Title page for ETD etd-07012003-155928

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Ndiwalana, Ali
Author's Email Address andiwala@vt.edu
URN etd-07012003-155928
Title Ubiquitous Computing: By the People, For the People
Degree Master of Science
Department Computer Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
McCrickard, Donald Scott Committee Chair
Bowman, Douglas A. Committee Member
Carroll, John M. Committee Member
  • Invisible computing
  • user preferences
  • community networks
  • ubiquitous computing
  • pervasive computing
  • scenario-based design
Date of Defense 2003-06-19
Availability unrestricted
Computing is moving away from the desktop, permeating into many everyday objects and the environments in which we live. Many researchers in ubiquitous computing are excited about the potential to profoundly change the way we live by revolutionizing how we interact with information. Despite the excitement, few successful applications are making the transition from the laboratories to the mass market. While this could easily be attributed to the immaturity of the research area, it is also a manifestation of a larger problem—the lack of coherent methods, processes or tools that assist designers in thinking about issues pertinent to ubiquitous computing, as they explore potential ideas and develop some of these into working prototypes.

To this end, this research presents an overview of the important characteristics of ubiquitous computing systems identified by many of the leading researchers in the field. Contrasting with conventional systems, we discuss the resulting issues and challenges, and their implications on the future directions of this emerging research area. In a case study, we use scenario-based design to walkthrough the design of a community computing application. At various stages of the design process, the need to focus on more issues relevant to ubiquitous computing design became apparent, resulting in the augmentation of scenario-based design.

The augmented scenario-based design process is proposed as a tool for helping designers conceptualize user activities within given usage circumstances and at various stages of the design process. New questions help to identify the most common pitfalls, enabling designers to produce systems that are more socially acceptable and provide a higher likelihood for adoption by everyday users beyond the laboratory. In initial testing, the augmented process was shown to produce better designs.

The ultimate ambition of ubiquitous computing technology is to be able to serve users anywhere, at anytime. However, taking into account the dynamic nature of user needs and usage situations, is a novel and non trivial undertaking. In essence, it is a fundamental change that requires designers to rethink many of the conventional answers and processes that help guide the creation of interactive systems—We provide a promising approach.

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