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Posted: September 30th, 2006 | No Comments »

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In my UbiComp06 Doggy Bag

Posted: September 30th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

The notes that made into my paper and digital moleskines during last week’s UbiComp06 conference at the O.C.

My first participation to ubicomp reaffirmed my conviction that the field is still very much at its infancy and looking for itself. What more can we expect from a 20 years young research field. There are still debates on the definition and categorization of ubiquitous computing. In his conference notes Joe McCarthy (Nokia Resarch, Palo Alto) notes that the field seems to be moving beyond “technology in search of a problem” to a “technology in search of an application” within a problem domain. From the many papers on the subjects location, location and location, it seems to be agreed as a problem area. I would comment that niche ubicomp applications exist (object tracking, fleet/emergency management, health care). However, we are still considering ubicomp systems could have a more general direct profitable impact on people.

The mix of researchers, designers, hackers, and sci-fi writers, makes ubicomp probably one of the most dynamic and exciting computer science field to do research in. However, I hope the community will be able to move beyond the now yearly classic (yet imaginative) “ubicomp umbrellas” into more defined research approaches, methodologies and methods. In that sense, the quali-quanti discussion (replacing the highly expected Genevieve Bell (Intel Research)’s No more SMS from Jesus talk) was precious to me. Marc Davis (Yahoo! Research, Berkeley) mentioned that we now are able to access an incredible quantity of data (ranging from interview to logged actions) that allow us to gain information about different layers: from micro scale cognitive insights to large group processes (e.g. social groups, national issues). He coined this mixed qualitative and quantitive method as the new “computational social science” or the “new social science of the 21st century”.

The presentations related to my work covered the themes of positioning, activity inferencing (from location data), seamful design, mobility and user studies.

Activity inference was presented in several forms. Timothy Sohn (UC San Diego) demonstrated in Mobility Detection Using Everyday GSM Traces the ability to recognize mobility modes from GSM traces. The logs generated by the everyday lives of three data collectors over a period of one month, yielding an overall average accuracy of 85%, and a daily step count number that reasonably approximates the numbers determined by several commercial pedometers. He interpreted motion detection by interpreting changes in the set of nearby towers and signal strengths as indicative of motion. In order to do so, he used the Euclidean distance values between consecutive GSM measurements. In Practical Metropolitan-Scale Positioning for GSM Phones, Mike Chen (Intel Research, Seattle) showed that existing GSM devices can achieve a positioning accuracy with a median error of 94-196 meters. He observed that the positioning accuracy varies significantly across algorithms (centroid, fingerprinting and gossian processes), by a factor of almost 4. John Krumm (Microsoft Research) introduced in Predestination: Inferring Destinations from Partial Trajectories an open-wold model to evaluate driving destinations (closed world model would be based on destination people have already gone before). Data from the Natural Household Transportaton Survey were used to define a probabilistic grid of destinations and efficient driving likelyhood. This study shows that destination tend to cluster in steady state over a couple of weeks. The best performance on 3667 different driving trips gave a median error of two kilometers at the trip’s halfway point. This works did not show any direct application and Krumm presented it as an anticipation of future LBS (mobile marketing?). In a comment, Saadi Lahlou, (EDF R&D) mentioned that in this work we are dealing here with privacy on the future and not only on the past. Jon Froehlich (UC Irvine) Voting With Your Feet: An Investigative Study of the Relationship Between Place Visit Behavior and Preference presented a study on implicit indicators of preferences that showed that the travel effort as an aspect of preference on the places people go to. The study used two experience sampling method (EMS) triggers (contextual based on the GSM signal and a random time trigger). The results show that, first, sensor-triggered experience sampling is a useful methodology for collecting targeted information in situ. Moreover, there exist positive correlations between place preference and automatically detectable features like visit frequency and travel time. The most suprising piece of work on location detection was probably Shwetak Patel‘s (Georgia Tech) PowerLine Positioning. His system uses 2 modules installed on a house electrical power system. The modules send low frequency signals back and forth. Receivers can detect the strength of the signals and a fingerprinting algorithm is used to estimate a position based on those signals. The approach achieves an accuracy distribution of 92% for 3 meter regions, 67% for 1 meter regions, and 42% for 0.5 meter regions.

On the seamful design subject, it was not Gregor Broll (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich) but Leif Oppermann instead( Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham) who presented Tycoon (map zone with events). He showed (later also presented by Matthew Chalmers) a video, visualizing GPS shadows prediction, made by Anthony Steed (University College London) as part of the Equator project . Tycoon visualizes the invisible at authoring time. Not only does it consider the physical and content layers but also the infrastructure layer. Part of the work is based on the assumption that data will never be complete and complitely accurate.

Enrico Rukzio (from Albrecht Schmidt‘s Research Group Embedded Interaction, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich) presented a user study on physical mobile interaction techniques (i.e. interaction with things and smart objects). The investigated interaction techniques include touching, scanning, pointing. He used a user-centered design approach (analysis, low-fidelity prototype, high-fidelity, user study with 20 participants). As a result, users preferred touching: good, then pointing:average, and finally scanning: bad. He added that interaction depends on location, activity and motivation. Current location seems to be the most important. Enriko’s next step might be to investigate further the location aspect.

Eamonn O’Neill and Vassilis Kostakos (University of Bath, UK) presented a study (paper) on the relation between the architectural space and people mobility. An investigation of ubicomp on the people. They used BT scanning at severy key points Bath. They described a combined scanning for discoverable Bluetooth devices with gate counts and static snapshots. Apparently, 7.5% of pedestrian had discoverabl BT devices. I particularly enjoyed their analysis and visualization of the data and visualizations. This is part of the Cityware project.

W. Keith Edwards (Georgia Tech) organized a panel on “Interaction and Infrastructure: Crossing the Divide in Ubicomp Research”:

Mark Ackermann (University of Michigan) mentionned the difference between technically working and socialy workable. A subject he covers in his paper The Intellectual Challenge of CSCW: The Gap Between Social Requirements and Technical Feasibility. How and when sharing information changes behavior. That is people have very nuanced behaviour concerning how and with whom they wish to share information. We should consider social activity as fluid and nuanced (Erving Goffman), socio-historical social constructions that guide action (Harold Garfinkel) invisible technologies (Neil Postman), and bricolage (Edwin Hutchins). Moreover, wee should make the following social assumptions: roles are informal and fluide, exception is the rule, people are used to resolve breackdowns. Mark also mentioned darwinian co-evolution. That is, people not only adapt to their systems, they adapt their systems to their needs. The final message was a request to break open the infrastructure and interaction and consider what we cannot do (gap between what we do and what we know).

AJ Brush (Microsoft Research) ranted that ubicomp should be designed for the uninterested (!= dumb) user and the facilitate the management by professionals.

Anthony La Marca (Intel Research, Seattle) refered to the software making essay by Richard Gabriel on “worse is better“. In our context, the worst is when there is not interaction at all, it means failure. Simplicity of both interface and implementation is more important than correctness, consistency and completness. Currently we have barley functionning version and we should resist trying for the perfect solution (let’s throw more gas on the fire). Something to which Barry Brown (University of Glasgow) added that we in (ubicomp) research are obsesed with complexity. Matthew Chalmers (University of Glasgow) agreed that if you look fro details, you’ll find them. Decision on what complexity you want to ignore. Mark Ackermann

Matthew Chalmers (University of Glasgow) made a talk on seamful design (i.e. when the infrastructure becomes visible). The base of this approach is that systems will never fit to the context of use. Persistently used in a visible way (availability, accuracy, software functionality).
In the Q&A, Joseph ‘Jofish’ Kaye (Microsoft Research) mentioned not mention was made to ubicomp outside of the developed countries, and that no scenarios mentioned 3rd world’s needs. It is true that infrastructures dealing with intermittent connectivity such as DakNet are rarely taken into consideration.

Sci-Fi writer Bruce Sterling presented his Spime Meme map made of atom and bits recyling cycles/loops. His talk did not differ much from the one at LIFT earlier this year at the exception of a rant on panpsychism (objects are alive and smart). Technology is not magic and we should not be lying to people. A viewpoint I share (“AI is a God in a box”). I could not write down/remember everything, but a podcast is available from the LUCI blog.

Designer/research/teacher Brenda Laurel thoughts on Designed Animism were harder to grasp. Partially due to some references I was not familiar with and also due to her rhetoric not very directed to a globish audience. Nevertheless I enjoyed her humanist vision. Ubicomp should make us more closer and aware of nature. She concluded that “If I had more sensors, my body could be the world”.

I find attractive pervasive technologies that provide self/mutual/social/nature awareness (keywords: mirroring). Unlike prozac-like environment (keywords: seamfullness, calm) that are about “monitoring” or “motivating behavior change” or “positive reinforcement”.

Relation to my thesis: My poster triggered interesting discussions. Uncertainty is an old insovable? problem. Andrew L Kun (University of New Hampshire) on the design and deployment of location-aware systems, Mike Chen (Intel Research) on mobility inference with GSM networks. Jae-Woo Chung (MIT Media Lab) on GPS and LBS in Korea and others on uncertainty is an old insovable? problem and on my contribution comparing to Can You See Me Now.

Except the Tycoon presentation, some references made by Enirco Rukzi and Matthew Chalmers talk I have not noticed more work on the missmatch between the virtual and phisical (except Brol). Works on mobility inferences mention results in % of precision with a certain range of accuracy. I question “What do with the 10%… when do they happen and how do they impact the experience of a location-aware system”. In Joe McCarthy (Intel Research) analyses it as follow:

I’m glad to see progress being made on positioning technologies and techniques, but the question I have for all of this research is how good is good enough — how accurate do positional systems have to be in order to be useful / acceptable? I’m reminded of the expression “close isn’t good enough, except with horseshoes hand grenades” … I wonder if / when we’ll be able to add more, er, applications to that

Finally, mobility/activity inference at large-scale is something that I have been looking at the last 12 months from a Transportation Research perspective and in a project at Simpliquity. From what I have seen from Intel Research, Seattle and Micfosoft Research’s works, the collection, analysis and visualization of location information and uncertainty generated by people’s mobility is an engaging/underexploited domain of ubicomp.

Landed in SoCal

Posted: September 14th, 2006 | No Comments »

This way
for next week’s UbiComp 2006.

A framework for contextual mediation in mobile and ubiquitous computing applied to the context-aware adaptation of maps

Posted: September 10th, 2006 | No Comments »

Chalmers, D., Dulay, N., and Sloman, M. 2004. A framework for contextual mediation in mobile and ubiquitous computing applied to the context-aware adaptation of maps. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 8, 1 (Feb. 2004), 1-18.

The authors present “contextual mediation” as an approach to meeting needs and limits arising from context. They illustrate it with a context-aware map application and present experimental results and experiences which demonstrate that contextual mediation enhances the usability of the application in restrictive contexts of use.

Contextual mediation operates by selecting the most appropriate subset of the offered data in order to satisfy a request. This is a form of application-aware adaptation. Different users, in different contexts, will have differing preferences. Mediation must be able to differentiate between useful and unwanted data and use this differentiation to meet goals, such as timely delivery, screen space availability and price limits.

Contextual Mediation Dan Chalmers

The data to mediate are categorized as follow: A response to a request is called a document. It may be an area of a map, a Web page, etc. The semantic structure of a document is described by elements. In a map a feature would be described as an element, e.g. the river Thames, the M1, which would take types of river and road. The data realizing the document are referred to as variants.

Contextual Mediation Map Metada

Utility functions are used to select amongst element to define which are useful and which variants of these elements would be the best for a specific context as well as how much degradation the alternative variants cause. A degradation path will reflect the utilities of the data, such that the least important will be offered for degradation first. User contextual cues are location, speed of movement, task (e.g. delivery, tourist), activity (e.g. passenger, driver) and screen size.

The users studies was based on maps printed on cards as the map application developed had some technical, HCI and data distribution limitations. For most users the mediated maps were both faster to use and subjectively better.

The authors define six uses of contextual information:

  • Contextual sensing: where the context is sensed, and information describing the current context
  • Contextual augmentation: where context is associated with data
  • Context triggered action: such as loading map data for the next location predicted
  • Contextual mediation: use of context to modify services provided or the data requested to best meet the needs of the user arising form the context of the interaction
  • Context aware presentation: adaptation of the user interface or the presentation of data.

Relation to my thesis: Mediation helps dealing with the multiple constraints (technological, economical, physical, human) of ubiquitous systems. It is the process of highlighting the most relevant information according to the context and avoid unnecessary data visualization clutter and network dependance (e.g. managing latency). However, their network model takes does not take into consideration connectivity issues into consideration (only fluctuant throughput). Interestingly, the map application was not used for user studies as some sort of post-prototype evaluation.

Relevant references:
Chalmers D, Sloman M and Dulay N (2001) Map adaptation for users of mobile systems. In: Proceedings of the 10th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW-10), Hong Kong, China, May 2001

Schmidt A, Aidoo KA, Takaluoma A, Tuomela U, van Laerhoven K and van de Velde W (1999) Advanced interaction in context. In: Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Handheld and Ubiquitous Computing (HUC’99), Karlsruhe, Germany, June 1999

Approaches to Uncertainty Visualization

Posted: September 10th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Alex Pang and Craig Wittenbrink and Suresh Lodha. “Approaches to Uncertainty Visualization“. In The Visual Computer, vol. 13, no. 8, pp 370–390, 1997.

This paper surveys techniques for presenting data together with uncertainty introduces as the data are derived, transformed, interpolated, and rendered. These uncertainty visualization techniques present data in such a manner that users are made aware of the locations and degree of uncertainty in their data so as to make more informed analyses and decision.

This research lies in the lack of methods that present uncertainty and data. The common underlying problem is visually mapping data and uncertainty together into a holistic view. The ultimate goal of uncertainty visualization is to provide users with visualizations that incorporate and reflect uncertainty information to aid in data analysis and decisions making. The authors define uncertainty to include statistical variation or spread, error and differences, minimum-mamixum range values, noise, or missing data. In this paper, 3 types of uncertainty are considered: statistical, error and range.

The sources of uncertainty, errors and ranges within data include:

  • Uncertainty in acquisition: With instruments, there is an experimental variability whether the measurements are taken by a machine or by a scientist. The more times the measurements is taken, the more confident the measurement. But there will be a statistical variation in these measurements.
  • Uncertainty in transformation: Data are rescaled, resampled, quantized prior or as part of the visualization stage. These transformations alter the data from its original form, and have the potential of introducing some uncertainty.
  • Uncertainty in visualization: The rendering process introduces uncertainty arising form the data collecting process, algorithmic errors, and computational accuracy and precision.

 ~Kpotter Library Uncertainvis Pang1997 Pang 1997 Image 1

The authors create a classification of uncertainty visualization techniques with five characteristics:

  1. Value of datum and its associated value uncertainty (scalar, vector, tensor, multivariate)
  2. Location of datum and its associated positional uncertainty (0D, 1D, 2D, 3D, time)
  3. Extent of datum location and value (discrete or continuous)
  4. Visualization extent (discrete or continuous)
  5. Axes mapping defines visualization mapping (experimental or abstract)

The authors developed a variety of new uncertainty visualization methods. They are organized into a table showing general approach versus applications domain.

 ~Kpotter Library Uncertainvis Pang1997 Pang 1997 Image 4

  • Add glyphs: a glyph is a geometrically plotted specifier that encodes data values
  • Add geometry: While glyphs do add geometry, they are placed at discrete locations. Adding geometry is used to denote a more continuous representation of data. Techniques include contour lines, isosurfaces, streamlines, and swept surfaces and volumes.
  • Modify geometry: Geometry may be translated, scaled, rotated, or generally warped or distorted. They may also be displace, subdivided or refined.
  • Modify attributes: uncertainty can be visualized by modifying attributes of geometrey in the rendered scene.
  • Animation: Application to most applications, including comparison of animation data and techniques. Uncertainty information can be visualized by mapping them to animation parameters such as: speed or duration, motion blur, range or extend of motion.
  • Sonification: Mapping uncertainty to sound.
  • Psycho-visual approaches: stereo-pairs and subliminal messages

 ~Kpotter Library Uncertainvis Pang1997 Pang 1997 Image 7

From the author’s exploration of uncertainty visualization techniques, they have found that continuous visualization extents are more challenging than discrete visualization techniques. This is based on a basic methodology that uses visual tests where users examine visualizations and decode the information within the graphics. The amount of errors between the user interpretation and the encoding is statistically evaluated to determine if the visualization is effective.

Similar papers include:
Visualizing Geospatial Information Uncertainty: What We Know and What We Need to Know and Visualizing Uncertainty in Geo-Spatial Data.
Relation to my thesis: the pipeline of the sources of uncertainty has similarities with my current categorization. The methodology to evaluate infoviz is based on visual tests in during which the user interpretation is evaluated. Interesting reference is the report which identifies four ways of expressing uncertainty:

Barry N Taylor and Chris E Kuyatt. Guidelines for evaluating and expressing the uncertainty of NIST measurement results. Technical report National Institute of Standards and Technology Technical Note. Gaithersburg MD January

Real-Time Traffic Routing from the Comfort of Your Car

Posted: September 9th, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Real-Time Traffic Routing from the Comfort of Your Car reports on TrafficAid, a traffic mapping system developed by IntelliOne, that identifies congestion in real time using cell phone location provided by GSM operators. The measurement system processes thousands of device locations per second, “snaps” each device to the road network, and monitors movement for a short period of time. Multiple devices moving along the same roadway in the same direction are aggregated to generate an average speed for the roadway between points (road segments).

 Images I Solutions Roadway  Newman Gfx News Traffic1 H

Relation to my thesis: The system must rely on the amount of sensors (i.e. cell phones and GSM towers) in order to give precise and accurate congestion location (road segment) and traffic speed information. I suspect it does not work with the same reliability on roadways, highways and rural areas. Therefore I find the following claim of ubiquitous reliability rather doubtful:

Unlike traditional GPS navigation systems that depend on 511-type information, TrafficAid updated much more quickly and accurately represented traffic speeds to within 3-5 miles per hour at any given location.

I am wondering if the system renders the uncertainty of the information delivered.

Similar systems using real-time RF data include Mobile Phone Based Radio Meter, Real-Time Maps of Wireless Internet Use, and Real-time Rome.

Quick Meeting wih PhD Advisor

Posted: September 8th, 2006 | No Comments »

Design for navigation between bus lines
We discussed the opportunity to contribute to a project on the reorganization of the Barcelona bus network. Participants would include Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona, Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, and known private ubiquitous companies. I would be involved in design of bus line exchange modalities. One could think of recreating an metro station on a open street level. Examples include the Curitiba (Brazil) bus stops. LBS, ambient displays and NFC would be used to recreate the underground metaphor. I will to write a small proposal on the navigational aspect of such environment. It could be named “supporting navigation in bus line exchange” and I plan to suggest the investigation the access to relevant contextual information, their modalities and constraints. It made me also thing about recent Georges Amar (RATP) interview after a workshop on locative media at upFing06. He suggests that the metro stations should become place for exchange. Instead of being a constraint to fluidity, the crowd could become a resource for relations (“foule sentimentale“). On the same subject, current theme of “Les Brèves Chronos” is about “Naviguer en mobilité in situ“.

I shall pitch “new but useful” ideas as well as a few “crazy things”.

Curitiba bus stops

22@ WiFi coverage

He pointed me to a document describing the ICING city testbeds. The wireless coverage to support ubiquitous mobile wireless broadband access to the services is slim to my view. A wireless access service will cover eight concrete areas including bus stops, parking zones, and the major companies installed in the 22@ district. Well, I could take advantage of such a patchy network.
Wifi Coverage 22

Moreover, plenty of CCTV cameras will be installed all around the district to check the traffic, plan traffic lights and create mobility matrixes (global overview of the cars movements).

Pending meetings
I have a pending visit with the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona. The goal would be to collaborate in the data gathering and visualizing of their Mobility, accessibility and public space projects, or even agent modeling (e.g. Modeling mobility in Barcelona).

 Images Proyectos Barnamobi
I also have a pending meeting with Miquel Oliver to discuss the 22@ wireless coverage and possibilities for me to setup a pervasive environment for my next experiment.

Doctoral school
I need to select 2 courses for this year’s doctoral school. I plan to attend the Research Method course given to master’s students and the class on Management of Technological Innovation. Backup is Mobility and Integration of Fixed and Wireless Networks.

Digital Cinema simulation
On the business game we plan to build with INSEAD within the context of digital cinema, I could think of ways to investigate the geographically aspects of distributed/dispatched organization.

Back to BCN

Posted: September 8th, 2006 | No Comments »


The Movement Dynamics of Cellular Phone Users

Posted: September 6th, 2006 | No Comments »

After Graz, the MIT SENSEable City Lab contributed to the Venice Biennale with “Real Time Rome“. From their multiple visualization of the of GSM usage in Rome, I find inspiring their visualization of movement dynamics of cellular phone users at different times. Glyphs can also be used to represent uncertain (see Pang, who uses glyphs indicating wind direction, magnitude and uncertainty.)

 Realtimerome Img Neighborhood Zoom

Related to Real-Time Maps May Create Better Cities, Interview of Carlo Ratti and Real-Time Awareness Maps of Cell Phone Usage

You Are Here: Museu, Experiment with the Drift in GPS Data Quality

Posted: September 6th, 2006 | No Comments »

Via Nicolas. In the fall of 1995 (early days of the operational GPS), at the MACBA, Laura Kurgan Design installed, “You Are Here: Museu“, a real-time feed of GPS satellite positioning data, from an antenna located on the roof of the gallery. The data where displayed, together with the record of mapping data, in light boxes. The idea is the represent the interferences between the digital and built space. Due to this drift, it is impossible to align the map the museum building with the electronic space engaged in mapping it. Therefore, the GPS information refers to but does not simply represent the space it maps: it exceeds, transforms, and re-organizes that space into another space. It does not only represent a space, but becomes a space by itself.

 You Are Here Proj Dwgs 15Youar

The idea behind this artistic setting is to give a critical eye to mapping technologies:

At a time when these digital technologies seem to offer great leaps in our ability to locate ourselves, and when not only frightened urbanites but some of our most radical social critics are worried about failures in cognitive mapping, a critical analysis of new mapping technologies seems imperative.

in response to the hype (arleady in 1995, and still know) that is created around location technologies:

“We need to know for certain where we are,” says a man holding a map titled Los Angeles Fires and Civil Unrest in a brochure for real-time GPS mapping software. The open reference of the statement summarizes the promise and the dream of GPS: accurate positions instantaneously and continuously. One newspaper report on GPS in passenger cars was headlined: “In Japan, they may never ask for directions again.” Not simply for pilots and engineers and ambulances, but for everyone, anyone, facing a location crisis. “With today’s integrated circuit technology,” suggests one manufacturer’s handbook, “GPS receivers are fast becoming small enough and cheap enough to be carried by just about anyone. That means that everyone will have the ability to know exactly where they are, all the time. Finally, one of man’s basic needs will be fulfilled. … Knowing where you are is so basic to life, GPS could become the next utility.”

Laura Kurgan Design is also being the Million Dollar Blocks project in 2005.

Relation to my thesis: An artistic setting that is related to my research focus on spatial uncertainty.The idea of defining the mapped space as a new space on it own. It is similar to the censored space mentioned in Managing Multiple Spaces.