Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Learning Log XI: Ubiquitous Computing...Too Much?

In the final chapter of Dan Saffer's "Designing for Interaction", I read about the next innovations that we will come to terms with when working in interaction design. Wearables, robots, spimes, the Semantic Web, etc. were interesting enough, but what really got my attention was the concept of ubiquitous computing. In a world with ubicomp, the computer becomes part of the environment, bringing options and data to the user with their simple movements, voice commands, etc. Sounds great, but let's step back for a moment.

Our phones are already turning into computers by the minute, and the amount of information we cram into small devices is getting worrisome. Forgive me if I sound like a geezer, but I feel like we don't have enough time to digest nearly everything that we surround ourselves with. Ubicomp has the potential to take this issue to a new level of overwhelming. Imagine getting out of bed and being told what's in your food closet to make for breakfast or perhaps the forecast for the day, as Saffer mentions. This would be convenient and helpful at first, but day after day I believe it would get quite grating.

I'm mainly concerned with the element of choice. We chose to use computers and technology, and we can still largely choose to separate ourselves from their presence in life. With ubicomp, that choice is taken away. The computer can now seep further into everyday activities, ranging from riding the bus to buying food to simply relaxing at home. It could very easily become impossible to get away from a computer! If ubicomp is the future, designers must exercise great restraint and sensibility with what features are implemented in which aspects of life.

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