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The term ubiquitous (pronounced yoo-BIK-wih-tuhs) means "existing or being everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered." [1] Ubiquitous computing is the idea that involves technology being everywhere, but becoming virtually invisible in our lives. Instead of having computers act as distinct objects, they would be embedded in our environment and built into objects we use everyday.

Promoters of ubiquitous computing hope that embedding computation into the environment and everyday objects would enable people to move around and interact with information and computing more naturally and casually than they currently do. One of the goals of ubiquitous computing is to enable devices to sense changes in their environment and to automatically adapt and act based on these changes and preferences.

Ubiquitous computing is considered to be virtual reality turned inside out. Virtual reality invites the user into the computer and part of a world beyond mediation. Ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live in the world with people. Everything is a medium because everything is or contains a computing device (Bolter & Grusin, 1999:217).

Other terms for ubiquitous computing include pervasive computing, calm technology [2], things that think and everyware [3].

History Edit

The late Mark Weiser (often credited as the father of the concept) wrote what are considered some of the seminal papers in Ubiquitous Computing beginning in 1988 at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

"Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives."

- Mark Weiser

Weiser was influenced by the dystopian Philip K. Dick novel Ubik, which envisioned a future in which everything -- from doorknobs to toilet-paper holders, were intelligent and connected. Currently, the art is not as mature as Weiser hoped, but a considerable amount of development is taking place.

The MIT Media Lab has also carried on significant research in this field, which they call Things That Think. [4]

American writer Adam Greenfield coined the term Everyware to describe technologies of ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, ambient informatics and tangible media. The article All watched over by machines of loving grace contains the first use of the term. Greenfield also used the term as the title of his book Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing (ISBN 0321384016).

Even before the term ubiquitous computing was coined, Hanna-Barbara's cartoon The Jetsons depticted life in 2062 where interactive robots and smart rooms could communicate with occupants. In a sense, the Jetsons lived in an ubiquitous computing world. [5]

Future Edit

Ubiquitous computing enthusiasts imagine many scenaries in which lives can be seamlessly integrated with computers.

A factory technician, hired to bring an old manufacturing facility up to spec, is conducting a site visit. As he walks through the unfamiliar production floor, the screen of his PDA lights up with manuals and notes from previous technicians about the idiosyncrasies of the various machines he passes. [6]

Major technology companies, such as Intel, are already conducting research initiatives to enable the sorts of technologies used in the above scenario to become a part of everyday life.

Some enthusiasts of ubiquitous computing imagine a world of wearable computers that could be placed in watches, hats, belts, and shoes. There are some who are in favor of having microchips placed everywhere throughout the environment, even inside of human bodies for medical purposes. (Bolter & Grusin, 1999:218)

Concerns Edit

Some systems of ubiquitous computing, especially wearable computers, carry with them the possibility for total surveillance (Bolter & Grusin, 1999:218). This brings up many areas of concern, especially the issue of privacy. [7]


Publications committed to pervasive computing:

Ubiquitous computing initiatives in education:

External linksEdit


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