Handheld Devices for Control
With present and future wireless technologies, such as IEEE 802.11, BlueTooth, RF-Lite, and G3, handheld devices will frequently be in close, interactive communication. Many environments, including offices, meeting rooms, automobiles and classrooms already contain many computers and computerized appliances, and the smart homes of the future will have ubiquitous embedded computation. When the user enters one of these environments carrying a handheld device, how will that device interact with the environment? We are exploring, as part of the Pebbles research project, the many ways that handheld devices such as PalmOS Organizers, PocketPC and Windows CE devices, and smart cell phones can serve as useful adjuncts to the “fixed” computers and computerized appliances in the user’s vicinity. This brings up many interesting research questions, such as: How can the handheld device improve the user interfaces of everything else in the user’s environment, rather than being just be another complex gadget that must be learned? What is the best way to provide a user interface that spans multiple devices that are in use at the same time? How will users and systems decide which functions should be presented and in what manner on what device? How can the user’s handheld device be effectively used as a “Personal Universal Controller” to provide an easy-to-use and familiar interface to all of the complex appliances available to a user? How can communicating handheld devices enhance the effectiveness of meetings and classroom lectures? We present some preliminary observations on these issues, and discuss some of the systems that we have built to investigate them.