Mobile Assistant (Past)

Key Member

(Toshikazu Nishimura)

Project Objective

The aim of this project is to develop community computing systems that supports users' everyday-life and community formation by affording them regional information bases through mobile agents in a open space such as a street corner. Though almost all conventional computing environments are for indoor use, our project is for a open space because the living environments where people is mainly interacting each other are outdoor. Thus we enlarge the computing environments by Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) with mobile communication capability to support the human everyday-life in a real world.

Current Status

We implemented the following softwares on PDA (Figure 9) that supports the communications among the persons who don't know each other in a community and evaluated it through practical use (See [2] and Figure 9). To support forming of a new community among the participants of an international conference, the ICMAS'96 Mobile Assistant Project was conducted to increase the opportunity to have real meetings. The aim of the project was to facilitate the communication among the participants like E-mail and to provide various information needed in the conference. The project provided (1) E-mail service, (2) conference, personal, and tourist information services and (3) forum and meeting arrangement services.

(a) PDA with handy phone
(b) Participants of the experiment

Fig 9: ICMAS96 Mobile Assistant Project

The main functions in this project are as follows.

Action Navigator supports the making of decisions based on tourist information. The system was developed by Information and Communication Systems Labs, NTT. The user can easily know where to go shopping and where to eat dinner (Figure 10(a)).

InfoCommon allows seamless keyword-based access to a variety of information cards with weak information structure to create a shared information base for participant. The system was developed by Nara Institute of Science and Technology (Figure 10(b)).

Community Viewer dynamically visualizes the interactions among participants to encourage further interaction. The system was developed by us. In order to visualize, a unified framework called the party room metaphor are provided [1]. Figure 10(c) shows the typical image of Community Viewer. In the party room metaphor, each participant of the community is represented as face mark. In the community viewer, people can easily access personal profiles by selecting the corresponding face mark. The ongoing interactions in the community are visualized in the party room. The behavior of each icon reflects the current activity of the corresponding person in the following manner. When one interacts (send a message, read a personal profile and so on) with others, in the virtual party room, the corresponding icon also takes an action as if it approaches and talks to others.
(a) Action Navigator (b) InfoCommon
(c) Community Viewer

Figure 10: Screen Images of the Mobile Assistant

In order to determine how mobile computing is used in conferences and how its use differs from that of desktop computing, we analyzed a large amount of log data. It appears that mobile computing is used whenever needed. Except for the reception (in the evening on 11th) and excursion (in the afternoon on 12th), the system was continuously used even during technical presentations. People sometimes retrieved related information via PDAs while listening to a presentation. People use PDAs even after the conference, especially in their hotels after dinner. The highest peak in use, the midnight of December 10th, shows that PDAs are actively used just before the technical program starts.


 Toshikazu Nishimura, Hirofumi Yamaki, Takaaki Komura, Nobuyasu Itoh, Tadahiro Gotoh and Toru Ishida, ``Community Viewer: Visualizing Community Formation on Personal Digital Assistants,'' ACM SAC'98 (Symposium on Applied Computing) Mobile Computing Track, pp. 433-438, 1998.

 Yoshiyasu Nishibe, Hiroaki Waki, Ichiro Morihara, Fumio Hattori, Toru Ishida, Toshikazu Nishimura, Hirofumi Yamaki, Takaaki Komura, Nobuyasu Itoh, Tadahiro Gotoh, Toyoaki Nishida, Hideaki Takeda, Atsushi Sawada, Harumi Maeda, Masao Kajihara, Hidekazu Adachi, ``Mobile Digital Assistants for Community Support,'' AI Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 31-49, 1998.

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