24 January 2008

Palpable computing: a taste of things to come

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Palpable
ICT Results reports on an EU-funded research project on “palpable computing” (Palcom), led by the University of Arhus in Denmark. The ideas behind it seem similar to concepts developed by both Genevieve Bell (see here and here) and Adam Greenfield.

“Palpable computing”, a term coined by Morten Kyng, a researcher at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, refers to pervasive computer technology that is also tangible and comprehensible to its users.

Ubiquitous computing, in the traditional sense, is based on the vision of making the computers invisible, Kyng suggests. “The problem is that when the technology is invisible you can’t see what it is doing, how it functions or comprehend it.”

By making the technology visible when it needs to be and comprehensible all the time, palpable computing reduces the complications of using the technology, while opening the door to developers creating new applications more easily.

The vision of ubiquitous computing has focused on tools honed through use over time and well suited to what they are designed to do, comments Kyng. “The problems arise when you want or need to do something new or different from what the designers intended: the user is not really in control,” he adds.

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