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External Research Proposal - Situated Computing

University Contact: Professor David May

HP Contact: Jim Bedford-Roberts

Situated Computing concerns the ability of computing devices to detect, interpret and respond to aspects of the user's local environment.

This is a vast field of computer science that covers sensing technologies, middleware for interpretation of sensor data, information infrastructures to provide access to world knowledge and both novel and situation-enhanced applications [Starner].

The applications in the field offer a tremendous range of end users benefits. In many cases these benefits are only becoming instantiable with the advent of ultra-portable computing devices. Identifying the best commercial opportunities is the real objective here - becoming overly focused on any of the miriad individual technologies is the trap. Consequently we would like to proceed by employing students to cover the wide space of technology and application development work, leaving university and HP staff to focus on the more strategic and commercial issues.

Here are some of the questions we would like to address in a Situated Computing Programme:

Initial Approach

This programme relates to "ultra-portable computing" work completed in April 1997 by the Interaction Technology Department (see [Hull1]) and also to a "CyberJacket" project currently underway with David May and his department (see web site at The CyberJacket Project is employing three Bristol Computer Science students over the Summer period in order to build a general purpose, ultra-portable computer stitched into the lining of an outdoor jacket. This project is intended to lead directly into the Situated Computing ERP.

The general plan for the programme is to perform at least two test and build cycles for a "CyberJacket" functioning as a "Bristol Tourist Jacket". Along the way we intend to address the issues laid out above. The plan can be split into four phases:

In summary, objectives and deliverables are as follows:

Staff and equipment

The breadth of the area means that there are many mini-projects suitable for undergraduate and master level projects. At the same time we need to ensure some continuity between developments and a clear sense of direction. To achieve this we require an RA working at Bristol University who assumes ownership of the CyberJacket research platform, control of the design of critical components, planning and logistics for the development of CyberJackets and also day to day supervision of students. In addition we need to set aside funding for project work including salaries for four students working over each Summer period. Students will mainly be drawn from the final year of the Computer Science course, though some post graduate support may also be desirable.

To equip the programme we need funds for four PCs for application development and six cyberjackets (three built in each year of the programme).

The programme will need to last for at least two years starting FY98. Yearly review will be appropriate. After the two year period it is likely that we will be in a position to focus in more specific areas of situated computing in which case a further ERP will emerge.


FY98 costs

Item Cost
4PCs $16k TAC - equipment donation
3 CyberJackets and consumables $15k
RA $59k
4 Summer 98 Students $20k

FY99 costs

Item Cost
3 more CyberJackets and consumables $16k
RA $62k
4 Summer 99 Students $21k


Start date: FY98.

Internal HP customers: Personal Systems Group

Frequency of project reports: 6 monthly

HP Project Manager: Jim Bedford-Roberts.


[Feiner] S. Feiner, B. MacIntyre, D. Seligmann, "Knowledge Based Augmented Reality", Comms of the ACM. July '93.

[Harper] R. Harper, "Why People Do and Don't Wear Active Badges", Proc CSCW '96, Kluwer Academic Publisher, pp. 297-318.

[Hull] R. Hull, P. Neaves and J. Bedford-Roberts, "Towards Situated Computing", HPL-97-66, International Symposium on Wearable Computers '97.

[Hunke] M. Hunke, A. Waibel, "Face Locating and Tracking for Human-Computer Interaction", Proc. of 28th Asimolar conf. on Signals, Systems and Computers.

[Picard] R. Picard, "Affective Computing", MIT TR321, 1995.

[Rhodes] B.J. Rhodes, T. Starner, "Rememberance Agent: a continuously running information retrieval system", Proc. First Int. Conf. on the Practical Application of Intelligent Agents and Multi Agent Technology (PAAM '96), pp. 487-495.

[Starner] T. Starner et al., "Wearable Computing and Augmented Reality", MIT TR355, Nov '95.

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