Section: Research Program

Interaction with Pervasive Smart Objects and Displays

Currently, the most effective technologies for new media for sensing, perception and experience are provided by virtual and augmented realities [Van Krevelen 2010]. At the same time, the most effective means to augment human cognitive abilities are provided by access to information spaces such as the world-wide-web using graphical user interfaces. A current challenge is to bring these two media together.

Display technologies continue to decrease exponentially, driven largely by investment in consumer electronics as well as the overall decrease in cost of microelectronics. A consequence has been an increasing deployment of digital displays in both public and private spaces. This trend is likely to accelerate, as new technologies and growth in available communications bandwidth enable ubiquitous low-cost access to information and communications.

The arrival of pervasive displays raises a number of interesting challenges for situated multi-modal interaction. For example:

  1. Can we use perception to detect user engagement and identify users in public spaces?

  2. Can we replace traditional pointing hardware with gaze and gesture based interaction?

  3. Can we tailor information and interaction for truly situated interaction, providing the right information at the right time using the right interaction modality?

  4. How can we avoid information overload and unnecessary distraction with pervasive displays?

It is increasingly possible to embed sensors and displays in clothing and ordinary devices, leading to new forms of tangible and wearable interaction with information. This raises challenges such as

  1. What are the tradeoffs between large-scale environmental displays and wearable displays using technologies such as e-textiles and pico-projector?

  2. How can we manage the tradeoffs between implicit and explicit interaction with both tangible and wearable interaction?

  3. How can we determine the appropriate modalities for interaction?

  4. How can we make users aware of interaction possibilities without creating distraction?

In addition to display and communications, the continued decrease in microelectronics has also driven an exponential decrease in cost of sensors, actuators, and computing resulting in an exponential growth in the number of smart objects in human environments. Current models for systems organization are based on centralized control, in which a controller or local hub, orchestrates smart objects, generally in connection with cloud computing. This model creates problems with privacy and ownership of information. An alternative is to organize local collections of smart objects to provide distributed services without the use of a centralized controller. The science of ecology can provide an architectural model for such organization.

This approach raises a number of interesting research challenges for pervasive interaction:

  1. Can we devise distributed models for multi-modal fusion and interaction with information on heterogeneous devices?

  2. Can we devise models for distributed interaction that migrates over available devices as the user changes location and task?

  3. Can we manage migration of interaction over devices in a manner that provides seamless immersive interaction with information, services and media?

  4. Can we provide models of distributed interaction that conserve the interaction context as services migrate?

Research Actions for Interaction with Pervasive Smart Objects for the period 2017 - 2020 include

Situated interaction with pervasive displays

The emergence of low-cost interactive displays will enable a confluence of virtual and physical environments. Our goal in this area is to go beyond simple graphical user interfaces in such environments to provide immersive multi-sensorial interaction and communication. A primary concern will be interaction technologies that blend visual with haptic/tactile feedback and 3D interaction and computer vision. We will investigate the use of visual-tactile feedback as well as vibratory signals to augment multi-sensorial interaction and communication. The focus will be on the phenomena of immersive interaction in real worlds that can be made possible by the blending of physical and virtual in ordinary environments.

Wearable and tangible interaction with smart textiles and wearable projectors

Opportunities in this area result from the emergence of new forms of interactive media using smart objects. We will explore the use of smart objects as tangible interfaces that make it possible to experience and interact with information and services by grasping and manipulating objects. We will explore the use of sensors and actuators in clothing and wearable devices such as gloves, hats and wrist bands both as a means of unobtrusively sensing human intentions and emotional states and as a means of stimulating human senses through vibration and sound. We will explore the new forms of interaction and immersion made possible by deploying interactive displays over large areas of an environment.

Pervasive interaction with ecologies of smart objects in the home

In this research area, we will explore and evaluate interaction with ecologies of smart objects in home environments. We will explore development of a range of smart objects that provide information services, such as devices for Episodic Memory for work surfaces and storage areas, devices to provide energy efficient control of environmental conditions, and interactive media that collect and display information. We propose to develop a new class of socially aware managers that coordinate smart objects and manage logistics in functional areas such as the kitchen, living rooms, closets, bedrooms, bathroom or office.


[Van Krevelen 10] D. W. F. Van Krevelen and R. Poelman, A survey of augmented reality technologies, applications and limitations. International Journal of Virtual Reality, 9(2), 1, 2010