Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2004 Table of Contents
Archimedes Project -Hawaii
1680 East-West Rd. POST 504
Honolulu, HI 96822
Part 1 - The Archimedes Project Moves to Hawaii Obtaining information in a timely way can powerfully improve human lives worldwide. It can make the difference, for example, between success or failure of crops, victory or defeat in battle and life or death when people are injured or ill. We live in an information-centric age and anyone unable to access information from all available channels is at a serious disadvantage.
During the early stages of the information revolution, access was equated with being able to use a computer. Many different adaptive strategies, often far from perfect, were developed to give computer access to people otherwise unable to use one. Today, an almost unbounded variety and quantity of information is available to anyone with the ability to access it. For the people who can use them, a variety of information appliances provide the means for increasing productivity, controlling work and home environments, and enhancing leisure activities. For a myriad of reasons, however, there are large numbers of people who don't share these benefits because they are unable to use the information appliances. In almost all cases, these access problems are caused by information appliances that fail to acknowledge physical and cognitive disabilities, limitations brought about by aging, and lack of literacy. The problems are often exacerbated by personal poverty coupled with a limited regional, or national, information infrastructure. These problems bring up the question of whether all of the world's people should be expected to struggle with frustratingly complex, unreliable computers and information appliances before they can benefit from the information that technology could offer them. The only moral answer to this question is "No." Well-designed technology shouldn't overwhelm its users. Many third-world citizens, for instance, have embraced the cellular telephone, which can be thought of as the visible part of one of the most complex and powerful technologies ever created. Unsophisticated people can use a cell phone because its complexity is hidden behind a familiar and relatively simple telephone hand piece. The Archimedes Hawaii Project is addressing the challenge of finding ways to apply this strategy to all information appliances. Simple, accessible user interfaces will assure that the potential benefits of our information-centric world are equally available to the technically sophisticated and to the disenfranchised people of the world. The Archimedes Project recently moved from Stanford University to the University of Hawaii to more closely align its research with the needs of the emerging Pacific Rim countries. Before leaving Stanford, Archimedes researchers and graduate students completed the design of a new and very sophisticated Intelligent Total Access System (ITAS) that dramatically simplifies the ways in which users are able to interact with computers, IT devices, and environmental devices such as lamps and appliances. From its Hawaiian base, Archimedes is now focusing on how ITAS technologies can be used to make information more accessible to people all around the Pacific Rim with the goal of significantly improving their living, learning and working environments.
Activities designed to support these efforts include: (i) establishing the Archimedes Foundation to promote and support international collaboration, (ii) establishing affiliated Archimedes Projects in Hawaii, California, Japan and New Zealand, with more to follow, (iii) developing stronger links to industry, and (iv) running an annual ten-week long Archimedes Access Factory during the summer. The first Archimedes Access Factory, held at Stanford in 2002, had twenty participants from eight countries and resulted in two major patent applications. The next Access factory will be held in Hawaii in the summer of 2004. Application details are published on the Archimedes Hawaii web site.
Part 2 - Introduction to IDEAL Technology.
One of the burdens of living in a technological society is the need to constantly learn: new devices, new interfaces, and new services all place demands on all of us to keep learning. While there are many people who enjoy continual learning, there are many who are unable to keep up and are thereby becoming severely disenfranchised. Archimedes researchers are adapting their ITAS technologies; originally developed for individuals with disabilities, into an Intention Driven Environment for Active Learning (IDEAL) system that makes lifelong learning simple, enjoyable and affordable. Intelligent Total Access System (ITAS), a new strategy for configuring and interacting with computers that are used in education, as accessibility tools for people who are disabled, and as tools that enable aging people to remain independent for as long as possible. The concept of the ITAS is similar to that of providing spectacles to overcome vision problems. Rather than changing all of the things a person may want to look at, spectacles correct personal deficiencies to make everything clearly visible. ITAS achieves a similar result through the use of personal accessors that provide individuals with a personalized interface that can automatically access and control any IT device, lamp, appliance or electronically controlled tool. An overriding goal for the ITAS has been to make all of the computer components transparent to the users, thereby enabling them to focus on the task in hand.
The ITAS is derived from the Total Access System (TAS) developed by the Archimedes Project at Stanford University in the mid-nineties. Experience with the TAS showed that even when physical access problems are solved, people still experience problems when it is necessary for them to learn and remember scripts for performing particular tasks. It also became clear that people have difficulty knowing how to identify and manage individual devices in a system that integrates multimodal input and output interfaces and multiple target devices.
A newly developed "Integration Manager and Natural Interaction Processor" (IMNIP), specifically designed for the ITAS, overcomes these problems by enabling a user to interact with each component in a system using his or her own natural words and gestures. By incorporating an IMNIP, the ITAS provides the first practical implementation of a distributed, intention driven interface in which each component makes intelligent decisions about how to react to natural language commands within the current context.
In addition to the intention driven interface, the ITAS also implements a new collaborative network strategy for connecting multiple accessors and target devices. A small "ITAS Module," connected to a USB port on each target device, performs all of the ITAS functions. Other standard ports or custom connections may be used when there is no USB port available. The ITAS modules support optional cable or wireless connections for every link in the network and operate independently of the operating systems in the target devices. Accessors and target devices can be added or removed without breaking a running network. Many real world IT applications can be mapped directly onto the ITAS collaborative network.
In addition to developing new personal accessors and connections to a wider range of target devices, Archimedes Hawaii is exploring new applications for the ITAS collaborative network. These include more transparent access to IT for individuals with disabilities, smart living environments that enable aging people to remain independent for as long as possible, smart working environments that are universally accessible and which increase productivity of IT workers, and smart classrooms that dramatically increase the effectiveness of computers in education and vocational training.
The ITAS supports the concept of lifelong learning by making the delivery mechanism transparent to the user. With appropriate accessors, people can focus on the available learning materials without being distracted by computer interfaces. Since the same accessors can be used anywhere, boundaries between learning and doing will become blurred and lifelong just-in-time learning will become practical and enable people to receive and interact with new information as, when and where they need it. Part Three - Content Creation and Delivery The IDEAL system will provide a delivery mechanism that can be widely deployed throughout the Pacific Rim countries but for this to have value, there must be an adequate supply of culturally appropriate content. School systems in Hawaii have already adopted commercial systems such as Blackboard and Aspen Learning Management Systems, and have developed their own individualized systems for curriculum development, web based delivery, and tracking of student performance. Archimedes researchers will work closely with collaborators from the University of Hawaii College of Education and the Hawaii Department of Education to evaluate existing content creation and management systems, develop strategies and tools for integrating existing content into the IDEAL system, and building new IDEAL content where necessary. This will involve a thorough survey of the current methods that are used to develop and deliver e-learning materials, and the management of content and student records.
The IDEAL system implements a new collaborative networking strategy that enables students to work alone, in groups and in classes. Additionally, the IDEAL system makes all content fully accessible to students with disabilities. Individual students can use multiple input and output modalities without the details of how they are working being visible to other students. On the network, students with disabilities, for example, appear identical to non-disabled students.
One of the advantages of the IDEAL system is that it integrates directly into existing educational resources, adding new tools for wireless networking and collaboration plus integrated hands-on experience for topics such as physics experiments.. Interaction with learning environments will reflect the specific needs and preferences of the teachers, parents and students rather than the preprogrammed style of computer software UI designers. Personalized consistency and reliability of the interface will simplify interactions and speed up the learning process. Tracking of individual user performance will be provided in a manner that allows individual users to configure their system to provide for personal privacy. Information regarding individual users testing, navigation and interaction with the system will be made available with the users consent and knowledge. For example, users will have continual feedback about who is looking over their shoulder even when it is in a virtual world. Logical work groups, such as parent/student/teacher or student group/teacher, will be given access areas for secure interactions. Archimedes researchers will also use the IDEAL content creation tools to demonstrate how IDEAL systems can be used to create safe, supportive environments for elderly people that allow them to live indecently in their own homes for as long as possible. This will involve support such as environmental control, access to web-based services, telecommunications and telemedicine.
Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2004 Table of Contents
Return to Table of Proceedings