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


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.