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The goal then becomes to design computer systems that are easy to use
and do not distract users from the task they intend to accomplish by using
them. In other words, computing resources must become invisibly part of our
daily routine [3] or belong to walk-up-and-use systems [4] that you can use
with knowledge limited to the task at hand alone.
The rest of this chapter is organized as follows. Section 2 addresses
invisibility as a key paradigm for ubiquitous systems. Section 3 is focussed
on evolving hardware. Key issues for building of ubiquitous systems are
covered in Section 4. In Section 5 a quick overview of proactive systems is
given. A discussion on problems and limits of invisibility is given in
Section 6. Conclusions and relevant references then close the chapter.
Invisibility, a key paradigm for ubiquitous systems
Ubiquitous systems are strictly related to the concept of invisible computer .
Weiser, in fact, suggests that better technologies are those in which the
physicity of the technology remains in the background, leaving users free to
act, under the impression that they are performing a task rather than using a
tool. A tool or device is thought to be invisible when it is integrated in the
environment to the point that users can interact with it without even noticing
that they are using it. Such artefacts will constantly lie in the back of users'
A personal computer is, as we currently know it, a primary artefact, i.e. an
object that is normally perceived as extraneous to the surrounding environment.
When computing devices are embedded into everyday life objects they become
secondary artefacts, ideally invisible and capable to interact implicitly with
other secondary devices. Secondary devices augment an object's capability to
process and exchange digital information between them and with users;
however, they should leave unchanged the semantic meaning of the object in
which they are embedded, maintaining their properties, use and physiognomy.
This way, computer disappear as perceptible devices, while augmented objects
emerge [5].
We will witness then to the development and spreading of minuscule
computing devices, wirelessly interconnected, hidden inside common objects to
the point of being invisible to the human eye. This trend is already anticipated
by many specialized devices already available in the market, such as automated
language translators, web pads, e-books and so on, in which computing
resources and interface capabilities are strictly related to the specific purpose
for particular object at hand. Generally, a person is compelled to interact with
a computer mostly because of the need to access digital information or to
collaborate with other people, rather than being interested to the device for
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