Lost in SPACES: exploring the benefits and shortcomings of spatial presence and awareness as a mechanism for context reasoning

Coverdale, S (2016) Lost in SPACES: exploring the benefits and shortcomings of spatial presence and awareness as a mechanism for context reasoning. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Context-Aware applications make use of sensed and gathered information about a user’s state to better tailor their behaviour to the user’s needs. There are many streams of information that can be employed as context; these elements have a variety of structures and not all of them are static or fully known to developers at runtime, this can make it challenging to add new streams of context to an application and keep those streams whose structure frequently changes updated. Heterogeneity of sensor technology and information sources means two users may generate information about the same aspect of their state, their location for example, in two different formats. Although there are examples of services that can relate a value from one location sensing technology to a value from another, we lack a general service for building and reasoning about these relationships between any and all representations of context. Moreover, due to their frequent use of sensed physical information, context-aware applications also generate seams, which may cause uncertainty, error and unexpected behaviours. Developers need a simple way to think about context; one which supports the many heterogeneous types of information it comprises, allows them to update the structures of those types as they change or are discovered, gives them the means to reason about relationships between users whose devices sense the same sort of context using different technologies, and which provides them with both opportunity and means to address and respond to some of the seams arising in their applications.

This work presents a spatial model for reasoning about context using presence and awareness that attempts to address the requirements above. The model is realised in a platform comprised of an API and a Context-Broker, which provides context-reasoning and relation services for applications that communicate with it via a dataspace. Using the platform to implement a location-aware game raises several issues concerning the usability and presentation of its paradigms and a seam encountered by a user playing the game. We use this as an opportunity to explore methods for analysing how underlying models, platforms and applications create meaning in pervasive and Mixed-Reality context-aware applications, and how seams operate within them. We present changes to our model and platform based on the conclusions drawn from this analysis. Our analysis of the user’s experience leads us to conclude that model paradigms must be carefully structured to support the multiple ways in which context is used, that both spatial and temporal discontinuity can create user confusion and that when mixing virtual and physical spaces it is important to communicate fully all the structures imposed upon them. Our analysis of seams leads us to the conclusion that responses to them can be usefully positioned as simple processes of disparity resolution involving the restructuring of one or more spaces or milieu involved in the application.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rodden, T
Keywords: context-aware computing, location-aware computing, pervasive computing, presence and awareness
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA 75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Item ID: 37426
Depositing User: Coverdale, Sara
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 09:20
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/37426

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