Badge controls displays
Technology Research News
Rooms and public spaces that sense human
presence, notice where attention is focused, and recognize gestures and
spoken commands promise to make interacting with computers as natural
as interacting with people.
Technology that enables smart spaces -- computer vision, gaze
tracking and speech and gesture recognition -- is available. These cutting-edge
components are expensive and difficult to combine into a smoothly functioning
system, however. They also introduce privacy issues.
Researchers at Lancaster University in England have achieved some
smart space capabilities by instead combining several more established
technologies: wireless communications, local area networks and Internet
access. The scheme also promises to protect users' privacy.
The system causes screens near a user to display Internet-based
information that the user is likely to prefer. It can also be used to
control CD players and other media devices.
The system hinges on the pendle, a device that can be worn around
the neck. The pendle contains a computer, wireless transmitter, acceleration
sensor and touch sensor. It automatically transmits user preferences to
nearby computers and can also be taken in hand to perform command gestures,
said Nicolas Villar, a research associate at Lancaster University.
The other components of the system -- wireless receivers, display
devices and a computer that locates appropriate content -- are connected
to a local area network. Simply by wearing the device, a user is able
to inform computers in the environment of his preferences so that the
environment can best tailor its behavior to match the user's interests,
The pendle stores lists of keywords and Internet addresses chosen
by the user and transmits these to receivers placed around the room. The
nearest receiver forwards the information along with its own identification
to a computer that locates the display device nearest the user.
If the information transmitted by a user's pendle is an Internet
address, the display locates the address and shows the page or clip. If
the pendle transmits a list of keywords, the computer searches the Internet
for relevant information and forwards an appropriate Internet address
to the display device.
When the user picks up the pendle, its touch sensor switches the
device to command mode. Holding it up causes the nearest display to access
the next Internet address stored in the pendle. Shaking the pendle removes
the current information from display.
The system can also be used to control sound clips. Shaking the
pendle to the right, for example, can signal a device to advance a CD
to the next track, said Villar.
The system makes it unnecessary to use computers that see and
hear to determine a person's context, said Villar. "The pendle provides
an easier way for the environment to make a guess at [a user's] intentions
by providing a defined list of the user's preferences," he said. This
also allows a user to determine what information to make available to
Though pendles require unique ID's to allow users to issue commands,
the IDs do not have to be linked to users' identities, according to Villar.
Similar technologies exist, including pendants for gesture control
and smart badges that track a person's location so that preferred information
can be displayed on nearby devices. The Lancaster researchers' system
is different because it combines these capabilities to give people both
passive and active means of personalizing display information, according
to Villar. The result is a way to proactively display preferred information
but also allow a person to override the system and explicitly control
The initial prototype of the system displays Web-based information
served up by Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Media Player programs.
Information generated from keywords is displayed for two minutes, which
keeps information relevant but also makes screen shifts infrequent enough
not to distract users, according to Villar. Information generated from
explicit commands remains until the user removes them or leaves the vicinity,
at which point the system returns to displaying keyword-generated information.
The system can be set to display information related to the keywords
for one or a few users, or to the pool of keywords from a wider number
of users. One avenue for improving the system is using more advanced algorithms
for finding relevant information, according to Villar.
The pendle system could be used in practical applications in two
to five years, said Villar.
Villar's research colleagues were Albrecht Schmidt, Gerd Kortuem
and Hans-Werner Gellersen. The work appeared in the December 2003 issue
of Computers & Graphics. The research was funded by the European
Timeline: 2-5 years
TRN Categories: Human-Computer Interaction
Story Type: News
Related Elements: Technical paper, "Interacting with Proactive
Community Displays," Computers & Graphics, December 2003
January 28/February 4, 2004
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