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IN-SITU Research team

Activity reports


As computers permeate every aspect of society, the number and variety of computer users has multiplied dramatically as has the quantity and complexity of the data they manage. Computers are now ubiquitous and increasingly diverse, ranging from mobile phones and PDAs to laptops, desktops and wall-sized displays. Computers and telephony have converged to create a new communication medium, providing mobile access to myriad on-line services. This revolution poses major challenges for the design, implementation and deployment of interactive systems. The current failure to address these challenges has resulted in applications that are often difficult to understand or control, lowering productivity and increasing frustration. User interfaces have not kept pace with the rapid progress in other aspects in computing: The desktop metaphor that has driven personal computing for the past 25 years has reached its limits, with no short-term alternative.

The time has come for a new generation of interactive systems. The focus of the InSitu project is to create innovative interactive systems that truly meet the needs of their users. For us, context is critical: we need to provide designers with tools and methods that actively take context into account. This requires a deeper understanding of the complementary characteristics of humans and computers as well as an analysis of specific situations of use. Our goal is to develop and facilitate the creation of such situated interfaces, which take optimal advantage of context to provide users with the particular tools they need to address the problems at hand. Our approach both expands today's graphical user interfaces and explores new possibilities, addressing the following goals:

Flexibility to support end-user customisation and programming as well as adaptation to physical context;

Integration of physical and electronic worlds through the exploration of mixed reality and tangible interfaces;

Scalability with respect to the quantity of data being managed, through the development of multi-scale interfaces and information visualisation techniques;

Cooperation and collaboration support in order to study new forms of person-to-person mediated communication;

Integration of varied interaction styles and techniques into a single coherent environment, using appropriate interaction models and architectures.

The overall goal of InSitu is to develop situated interfaces, i.e. interfaces that are adapted (or adaptable) to their contexts of use by taking advantage of complementary aspects of humans and computers. Our very ambitious longterm goal is to move beyond the current generation of desktop environments and envision the next generation of interactive environments. The specific objective for the next four years is to create one or more prototype interactive environments that begin to explore what this next generation of interactive systems might look like.

Our research strategy is to develop case studies and development tools, in parallel. The case studies allow us to study specific users, in particular application domains, and explore innovative interaction approaches in real-world contexts. The development tools, consisting of architectures and toolkits, allow us to create a development environment for creating novel types of interaction and facilitate the creation of innovative applications. We have identified four research themes, each with separate deliverables, to achieve this objective: Interaction and Visualization Paradigms, Mediated Communication, Research Methods and Engineering of Interactive Systems.