edit Focus


Anthony Collins, Judy Kay
School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney

Contact Person

Anthony Collins

Photo of Focus

Project Description

Pervasive computing is changing file access from a solitary task that a user performs at a single, fixed computer terminal, to one where the user has a whole ecosystem of personal devices, which range from the mobile and portable to the embedded and fixed, and which are used in a range of contexts. We particularly consider the issue for interactive tabletops, and more generally for Single Display Groupware (SDG); these have the potential to be a promising means for collaborative interaction, creating both opportunities and constraints for the required file access mechanisms.

There is recognition of the importance of associative storage models for these new pervasive computing devices, which need to support collaborative work making use of multiple personal file systems. Of particular importance is a mechanism that can enable people to walk up to and use interactive surfaces to access and work with their own collections of files in a collaborative setting.

Focus (formerly OnTop) is an associative file and personal information access interface for tabletops. With a single interface action, similar information is pulled from each user's file collection, regardless of its hierarchical location or the tools used to manage it (for example, email and other personal information is merged with the file system). This allows content-based file access without requiring the user to enter any text for a search. These dynamic associations are based on file metadata and textual content, and an interface is provided to control and influence the similarity calculation (for example, users can promote or demote certain metadata attributes used in the similarity calculation process). A companion application for smartphones, called Focus Inspector, can be used while working at the tabletop to control these settings on a private display. With the Focus Inspector application, a user can also browse their files from their computers (which could be located anywhere), open them for viewing on their phone, and send desired ones to the tabletop for sharing with others.

Below is a video of a recent talk by Professor Judy Kay, showcasing Focus and some of the other research and applications developed with the Cruiser framework:

Media Coverage

Students develop rival to Microsoft's Surface, in The Australian, March 02, 2010 by Mahesh Sharma

Key Publications

A. Collins. New dimensions of file access at tabletops: associative and hierarchical; private and shared; individual and collaborative. PhD thesis, School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney, 2011. [View Details]

A. Collins, C. J. Ackad, T. Apted, P. Sztajer, P. Ward, H. Weng, and J. Kay. Core functionality and new applications for tabletops and interactive surfaces. In UbiComp '11, 13th international conference on Ubiquitous computing, pages 607-608, New York, NY, USA, 2011. ACM Press. [View Details]

A. Collins, J. Kay, C. Stewart, E. Fitzgerald, and C. Ackad. A system, method and computer program for interacting with data (tabletop “multi-page”), 2011. [View Details]

A. Collins and J. Kay. File System Access for Tabletop Interaction, pages 335-355. Tabletops - Horizontal Interactive Displays. Springer, 2010. [View Details]

A. Collins, H. Coche, T. Kuflik, and J. Kay. Making the tabletop personal: employing user models to aid information retrieval. Technical Report 655, School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney, 2010. [View Details]

A. Collins and J. Kay. Escaping hierarchies and desktops: Associative, pervasive file access with user control. Technical Report 649, School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney, 2010. [View Details]

A. Collins, A. Bezerianos, G. McEwan, M. Rittenbruch, R. Wasinger, and J. Kay. Understanding file access mechanisms for embedded ubicomp collaboration interfaces. In UbiComp '09: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, pages 135-144, New York, NY, USA, 2009. ACM Press. [View Details]

A. Collins and J. Kay. A system, method and software application for the control of file transfer to a pervasive computing system. United States Patent Application, 2009. [View Details]

B. Sprengart, A. Collins, and J. Kay. Curator: A design environment for curating tabletop museum experiences. In ITS '09 Demonstrations, the ACM Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces, 2009. [View Details]

A. Collins and J. Kay. Collaborative personal information management with shared, interactive tabletops. In Proceedings of Personal Information Management 2008 (a CHI 2008 Workshop), 2008. [View Details]

A. Collins. Tabletop file system and personal information management in pervasive computing. In Advances in Pervasive Computing: Adjunct Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing, pages 160-166. Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft, 2008. [View Details]

A. Collins. Enabling collaborative tabletop file system interaction through similarity-based browsing, 2008. Grand finalist paper submission for the ACM Student Research Competition 2008. [View Details]

A. Collins. Exploring tabletop file system interaction. In CHI '07: CHI '07 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 2171-2176, New York, NY, USA, 2007. ACM Press. [View Details]

A. Collins, T. Apted, and J. Kay. Tabletop file system access: Associative and hierarchical approaches. In TABLETOP '07: Proceedings of the Second Annual IEEE International Workshop on Horizontal Interactive Human-Computer Systems, pages 113-120, Washington, DC, USA, 2007. IEEE Computer Society. [View Details]

A. Collins and J. Kay. Systems and methods for file transfer to a pervasive computing system. Australian Provisional Patent 2007231829, Smart Internet Technology CRC Pty Ltd, Eveleigh, NSW, Australia, 2007. [View Details]