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Interfaces Everywhere - Interacting with the Pervasive Computer

IUI 2006 Tutorial "Interfaces Everywhere - Interacting with the Pervasive Computer" at the 10th Int'l ACM Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2006). Sydney, Australia, January 29, 2006.

Short Description

This tutorial gives an overview of the emerging field of everywhere interfaces - which means that computing devices disappear within objects of everyday life and thus enabling omnipresent physical interfaces to the digital world, describes the state of the art of sensor and actuator technologies and shows how to implement a smart artefact for controlling the domestic environment.

Long Description

Most recent advances in microprocessor-, wireless communication- and sensor-/actuator technologies envision a whole new era of computing, popularly referred to as "pervasive" or “ubiquitous” computing. Autonomous, ad-hoc networked, wirelessly communicating and spontaneously interacting computing devices appearing in great number, and embedded into environments, appliances and objects of everyday use will deliver services adapted to the person, the time, the place – or most generally: the context – of their use. The nature and appearance of computing devices will change to be hidden in the fabric of everyday life, invisible networked, and will be augmenting everyday environments to form a pervasive computing landscape, in which the physical world becomes merged with a “digital world”. Computers are becoming invisible. This tutorial will explore the interaction paradigms, interface engineering issues, challenges and enabling technologies associated with the provision of context aware interaction styles within ad-hoc, highly dynamic and frequently changing computing environments, where computers are “invisible”, but physical interfaces are “omnipresent”. Implicit and explicit interaction approaches will be analysed at the frontiers of pervasive, integrated and thus “hidden” technology. Perceived invisibility and the invisibility of technology will spawn the interaction design space challenge, and help identifying strategies for embedding interaction into everyday objects and environments, into literally every "thing".


This tutorial will last half a day.


This tutorial will motivate and explain an IUI topic of emerging importance, and will introduce IUI experts to an IUI subarea in which they are not specialists.


Due to recent technological advances, it has become possible to integrate sensor and actuator technologies as well as wireless communication in everyday objects and environments. These developments open up a huge amount of innovative interaction scenarios, involving new forms of user interfaces. The tutorial will give a first insight into this emerging field of everywhere interfaces and will point out connected potentials and open issues.


This tutorial should interest a broad segment of the IUI community. Students and others who are new in the field of embodied interaction can get a general overview of this emerging field and hands-on experience in the practical part of the tutorial. Experienced researchers will be interested in the state-of-the-art technological overview and should find the exchange of ideas and views valuable.


The tutorial is structured into three parts:

Interaction Paradigms (60 min)

  • Historical foundations
  • Interaction modes and modalities
    • Implicit / explicit interaction
    • Input / output modalities
  • Context awareness
  • Physical / tangible interaction
  • Spatial / ambient interfaces
  • Interaction design space
  • Prototyping everywhere interfaces
    • Methodology / evaluation
    • Platforms for prototyping
  • Social implications

Design and Implementation Principles (60 min)

  • Design
    • Interaction design process
    • Choosing interaction modalities
    • Defining desired abilities, features and properties of artefacts
    • Hardware/software architecture
    • Self-description, -management, and -organi­sation of artefacts
    • Ergonomics and design guidelines
  • Implementation
    • Sensing technologies and recognition techniques
    • Actuators and output technologies
    • Interconnection of everyday objects
    • Software Frameworks
  • Challenges and visions
    • Technological constraints (integration, energy, scalability, …)
    • Impacts of nanotechnology

Case Study (60 min)

  • Functional Description
    • Orientation- and position-sensitive cube for controlling everyday environments.
    • The cube supports natural and intuitive interaction due to its affordance
    • Contains sensors and actuators for identification, position tracking, etc.
  • Presentation sequence
    • Presenting the scenario for controlling everyday environment
    • Describe design / hardware / software for the cube

Instructor Biography

Alois Ferscha

Alois Ferscha received the Mag. degree in 1984, and a PhD in business informatics in 1990, both from the University of Vienna, Austria. From 1986 through 2000 he was with the Department of Applied Computer Science at the University of Vienna at the levels of assistant and associate professor. In 2000 he joined the University of Linz as full professor where he is now head of the department for Pervasive Computing and the speaker of the JKU Pervasive Computing Initiative.

Prof. Ferscha has published on topics related to parallel and distributed computing, like e.g. Computer Aided Parallel Software Engineering, Performance Oriented Distributed/Parallel Program Development, Parallel and Distributed Discrete Event Simulation, Performance Modeling/Analysis of Parallel Systems and Parallel Visual Programming. Currently he is focussed on Pervasive Computing, Embedded Software Systems, Wireless Communication, Multiuser Cooperation, Distributed Interaction and Distributed Interactive Simulation. He has been the project leader of several national and international research projects like e.g.: Network Computing, Performance Analysis of Parallel Systems and their Workload, Parallel Simulation of Very Large Office Workflow Models, Distributed Simulation on High Performance Parallel Computer Architectures, Modelling and Analysis of Time Constrained and Hierarchical Systems, Broadband Integrated Satellite Network Traffic Evaluation and Distributed Cooperative Environments, etc. Currently he is pursuing project work related to networked embedded systems, software frameworks for context computing, coordination architectures and models, wireless and mobile ad-hoc networks and sensor/actuator networks. In his application related work he has built context based application frameworks for the JKU "Wireless Campus" network, public community displays with wireless remote controls ("WebWall"), geo-enhanced, augmented reality mobile navigation systems, RFID based realtime notification systems, wearable computing and embedded internet application frameworks ("DitgitalAura", "SmartCase", "DigiScope").

He has been a visiting researcher at the Dipartimento di Informatica, Universita di Torino , Italy , at the Dipartimento di Informatica, Universita di Genoa , Italy , at the Computer Science Department, University of Maryland at College Park , College Park , Maryland , and at the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Oregon , Eugene , Oregon , U.S.A. He has served on the committees of several conferences like PERVASIVE, UMBICOMP, WWW, PADS, DIS-RT, SIGMETRICS, MASCOTS, TOOLS, PNPM, ICS, etc. Prof. Ferscha is member of the OCG, GI, ACM, IEEE and holds the Heinz-Zemanek Award for distinguished contributions in computer science.

Clemens Holzmann

Clemens Holzmann is a PhD student at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria. His research interests include pervasive and ubiquitous computing, context awareness, sensor technologies, human computer interaction and tangible user interfaces. He received a Dipl.-Ing. degree in 2004 in computer science, and in 2006 he will complete his studies in business informatics. Since 2003, he has been working as a researcher at the Department of Pervasive Computing at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, where he was involved in projects with Siemens AG Germany in the fields of context computing, gesture recognition and human computer interaction. Clemens Holzmann is a member of the Austrian Computer Society (OCG) and IEEE.

Michael H. Leitner

Michael Leitner received the Dipl.-Ing. degree in 2004 in computer science at the Johannes Kepler University Linz. He is a PhD student and researcher at the Department of Pervasive Computing. He has two semesters of teaching experience. Besides, he will complete his study of business informatics, also at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, in early 2006. Michael Leitner is member of the Austrian Computer Society (OCG) and ACM. His research interests include pervasive and ubiquitous computing, human computer interaction, tangible user interfaces, context awareness, sensor technologies, and swarm computing.