activity-based ubiquitous computing

December 9, 2006

Exploring Activity-Based Ubiquitous Computing: Interaction Styles, Models and Tool Support
Yang Li & James A. Landay


An activity evolves every time it is carried out in a particular situation.
A situation involves a set of tasks or actions performed under certain conditions, e.g., locations, times …

To facilitate our everyday lives, ubicomp technologies, as computing tools, should be
designed based on activities. This includes organizing various ubicomp technologies based on the structure of activities and enabling the context-awareness of ubictechnologies, i.e., knowing what people are doing.

To achieve these goals, we are designing an activity framework for 1) integrating ubicomp technologies into natural human activities, and 2) representing interaction contexts. Our proposed framework will involve key concepts such as activities, situations, actions, roles, tools and status properties. Roles are an abstraction of involved people based on what they do in an activity.

The behavior of toolets (ubiquitous tools) can be contextualized based on how they are attached to an activity framework.

For example, toolets attached to an activity node are designed for providing sustainable support for the lifetime of an activity (such as keeping track of how many steps a person has walked), while ones attached to a situation node address a particular situation of an activity (such as reminding me to take stairs rather than taking an elevator to improve fitness), which are only invoked in that situation.

Status properties characterize the aspects of interest or progress of an evolving activity. directly interacts with.

Activity-based ubiquitous computing affords an implicit interaction style. Interactions in activity-based computing are mainly based on input such as what people are doing as well as in what conditions (e.g., locations and times) an activity is conducted. These inputs are acquired implicitly (e.g., via sensors). This includes not only what a person is doing at the moment but also what people have done in the past and if possible, what people plan to do in the future.

We have concretized activity-based design in the domain of ubicomp and devised an intuitive Theme/Scene/Action design paradigm to streamline the activity-based design process. The design paradigm allows researchers and designers to design activity-based computing using familiar concepts like those used in theaters.
A theme represents an activity that is conducted by human users (e.g., doing more exercise). A theme may be conducted in multiple scenes (e.g., running or riding a bike in a park).
A scene represents a situation and a set of actions can be carried out in each scene.


One comment

  1. The elements for activity-based design suggested here:
    suggest some superstructure to the activity elements proposed by Leontjev (1975/78) and Kuuti (1995)
    Here it seems the following hierarchy could be developed:

    Although the theater terminology is nice in itself, it seems a bit strange if related with lower level elements of the activity.

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