Pebbles Project Overview
The Pebbles project is exploring how handheld devices, such as Personal Digital
Assistants (PDAs) including devices running PalmOS
or Pocket PCs, and smart phones,
can be used when they are communicating with a "regular" personal computer (PC),
with other handhelds, and with computerized appliances such as telephones, radios,
microwave ovens, automobiles, and factory equipment.
With today's wireless technologies, such as BlueTooth
and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11), connecting handheld
computers and conventional computers together are becoming no longer an occasional
event for synchronization. Instead, the devices are frequently in close, interactive
communication. Many environments, such as offices, meeting rooms and classrooms,
already contain computers, and the smart homes of the future will have ubiquitous
embedded computation. Household and office appliances will soon have wireless
communication abilities. When the user enters one of these environments carrying
a handheld or wearable computer, how will that computer interact with the environment?
The Pebbles project is exploring the many ways that small handheld Personal
Digital Assistants (PDAs) such as PalmOS devices or Pocket PC / Windows CE devices
can serve as a useful adjunct to the "fixed" computers in those situations.
One set of applications supports meetings where the participants are co-located.
All participants' PDAs are in continuous two-way communication with each other,
and with the main computer which is often projected on a screen to serve as
the focal point of the discussion. For classrooms, we are investigating how
the student's hand-helds can enhance testing and notetaking when they are connected
to the instructor's PC.
Another set of applications supports a single user using the PDA as an extra
input and output device. The PDA can also be a customizable, intelligent "personal
universal controller" (PUC) for appliances. For the disabled, we are investigating
how PDAs can serve as assistive devices for access to computers and appliances.