In 1992, the "personal digital assistant" or PDA was introduced, embodied as the first Apple Newton. A variety of PDA tools have followed from the Palm to the increasingly ubiquitous smart phone, each bringing together a set of applications: calendar, note pad, to do's and address book - tools that work adequately well for the narrow percentage of people who are organized, schedule things anyway and can tolerate filling in forms.
The precursor of the PDA was the more visionary 1987 concept of the knowledge navigator: an imaginary Apple vision of what a PDA might be when it grew up: something that would actively blend awareness of personal and public data to provide support for the human operator. It could, for instance, present comparison of stats from discrete papers, handle phone calls in the background while other activities were taking place in the foreground, such as preparing notes for a class. While the current PDA is focused on organizational tools that require constant and manual attention, the knowledge navigator was focused on supportive, dynamic interaction based on existing and new public and private information blending.
Recently we've been looking at what it might take to bring the current state of information management tools away from their manual application/form filling capacity towards the vision of the knowledge navigator, or what we've been calling the "perfect digital assistant."
We are exploring the first part of this process towards the new PDA in a project called Jourknow between MIT and Southampton. Here, we're investigating different desktop models for data representation and storage. Fundamentally we have also been looking at new ways to capture the structure of information but in a form free way. We have then been exploring how this information can be enriched for retrieval by automatically associating it with what we can know about the context of the information at the time of capture - what we were doing; who we might be with; where we were; any applications/documents open. This project has very much captured on improving personal information management by improving capture and retrieval contexts. While we hope the approach is better than current ap/form PIM models, it is not the knowledge navigator. The active assistance component is missing.
In a new project, Idoru, we have just begun to look at how we might blend public data sources like rss feeds and other mine-able Web resources, with ubiquitous sensor or data feeds, and these with our personal data in order to begin to see how this might be purposeable for active support: if our knowledge navigator is watching sources of data for things we care about, and also knows our schedule, can it find a hole in our schedule to alert us to an opportunity for a new gallery opening for instance, and then book the tickets on approval? Could it likewise, knowing we've been pulling all-nighters for a CHI deadline, recommend something we should have for dinner to help replenish our health? We have developed an early prototype, AtomsMasher, to explore how we can push existing RSS technologies to support such interactions.
In this talk, i will go over the work informing these projects and our findings to date, with an eye towards exploring with you shared interests and possible collaborations towards a perfect digital assistant.
mc schraefel is a Senior Lecturer in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton where she leads the Interaction Theme in the Intelligence Agents and Multimedia Group. In the past year she has been on sabbatical at the University of Maryland and MIT as the first Web Science Research Initiative Fellow (http://webscience.org), working with Ben Shneiderman, Tim Berners-Lee, Jim Hendler, Danny Weitzner and David Karger to explore how/where user interaction research and semantic web technology research may blend to support new models for exploring web-scale information, metadata and provenance/policy information around that data. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~mc
Some related papers:
schraefel, m. c. (2007) What is an Analogue for the Semantic Web and Why is Having One Important?. In Proceedings of ACM Hypertext 2007, Manchester, UK. (ACM Englebart Best Paper Award) eprint: http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14274/
Van Kleek, M., Bernstein, M., Karger, D. and schraefel, m. c. (2007) GUI- Phooey! : The Case for Text Input. In Proceedings of UIST 2007, Rhode Island. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/13819/
Bernstein, M., Van Kleek, M., Karger, D. and schraefel, m. (2007) Information Scraps: How and Why Information Eludes our Personal Information Management Tools. Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS), forthcoming. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14231/
schraefel, m. c., André, P. and Van Kleek, M. (2007) This Time It's Personal: from PIM to the Perfect Digital Assistant. Tech Report http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14733/
Max Van Kleek, Paul André, Daniel A. Smith, Max L. Wilson, Michael Bernstein, David Karger and m.c. schraefel AtomsMasher: PeRSSonalized Information Delivery and Management on the Web. Tech Report http://ecs.soton.ac.uk/~pa2/atomsmasher.pdf