Proxemic Interactions in Ubiquitous Computing Ecologies

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In this dissertation, I explore how the knowledge of people’s and devices’ spatial relationships – called proxemics – can be applied to the design of ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) interactions. Edward Hall’s proxemics theory describes how people use spatial relationships – such as varying their distance or orientation – to mediate their interactions with other people around them. But in spite of the opportunities presented by people’s natural understanding of proxemics, only a relatively small number of ubicomp installations incorporate proxemic information within interaction design. Therefore, my goal in this dissertation research is to inform the design of future proxemic-aware devices that – similar to people’s natural expectations and use of proxemics – allow increasing connectivity and interaction possibilities when in proximity to people, other devices, or objects. Towards this goal, I explore how the fine-grained knowledge of proxemic relationships between the entities in small-space ubicomp ecologies can be exploited in interaction design. In particular, I provide the following three major contributions: First, I operationalize proxemics for ubicomp interaction with the Proxemic Interactions framework that serves to guide the design of ubicomp applications. The framework describes how designers can consider fine-grained proxemic information to mediate people’s interactions with digital devices, such as large digital surfaces or portable personal devices. I identify five key dimensions of proxemic measures (distance, orientation, movement, identity, and location) to consider when designing proxemic-aware ubicomp systems. I also identify the gradual engagement design pattern as one particular strategy that allows designing system interactions that move from awareness, to reveal, to interaction. Second, I design the Proximity Toolkit allowing ubicomp developers to rapidly prototype proxemic-aware ubicomp systems. The toolkit simplifies the development process by supplying higher-level information about proxemic relationships between the entities in ubicomp ecologies through an event-driven API and visual inspection tools. Third, I explore the design of three case studies of proxemic-aware systems that react continuously to people’s and devices’ proxemic relationships. The case studies explore the application of proxemics in small-space ubicomp ecologies by considering first person-to-device, then device-to-device, and finally person-to-person & device-to-device proxemic relationships. Together, they validate the toolkit’s versatility and the application of the Proxemic Interactions framework.
Computer Science
Marquardt, N. (2013). Proxemic Interactions in Ubiquitous Computing Ecologies (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/27473