Distributed Intelligent Conferencing Environment

The goal of the Distributed Intelligent Conferencing Environment (DICE) project is to create smart rooms that anyone can use with ease. 

Today most smart meeting and lecture spaces are loaded with technology that often can only be operated with assistance from professional technicians. The goal of the Distributed Intelligent Conferencing Environment (DICE) project is to create smart rooms that anyone can use with ease. The DICE project is associated with the Usable Smart Environments (USE) project.

We built the DICE system to meet requirements gathered from extensive interviews and observations of current practices. The system provides a flexible, extensible architecture specifically designed to enhance ease-of-use for smart environment technologies. The architecture is designed to allow customization and personalization of smart environments not only for many different types of work, but also for different groups, users, and physical spaces.

Currently DICE is deployed in a large multi-purpose conference room, Kumo, and a smaller meeting space, Niji. We are conducting ongoing user studies and observations of use in both spaces, and are using our findings to improve the system.

Related blog posts.

Before and After Photos

Podium (before) DICE podium
DICE Podium Before DICE Podium After
Video switch (before) DICE console
DICE Video Switch  DICE
Room wiring (before) DICE podium (close-up)
DICE Wiring Sketch DICE Podium Close-Up

Related Publications


Designing an easy-to-use executive conference room system

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


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


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.

Embodied Meeting Support: Mobile, Tangible, Senseable Interaction in Smart Environments

Publication Details
  • Workshop at Ubicomp 2007
  • Sep 16, 2007


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.

The USE Project: Designing Smart Spaces for Real People

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


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


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.
Publication Details
  • We organized and ran a full-day workshop at the UbiComp 2005 Conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 11, 2005.
  • Sep 29, 2005


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.