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Jun Rekimoto, "The World Through The Computer: A New Human Computer Interaction Style Based on Wearable Computers"

Jun Rekimoto, "The World Through The Computer: A New Human Computer Interaction Style Based on Wearable Computers"

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Published by: Jun Rekimoto on Oct 18, 2012
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The World Through The Computer:A New Human Computer Interaction Style Based on WearableComputers
Jun RekimotoSony Computer Science Laboratory Inc.3-14-13, Higashi-gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141 Japan
April 11, 1994
In this paper, I propose a new concept of human–computer interaction called
The World Through theComputer 
. This metaphor will make computers as trans-parent as possible. A user interacts the real world thatis augmented by the computer’s synthetic information (such as synthetic image and audio) by using a wearablecomputer. The user’s situation is automatically recog-nized by the computer through several input devices,such as a position tracker, a barcode reader (to identifythe real world objects), and a speech recognizer. Theuser wears such devices and act freely in the real-world.The computer always tracks the user’s act and situations,and guides the user through the superimposed imagesand voice. A Wireless communications method is usedto link the user to the computer and other users. Thedevice the user wears could be small enough, even withthe today’s technology. This technology assists theusers to collaborate each other, as well as guides theirindividual activities. In the near feature, I expect thatsuch devices will be as commonplace as today’s portableaudio devices (Walkmans, pocket radios), electronichearing aids, eyeglasses, and wristwatches. This paperdescribes design philosophies behind this concept, anddiscusses several research issues to realize the concept.
1 Introduction
As the term
human computer interaction
implies, we haveaddressed the interface between human and computers fora long time. However, regardless of the fact that we areliving in the real world, we have paid less attention to agap between the computer and the real world. As a re-sult, the interface between human and computers and theinterface between human and the real world are not wellintegrated.For example, we can easily relate objects in a database,which is a computer generated world, but it is hard tomake a relation among real world objects, or between areal object and a computer object. Suppose that there isa system which maintains a document database. Usersof this system can store and retrieve documents to andfrom the database. However, once a document has beenprinted out, the system no longer maintains such output;the user must relate these outputs to objects maintained inthe computer, at the user’s cost. We clearly need comput-ers that can understand real world things, as well as theworld inside the computer.Another problem is limited availability of computers.Today’s computers tend to restrict the user’s freedomwhile using them. Users have to go to the specific places(the desk in the office, for example) to utilize comput-ers’ power. Once the user is away from these places, thecomputer no longer assists the user. Even though portable1
computers ease such restriction, they still dominate theuser’s both hands to operate them. It is hard to use suchcomputers while doing other tasks (e.g., walking, drivinga car, or manipulating other machines).This situation can be compared to a world withoutwristwatches. In such a world, people must go to a lo-cation where a clock (i.e., desktop computers) exists. Canyou imagine a world where people can not look at a clock without user account? This is the world where we are liv-ing in.To address these problems, I propose a new humancomputer interaction metaphor called the world throughthe computer. With this metaphor, the user wears thecomputer but does not interact the computer directly. In-stead, the user interacts the real world freely, and interac-tions between the user and the real world are captured bythe computer, and the computer supplies the informationwhichaugmentstherealworldinformation. Ialsocallthismetaphor
, because with this technology, theuser deals with the computer enhanced real world, whichis beyond actual reality.Although systems based on this metaphor will use de-vices similar to those of virtual reality, such as a head-mounted display, the philosophy behind such equipmentis completely different from that of virtual reality. Vir-tual reality attempts to surround a user by the computergenerated world and isolates the user from the real world.On the contrary, HyperReality does not isolate the userfrom the real world. Instead, it makes the real world morefriendly and informative. In other words, this technologytries to make computers as transparent as possible, so thatcomputers become a part of the user’s body, like today’shearing aids or eyeglasses.The rest of this paper is organized as follows. In thenext section, I categorize current HCI styles and introducethe concept of HyperReality. The following section (Sec-tion3)explainsseveralcomponentsusedinsystemsbasedon HyperReality, and discusses their technical feasibility.Possible applications and related activities are presentedin Section4and Section5,respectively. Finally, Section6 concludes the paper.
2 Human Computer InteractionStyles
In this section, I categorize human computer interactionstyles based on the notion of gaps between the computerworld and the real world (Figure1).
Conventional Desktops - gaps between com-putes and the real world
Currently, a desktop computer with a bitmap display anda pointing device (e.g., a mouse) is the most commonstyle of human-computer interaction. This style is oftenreferred as a GUI (graphical user interface). GUI is themajor progress from an old fashioned, text-oriented userinterfaces, and it enables novice users to access power of computers.Nevertheless, I would like to mention the shortfalls of GUI based systems. Although quite a few workers andstudents spend a long time away from their desks, GUIsystems forces the user to sit in front of computers (onthe desk) to use them. Even so-called desk-workers oftenleave their offices to attend a meeting or to go on a busi-ness trip, for example. While they are away from theirdesks, they cannot get the power of the computers. Or,they have to change the style of work to utilize the com-puters.Even though portable computers (notebook computers,penbasedcomputers)arebecomingpopularrecently, theyare essentially “reduced desktop computers” and cannotalways assist the user. For example, a surgeon cannot usea notebook computer during the operation, because note-book computers sill require at lease a chair (and possiblya desk) to use it, and dominate the user’s both hands to op-erate it. Similarly, it is impossible to use such computerswhile the user is driving a car.As size and weight of electronic devices have been re-duced dramatically, displays and keyboards are becomingdominantfactorsthatpreventportablecomputersfrombe-ing smaller and lighter. A desktop metaphor and overlap-ping windows are no longer effective when a user is usinga small handheld computer with a small screen. Theseproblems cannot be solved easily unless we abandon atraditional GUI style of interaction.2
GapComputer WorldHuman - Computer InteractionHuman - Real World InteractionReal World - Computer Interaction(a) Conventional(b) Virtual Reality(c) Ubiquitous Computers(d) Hyper RealityReal World
Figure 1: Classification of Human Computer Interaction Styles
Virtual Reality - a computer as the world
Virtual Reality (VR) is a style of human computer interac-tionthatsurroundsauserbyasynthetic3-Dworld. Withahigh-performance graphics computer and special devicessuch as a head-mounted display and a DataGlove, the usercan see and manipulate such environments.A problem here is, in virtual reality (VR) systems, thatthe interface between the user and the real world is totallyeliminated. The user is isolated from the reality, and onlythe interface between human and the computer (i.e., thevirtual world) remains.Although there are many possible applications with thisHCI style, as long as we are living in a real world andcannot be isolated from that, VR will not be the primaryHCI for the future.
Ubiquitous Computers - computers in theworld
An opposite approach to VR is making everything in dailylife a computer. Sakamura’s MTRON and Euro PARC’s
ubiquitous computers
are both along this line. For ex-ample, if a door were a computer, it would detect whenthe people is coming in the room. Similarly, blackboards,3

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