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Situationally Appropriate Interaction

Carnegie Mellon University

Overview
We are poised at the threshold of an information rich world with devices and services able to deliver that information to nearly anyone, at any place, and at any time. In the near future, truly pervasive computing will be possible, with potentially tremendous economic and social benefits. At the same time, however, some of the central bottlenecks in attaining these benefits will have shifted. The central issues will no longer be retrieving, generating, and delivering information services. Instead, we will see the emergence of issues related to human costs and human limitations in making use of that information. As Herbert Simon warned in 1967, "human attention is the scarce resource."

Humans have evolved social mechanisms for smoothly and flexibly managing interpersonal communications. However, current computational and communications devices are, almost without exception, utterly blind to the social and attentional state of the user. They know little or nothing of the personal, social, and task situations in which they are used, and they do little or nothing to account for, and minimize, the human costs they induce. In many respects, they blunder through the human social world.

This project will conduct research aimed at creating situationally appropriate interfaces that retrieve, generate, and deliver information in a manner that is sensitive to the situation of the user. These interfaces will allow for communication and information systems that maneuver, rather than blunder, through the social world. To accomplish this ambitious goal, this project will include at least three parts. First, we will use behavioral theory and research to model social mechanisms for managing interpersonal communications. The comparatively unexploited research we will draw on examines the affordances of situations and consistent patterns of human nonverbal social behavior within situations. Second, we will extract key situational and user behavior data from these models via input from new sensing technologies. We will use noninvasive (e.g., vision-based) sensing technology to provide information about situations and users. Third, leveraging knowledge from sensory, perceptual, and cognitive psychology, as well as from the fields of visual and interaction design, we will create displays and interaction designs that are far more situationally appropriate than today’s interfaces.

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Copyright 2001 Carnegie Mellon University. Last modified October 20, 2001.