Tetherless World Constellation Colloquium
Interaction Design Paradigm Shift: Will Data Deliver the AI Vision of a Digital Assistant?
Dr. MC Schraefel
Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.
November 14, 2008
4th floor conference room, Winslow Bldg, 1:30 p.m.
The idealized versions of interacting with computers have been imagined
as digital assistants - whether Stephenson's Librarian in Snow Crash,
Star Trek:TNG's Computer or Apple's late 80's concept of the Knowledge
Navigator - these interfaces mediate their interlocutor's questions, or
manage their user's information needs from scheduling appointments to
tracking their favorite sports teams.
Early work in bringing these kinds of experiences to computer
interaction relied heavily on machine learning techniques. All that was
seen as failed in this approach was embodied in Microsoft's Clippy, and
the famous "it seems you are writing a suicide note. Would you like help
With the increasing use of web-based tools for creating a range of
sharable information, from calendars to music preferences to location,
we have increasing amounts of structured information that early machine
learning based approaches to support did not have. The difference here,
we hypothesize, is that with this increasing amount of structured,
explicit information, a system can simply *know* more, and with that
information, can potentially help provide more effective, automatic
support for us in our daily interactions. In other words, with this
wealth of context-supporting information in the ether, we can begin to
think (perhaps again) about alternative paradigms to the desktop for
If this interaction is more personal assistant than current manual
application interaction, what are our expectations, and how might these
influence design of these systems? Can new approaches to what is
possible to automate, how, help enhance our quality of life?
In this talk, i'll provide some context of my work in this space, and
review a few ongoing projects where, in collaboration between MIT and
Southampton, a group of us have been looking at how structured
information might get us closer to a Perfect Digital Assistant (PDA's).
At this stage, there are more questions here with regard to designing to
support quality of life than answers. I'll close with some thoughts on
Organic Objects to work with these PDA's.
mc schraefel is a Senior Research Fellow of the
Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK and a Senior Lecturer in
Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton where
she leads the Interaction Theme in the Intelligence, Agents and
Multimedia Group. This past year she has returned from sabbatical at the
University of Maryland and MIT as the first Web Science Research
Initiative Fellow working with Ben Shneiderman, Tim Berners-Lee, Danny
Weitzner, David Karger and Jim Hendler to explore how/where user
interaction research and semantic web technology research may blend to
support new models for exploring web-scale information, metadata and
provenance/policy information around that data. As part of her interest
in Quality of Life design, she has been exploring how to design
technology encourage 20 something grad student desk bound geeks to think
about health and fitness. Towards this end, schraefel also holds a range
of strength and conditioning certifications.
Hosted by: Dr. Jim Hendler
Administrative support: Jacky Carley (x4384)
Last updated: Nov. 11, 2008