Mobile access is the gating technology required to make information available at any place and at any time. Its application domains range from inspection, maintenance, manufacturing, and navigation to on-the-move collaboration, position sensing, and real-time speech recognition and language translation. In the course of developing wearable systems to support these applications, we have identified or refined several conceptual frameworks regarding personal computing.
At the core of these ideas is the notion that wearable computers should seek to merge the user’s information space with his or her workspace. Information tools such as wearable computers must blend seamlessly with existing work environments, providing as little distraction as possible. This requirement often leads researchers to investigate replacements for the traditional console interfaces such as a keyboard or mouse, which generally require a fixed physical relationship between the user and the device. Identifying effective interaction modalities for wearable computers and accurately modeling user tasks in the supporting software are among the most significant challenges faced by wearable system designers. Because wearable computers represent a new paradigm in computing, there is no consensus on the mechanical/software human–computer interface or the capabilities of these systems.
In offices, computers have become a primary tool, allowing workers to access the information they need to perform their jobs. Accessing information is more difficult for mobile users, however. With current computer interfaces, the user must focus both physically and mentally on the computing device instead of the environments. In a mobile environment, such interfaces may interfere with the user’s primary task. Yet many mobile tasks could benefit from computer support. Distractions are even more of a problem when they occur in mobile environments than in desktop environments because the user is often preoccupied with walking, driving, or other real-world interactions. The focus of this lecture is the design of wearable computers that augment, instead of interfere with, the user’s tasks.