What is Ubiquitous Computing?

Some Principles of Ubiquitous Computing

  • The purpose of a computer is to help you do something else
  • The best computer is a quiet, invisible servant
  • The more you can do by intuition the smarter you are; the computer should extend your unconscious
  • Technology should create calm

Back at the old days (meaning also now) we just had a bunch of computers around, objects. Ubiquitous computing is the third wave of computing, just rising. It is computation into the environment. The previous wave was and is personal computing and the very first wave was about mainframes. Ubicomp is launching an age which is called for example "Third Paradigm" computing (by Alan Kay of Apple).

Ubicomp goes a bit further than the traditional HCI (= Human Computer Interaction). The basic idea is that all the information processing is integrated and embedded into everyday objects. This means interacting (simultaneously) with all the information-processing devices invisibly, without thinking of it or even realizing it, casually. And of course location and context are not an issue.

What also enlightens ubicomp is that it is opposite to virtual reality. This is because virtual reality puts people inside a computer generated world. Ubicomp is about people living in real life and in a way forgetting that computers even exist. This situation between virtual reality and ubicomp has also inspired a cartoon. Ubicomp doesn´t also mean any personal device or such, it just is everywhere.

Ubicomp can´t be put to just one category: it is a mix and integration of human factors, computer science, engineering and social sciences.

Mark Weiser sees that ubicomp has been inspired by the social scientists, philosophers and anthropologists at PARC (= Palo Alto Research Center by Xerox). Their goal has been finding out what computing and networking ought to be like. The motto so to say is that people live through their practices and tacit knowledge: the most powerful things are those that are effectively invisible in use. Computer science just has to accept the challenge. Since those challenges are coming. Maybe soon there will be hundreds of wireless computing devices per person per office. Display sizes from tiny 1" to covering a whole wall. What changes the operating systems, user interfaces, networks, wireless and displays has to face!

There is another point, though, that Weiser also sees. Computers and such have been made tempting and gorgeous, people are wanted to grow so attached to their gadgets that they don´t want to be without them.

Other terms meaning the same: pervasive computing, calm technology, things that think, everyware, ambient intelligence, pervasive Internet, physical computing, the Internet of Things, haptic computing.

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