systems in these rooms are designed for and assume the presence of these human "wizards"; they are seldom designed with usability in mind. In addition, people don't know what to expect in these rooms; as yet there is no technology standard for next-generation conference rooms. The challenge here is to strike an effective balance between usability and new kinds of functionality (such as multiple displays, new interfaces, rich media systems, new uploading/access/security systems, robust mobile integration, to name just a few of the functions we saw in last year's workshop). So, this year, we propose a workshop to focus more specifically on how the design of next-generation conference rooms can support usability: the tasks facing the real people who use these rooms daily. Usability in ubiquitous computing has been the topic of several papers and workshops. Focusing on usability in next-generation conference rooms lets us bring to bear some of the insights from this prior work in a delineated application space. In addition the workshop will be informed by the most recent usability research in ubiquitous computing, rich media, context-aware mobile systems, multiple display environments, and interactive physical environments. We also are vitally concerned with how usability in smart environments tracks (or doesn't) across cultures. Conference room research has been and remains a focal point for some of the most interesting and applied work in ubiquitous computing. It is also an area where there are many real-world applications and daily opportunities for user feed-back: in short, a rich area for exploring usable ubiquitous computing. We see a rich opportunity to draw together researchers not only from conference room research but also from areas such as interactive furniture/smart environments, rich media, social computing, remote conferencing, and mobile devices for a lively exchange of ideas on usability in applied ubicomp systems for conference rooms.
2005
Publication Details
  • We organized and ran a full-day workshop at the UbiComp 2005 Conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 11, 2005.
  • Sep 29, 2005

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Designing the technologies, applications, and physical spaces for next-generation conference rooms (This is a day-long workshop in Tokyo.) Next-generation conference rooms are often designed to anticipate the onslaught of new rich media presentation and ideation systems. Throughout the past couple of decades, many researchers have attempted to reinvent the conference room, aiming at shared online or visual/virtual spaces, smart tables or walls, media support and tele-conferencing systems of varying complexity. Current research in high-end room systems often features a multiplicity of thin, bright display screens (both large and small), along with interactive whiteboards, robotic cameras, and smart remote conferencing systems. Added into the mix one can find a variety of meeting capture and metadata management systems, automatic or not, focused on capturing different aspects of meetings in different media: to the Web, to one's PDA or phone, or to a company database. Smart spaces and interactive furniture design projects have shown systems embedded in tables, podiums, walls, chairs and even floors and lighting. Exploiting the capabilities of all these technologies in one room, however, is a daunting task. For example, faced with three or more display screens, all but a few presenters are likely to opt for simply replicating the same image on all of them. Even more daunting is the design challenge: how to choose which capabilities are vital to particular tasks, or for a particular room, or are well suited to a particular culture. In this workshop we'll explore how the design of next-generation conference rooms can be informed by the most recent research in rich media, context-aware mobile systems, ubiquitous displays, and interactive physical environments. How should conference room systems reflect the rapidly changing expectations around personal devices and smart spaces? What kinds of systems are needed to support meetings in technologically complex environments? How can design of conference room spaces and technologies account for differing social and cultural practices around meetings? What requirements are imposed by security and privacy issues in public spaces? What aspects of meeting capture and access technologies have proven to be useful, and how should a smart environment enable them? What intersections exist with other research areas such as digital libraries? Conference room research has been and remains a focal point for some of the most interesting and applied work in ubiquitous computing. What lessons can we take from the research to date as we move forward? We are confident that a lively and useful discussion will be engendered by bringing directions from recent ubicomp research in games, multimedia applications, and social software to ongoing research in conference rooms systems: integrating architecture and tangible media, information design and display, and mobile and computer-mediated communications.
Publication Details
  • Paper presented at SIGGRAPH 2005, Los Angeles.
  • Sep 29, 2005

Abstract

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The Convertible Podium is a central control station for rich media in next-generation classrooms. It integrates flexible control systems for multimedia software and hardware, and is designed for use in classrooms with multiple screens, multiple media sources and multiple distribution channels. The built-in custom electronics and unique convertible podium frame allows intuitive conversion between use modes (either manual or automatic). The at-a-touch sound and light control system gives control over the classroom environment. Presentations can be pre-authored for effective performance, and quickly altered on the fly. The counter-weighted and motorized conversion system allows one person to change modes simply by lifting the top of the Podium to the correct position for each mode. The Podium is lightweight, mobile, and wireless, and features an onboard 21" LCD display, document cameras and other capture devices, tangible controls for hardware and software, and also possesses embedded RFID sensing for automatic data retrieval and file management. It is designed to ease the tasks involved in authoring and presenting in a rich media classroom, as well as supporting remote telepresence and integration with other mobile devices.
Publication Details
  • Short presentation in UbiComp 2005 workshop in Tokyo, Japan.
  • Sep 11, 2005

Abstract

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As the use of rich media in mobile devices and smart environments becomes more sophisticated, so must the design of the everyday objects used as containers or controllers. Rather than simply tacking electronics onto existing furniture or other objects, the design of a smart object can enhance existing ap-plications in unexpected ways. The Convertible Podium is an experiment in the design of a smart object with complex integrated systems, combining the highly designed look and feel of a modern lectern with systems that allow it to serve as a central control station for rich media manipulation in next-generation confer-ence rooms. It enables easy control of multiple independent screens, multiple media sources (including mobile devices) and multiple distribution channels. The Podium is designed to ease the tasks involved in authoring and presenting in a rich media meeting room, as well as supporting remote telepresence and in-tegration with mobile devices.