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.
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A team at Sydney University wrote the Focus application, … Sydney University PhD student Anthony Collins developed the application over the past couple of years for his thesis, in conjunction with PhD student Trent Apted and computer human-adapted interaction head Professor Judy Kay. … Mr Collins said the focus
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