Multimodal Interfaces

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The use of speech and gestures simultaneously, is a relatively new area of research. Sharon Oviatt has studied the use of speech and gesture in a pen-based, geographic map application. When given the choice to issue commands with a pen and/or voice, users preferred to convey locatives (i.e. points, lines, and areas) with the pen, while they preferred speech for describing objects and giving commands.  For intelligent environments, this means that perhaps the most important gesture to detect is pointing, while other commands should, initially at least, be left for voice.

Classic Panel

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Wall panel .The CLASSIC PANEL is the recipient of the 2003 ROEDER AWARD as well as the European REDDOT AWARD.  When in the TONE mode, the panel changes colors to voice and rhythm of music.

ULife South Korea

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The ULife South Korea plans to spend $25 billion on New Songdo, the world’s largest “ubiquitous city,” with computers linking home life and life on its streets. Construction, 40 miles from Seoul, is to be done in 2014.

Ambient Control through Cognitive Data

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The Emotiv headset allows users the ability to wirelessly control objects through expression, emotion and cognitive data.Based on the EEG technology, emotiv has transformed the cognitive control patterns into a wearable remote control. This headset allows for control of real-time data which can directly a UI or environment. For example, your mood state could drive the meta-data relationships in a user interface to show you only particular images from your Flickr account or directly affect the physical geometry of the user’s seat as they read a book.

Gesture Control Systems

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Gesture control systems are one of the many systems being developed to control interfaces. Their success depends on the input of information which is sometimes uncontrollable as there are variants in how users interact. The trick for over coming this is to encourage a meta-data language to which we will all eventually become used to and therefore use in a similar way. Gesture controlled interfaces are significant to architecture in that it allows a user the ability to directly control objects  from a distance and that they are able to control their environment from where they are standing – the system can be place around a user.


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Photosynth, developed by Microsoft Live Labs, allows for the creation of realistic 3d images using data from the internet, taken photos and sourced photos from the internet to inform a college in a more spatial way of viewing, allowing user to be able to visualise environments in a way that is more akin to real-life.

Intelligent Social User-Interfaces

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ISUIs encompass interfaces that create a perceptive computer environment rather than one that relies solely on active and comprehensive user input. ISUIs can be grouped into five categories:

  • Visual recognition (e.g. face, 3D gesture, and location) and output
  • Sound recognition (e.g. speech, melody) and output
  • Scent recognition and output
  • Tactile recognition and output
  • Other sensor technologies

Here, technologies like Easy Access are emerging. Easy Access recognizes a hook line from somebody humming, automatically compares it with a song database and plays the song on the room’s stereo equipment.

Data Based Ambient Transitions

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‘Laban’ was the thesis project for my undergraduate in Architectural Studies. I focused on the circulation and density of people within certain areas of a building. After mapping peoples movements throughout the course of a day I transferred this data into my design to help create an ergonomically sound building in which the amount of light entering the building was in direct correlation to the amount of people in space. Using a series of Heliostats and Convex mirrors, the degree of placement move as the sun tracks the building.

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Elixir Arts – NHS Hospitals

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Most hospitals now recognise the importance of the arts as integral part of healthcare, providing a positive and uplifting environment for patients, visitors and staff. Wlixir Arts Foundation encourage improving the hospital environments by especially commissioning works of art, performance or activities that can help people in a number of ways including:

Intelligent Ambience and Building Atomisation Systems

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There are two distinct methods of controlling the environmental mediums of a built environment. Preset atomisation was introduced almost 20 years ago, and although advances in technology have made Building Automated Systems more efficient, the principles remain the same. However in recent years, intelligent systems have been introduced that with the use of sensors and real time monitoring system, can allow environments to be appropriate altered without the need for administration. However, often a combination of the two systems can work in synchrony, allowing for a smart environment that can be controlled by the occupant if so wished.

  • Atomisation

Preset automation designates an emerging practice of increased automation of appliances and features, facilitated through a centralized network. Building Automation can control lighting, doors and windows, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and security, surveillance systems and more ethereal qualities such as sound and smell. Building atomisation are all means that are used to integrate the electrical controlled equipment in the built environment, with the purpose to increase the level of comfort, security and energy management in that environment.

An automated control system controls the environmental mediums through a centralised network, a certain number of parameters of presets exist within the system allowing personal preferences to be set via a variety of touch points. These touch points communicated, via telephone line, wireless transmission or the internet, to provide control and monitoring via a Smart Phone or Web browser. These touch points allow users the ability to remotely toggle power to individual rooms, therefore control the ambience in that space.

In general, a Demotic System integrates and connects all electrical devices in a building with each other. Therefore in the programming of options, the fact that all the electronically controlled devices are controlled through one system means that there can be programs that control all of the environmental media at one time. By limiting the amount of options available to users, it makes the system simple to use to all involved.

  • Intelligent Ambience

Environments enriched with sensors, actuators and processing units have been increasingly integrated into the fabric of modern buildings. Often in office buildings, sensors are used to detect activity in the building, allowing for the adaption of environmental medium to required levels.

One typical example is to turn the lights in a space on for a half hour since the last motion was sensed. In being smart, these systems also have to demonstrate themselves to be sensible. Being sensible demands a system that is emphatic to its occupants. It must have the capability to react to the users moods and adapt to the prevailing situation by understanding its user and adapting accordingly.

In combination, building atomisation and ambient intelligence can be sensible whilst not over powering – the user/or administrator still have the authority. There are many different parameters as an input to resolute an ambient output. Smart systems enable programming of these parameters to create truly intelligent and responsive environments. Below are the possible input parameters that the computer can draw real-time data from in order to resolute a programmed outcome.

Sensed Data:

  • Chronological time – Chronological time is a specific time of day as pre-set timers use.
  • Astronomical time – Astronomical times includes sunrise, sunset, a specific day of the week or days in a month or year
  • Room Temperature – Based on activity sensed and in door and outdoor temperature readings
  • Room occupancy and Motion Detection – Room occupancy might be determined with motion detectors or RFID tags, and is part of security and energy conservation programs.
  • Presence of daylight – Artificial lighting energy use can be reduced by automatically dimming and/or switching electric lights in response to the level of day lighting
  • Program logic – Preset activity profiles, acitivitation specified levels of lighting, heating, purification, music and smell levels.
  • Alarms – Alarm conditions can include doors opening and motion detected in a protected area which could deactivate lighting and computer systems if activated.
  • Biological and Psychological Data – Via sensing bodily data, environments can respond to ensure a harmonised environment.

FMRI Scanning

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging, works by detecting the changes in blood flow. FMRI can be used to produce activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in a particular mental process. This is where the difference lies between MRI and FMRI scanning, that the neural response can be measured in real-time in relation to bodily movement and stimulation. This is what application is useful when analysing perception of space. We can map what unconscious waves are being stimulated in particular areas of ambience. (see Brain Mapping)

Eye Movement Tracking Displays

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In daily life humans move their eyes naturally and unconsciously to get visual information, through the eye movements are hardly noticed. SEE++ is a high performance computer program that makes it possible to simulate our eyes complex sequences of movements.

    Control and Authority

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    Atomisation and Ambient Intelligence raises questions of authority and ownership. Do we want decisions to be taken from our control? Do we prefer the captivating moments created by an adaptable environment or do we prefer the predictable conversations we have with ordinary light switch? The difficulty in the introduction of a new ambient system is the uncertainty of its effect in the society. The benefit of IT systems appears when it is implemented deeply into the society and impacts social activities in a large scope. Traditionally technologies slowly integrate themselves into society, allowing for a gradual adaptation period where eventually the exercise becomes intuitive. The key to designing intelligent environments is to design not too far removed for our normal practices.

    The Information Society Technologies Advisory Group (ISTAG) who have been set up as a European advisory body for the overseeing of new technologies, suggests that the following characteristics will permit the societal acceptance of ambient intelligence:

    • AmI should facilitate human contact.
    • AmI should be orientated towards community and cultural enhancement.
    • AmI should inspire trust and confidence.
    • AmI should be consistent with long term sustainability
    • AmI should be made easy to live with and controllable by ordinary people.

    ISTAG 2008, Annual Report Password

    Extension of Human Activity

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    Ubiquitous revolution was foreseen by Mark Weiser (1991) who predicted: ‘In the 21st century the technology revolution will move into the everyday, the small and the invisible … The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.’

    Mark Weiser 1991, The Computer for the 21st Century

    The goal of ambient intelligence is to make it possible for users to interact naturally with their environment. For environments to be truly intelligent systems they are being developed to learn needs and preferences of the occupants, diagnose situations and then react to them in a context specific way.

    ‘A digital environment that proactively, but sensibly, supports people in their daily lives’

    Augusto Boal 2007, A Digital Revolution

    This requires the system to be sensitive, achieved through the ability to classify complex human behaviour and respond to their needs with appropriate use of technology. For example, a heating system can detect is someone is present in the room, but for it to react appropriately it needs to consider a wider context, someone watching TV for example might require a warmer room than someone undertaking exercise.

    The development of integrated technologies means that the home of tomorrow will be more like the home of yesterday that the home of today. The way we experience technological power is about to change. Technology and computers will no longer be seen as an intermittent step between a physical us and an outcome – but as Intelligent systems operated through interfaces that are an intuitive extension of our natural speech and movements, through touch panels, heat and weight sensors and intelligent cameras that track our eyeball movements. All striving to atomise our personal preferences with ease to provide extra convenience and help in everyday tasks.

    Smart Environments and Ambient Intelligence

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    Ambient Intelligence is the term to describe an environment that has been enriched by the implementation of technology. It is essentially a smart environment that can be responsive or adaptable to the user’s requirements. In an intelligent environment, devices work in cohesion to support people in carrying out their everyday life activities and tasks in an natural and intuitive way.

    Cook and Das are environmental psychologists who define the smart environment as “a small world where different kinds of smart device are continuously working to make inhabitants’ lives more comfortable.”

    Smart Environments: Technologies, Protocols and Applications, Diane J. Cook and Sajal K. Das, June 2008

    One role of ambient intelligence is to further optimise services by increasing usability, however another role is to enhance the quality of the experience itself. Our perception and interpretation of a space is what dictates our mood, and our mood is hugely dependant on what our perception of the space is. For Ambient Intelligence to heighten our experiences by reflecting our moods, it must therefore be able to control our environment. As society becomes more dominated by technology, things that were once inert become responsive. Architectural elements can now be enhanced by smart devices that transform the environment into a space that can sense.

    But what does this mean for the future of architecture? Advances in new technologies can facilitate a reversion to a more user centric time of architectural design, where the environments built are not just containers of activities but they are part of the activities and have influence over the story of the experience.

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