On Weiser, Ishii and Ullmer
In “The Computer for the 21st Century,” Mark Weiser describes the ubiquity of writing as a “background presence” of “literacy technology,” which does not require active attention but is prepared to deliver information at a glance. At this point in our history, computers are not similarly embedded in the world around us but are instead only present in “a single box.” Weiser calls for location-aware devices that are intelligently adaptive, and that are built to address specific tasks. He has a vision of “pads” which are to computers what scrap paper is to paper; useful anywhere and the “anitdote to windows.” The idea of mobile pads and live boards (all of the above involving displays) to create ubiquity is at the heart of Weiser’s vision for future computing.
Unlike Weiser, in “Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces Between People, Bits and Atoms,” Ishii and Ullmer state their interest in moving away from GUIs nearly altogether, taking the idea of invisible computers quite literally and embedding them in everyday physical objects. As the authors themselves put it, they are more interested in “awakening richly-afforded physical objects, instruments, surfaces, and spaces to computational mediation, borrowing perhaps more from the physical forms of the pre-computer age than the present.” A key example is the ClearBoard, intended to change a wall “from a passive architectural partition to a dynamic collaboration medium.” The objects in the ambientROOM subtly display and communicate information by their very natures, and not by a concrete display of information on a GUI. As the authors put it, “GUIS fall short of embracing the richness of human senses and skills people have developed through a lifetime of interaction with the physical world.”
Our project is more within the scope of Weiser’s idea of ubiquitous computing, as it is an application written for a GUI, albeit a GUI embedded in a table surface. Particularly considering the project’s extension that I am developing on the iPhone, this system is comparable to pads (iPhone) and live boards (Surface), a bit more ubiquitous and spatially relevant to the different parts of the Davis Museum in which they will be used. Ways in which our project can be a bit more attuned to the goals of Ishii and Ullmer is by including iconography and objects in the application that are modeled on physical objects and interactions with them, moving away from common GUI idioms such as buttons to move forward and to close objects.
November 22nd, 2009