Cell phones and other handheld electronics devices are gaining abilities previously reserved for personal computers, in addition to their own unique attributes. With rich UI options, powerful processors, and multiple avenues of connectivity, they are primed to host the next major HCI experience. But this shift need not be confined to the screen.
Our computing experiences are dominated by activities such as social networking and information retrieval, consuming and sharing bite-sized chunks of content with little thought. The exponentially expanding flood of information from the Internet and sensors embedded in our lives is too large and varied to be represented in traditional formats, especially as screens have only shrunk.
Cell phones, already at the center of this lifestyle, are well-positioned to carry us closer to invisible, ubiquitous computing. We describe a practical vision of ubiquitous computing with tangible interfaces, achievable in the near future, that orbits around an individual and is mediated by his or her personal consumer electronic devices.
We illustrate this with a software and hardware platform for creating a personal area network of information accessories, connecting people physically with network-accessible information.
The toolkit hardware consists of a Bluetooth module outfitted with I/O pins for connecting input sensors and output actuators. The software component resides on a handheld consumer electronics device acting as a router between the Bluetooth modules and the Internet. We use this platform to create three examples of network-aware computational consumer objects.
This paper outlines a cell phone centric platform that consists of Fingers which are small I/O boards that are embedded in personal objects, and Hand routing software running on a cell phone. These are connected by software layers in the Hands, called knuckles, that manage the communications hardware, such as Bluetooth or Zigbee.
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