Pebbles PC

Announcing Commercial release of SlideShow Commander for PocketPC and Palm from
Synergy Solutions!

The Pebbles project is exploring how Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), such as a device running PalmOS, or a device running the Microsoft Windows CE or Pocket PC operating systems, can be used when they are communicating with a "regular" personal computer (PC), with other PDAs, and with computerized devices such as telephones, radios, microwave ovens and factory equipment.


Project Summary

With the coming wireless technologies, such as BlueTooth and IEEE 802.11, connecting hand-held computers and conventional computers together will no longer be an occasional event for synchronization. Instead, the devices will frequently be 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. When the user enters one of these environments carrying a hand-held 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 3Com Palm Pilots or 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. In the future, we will also explore the use of the PDA as a customizable, intelligent front end to other applications and devices.


  • Partially funded by a grant from DARPA.
    This research was performed in part in connection with Contract number DAAD17-99-C-0061 with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as presenting the official policies or position, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government unless so designated by other authorized documents. Citation of manufacturer's or trade names does not constitute an official endorsement or approval of the use thereof. The U.S. Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation hereon.
  • Partially funded by a grant from NSF.
    This research is funded in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0117658.  Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation. 
  • Partially funded by grants from MICROSOFT.
    This research is also partially funded by four generous grants from Microsoft (in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001), sponsored by Microsoft Research, and by the Windows CE development group.
  • Partially funded by a grant from the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse.
    This grant, in collaboration with Maya Design focuses on the "Personal Universal Controller".
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Symbol Technologies of one PPT 2700 (ruggedized Palm-size PC running Windows CE with a laser scanner and radio), two SPT 1750s (ruggedized Palm with laser scanner and radio), a Spectrum24 Wireless LAN AP 4111 Access Point, and a LA 3020 Wireless LAN PC Card.
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Hewlett Packard, under the University Grants Program of 10 Jornada 430se, 120 Jornada 680 and about 100 Jornada 720.
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Lucent Technologies of about 300 Wavelan wireless network PCMCIA cards for the HP Jornada
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Palm Computing, Inc. of 10 Palm IIIx Connected Organizers and 12 Palm Vx Handhelds and 4 m100 handhelds.
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from IBM of ten IBM Workpads 8602-30X
  • Thanks to SMART Technologies, Inc. for the donation of a SMART Board 580 and stand.
  • Thanks to Synergy Solutions, a division of, which donated 10 ten-foot Palm cables, that are normally distributed free with a purchase of SlideShow Commander.
  • Thanks to TDK Systems Europe, LTD for six BlueTooth modules for Palms and PCs: 4 Blue5 sleds for Palms, and 2 USB Adaptors.

We welcome funding from other sources. Please contact Brad Myers for more information.

Papers and Talks about Pebbles

    The first  one is the best current reference to use for Pebbles:

  1. Brad A. Myers. "Using Hand-Held Devices and PCs Together," Communications of the ACM. Volume 44, Issue 11. November, 2001. pp. 34 - 41. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  2. Talk: "Using Handheld Computers and PCs Together" (an overview of the Pebbles project). Talk given to the HCI Seminar Series, Carnegie Mellon University, 11-17-1999. Click here to see a video of this talk (requires Internet Explorer)
  3. These are in forward chronological order
  4. Brad A. Myers, Herb Stiel, and Robert Gargiulo. "Collaboration Using Multiple PDAs Connected to a PC." Proceedings CSCW'98: ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, November 14-18, 1998, Seattle, WA. pp. 285-294.
    Postscript (about 4.4 megabytes) or Adobe Acrobat (pdf) (about 400K)
  5. Brad A. Myers. An Implementation Architecture to Support Single-Display Groupware. Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science Technical Report, no. CMU-CS-99-139 and Human Computer Interaction Institute Technical Report CMU-HCII-99-101. May, 1999. Available in postscript or pdf formats.
  6. Robert C. Miller and Brad A. Myers, "Synchronizing Clipboards of Multiple Computers," CHI Letters: ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, UIST'99, vol. 1, no. 1. November 7-10, 1999. Asheville, NC. pp. 65-66.
  7. Brad Myers, Kin Pou Lie and Bo-Chieh ("Jerry") Yang, "Two-Handed Input Using a PDA and a Mouse", Proceedings CHI'2000: Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 1-6, 2000. The Hague, The Netherlands. pp. 41-48. Postscript or Acrobat (pdf).
  8. Karen Cross and Adrienne Warmack. "Contextual Inquiry: Quantification and Use in Videotaped Analysis". (Student Poster) Adjunct Proceedings CHI'2000: Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 1-6, 2000. The Hague, The Netherlands. pp. 317-318. pdf (Acrobat).
  9. Brad Myers, "The Pebbles Project: Using PCs and Hand-held Computers Together; Demonstration Extended Abstract." Adjunct Proceedings CHI'2000: Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 1-6, 2000. The Hague, The Netherlands. pp. 14-15.
  10. Franklin Chen, Brad Myers and David Yaron, Using Handheld Devices for Tests in Classes. Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science Technical Report, no. CMU-CS-00-152 and Human Computer Interaction Institute Technical Report CMU-HCII-00-101. July, 2000. pdf or postscript
  11. Brad A. Myers, Robert C. Miller, Benjamin Bostwick, and Carl Evankovich, "Extending the Windows Desktop Interface With Connected Handheld Computers," 4th USENIX Windows Systems Symposium, August 3-4, 2000, Seattle, WA. pp. 79-88. postscript or Adobe Acrobat (pdf).
  12. Brad A. Myers. "Collaboration Using Multiple PDAs Connected to a PC," Workshop on Shared Environments to Support Face-to-Face Collaboration at CSCW'2000, Philadelphia, PA. html
  13. Brad A. Myers. "Using Multiple Devices Simultaneously for Display and Control." IEEE Personal Communications special issue on "Networking the Physical World." vol. 7, no. 5, Oct. 2000. pp. 62-65.
  14. Brad A. Myers, Jeff Nichols, Rob Miller. "User Interfaces that Span Hand-Held and Fixed Devices" Workshop on Distributed and Disappearing User Interfaces in Ubiquitous Computing at CHI'2001, Seattle, WA. Albrecht Schmidt, Peter Ljundgstrand, and Anind Dey, editors. University of Karlsruhe Faculty of Information Technical Report 2001-6. ISSN 1432-7864. html
  15. Jeffrey Nichols, Brad A. Myers, Rob Miller. "Personal Interfaces in Ubiquitous Environments". Workshop on Building the Ubiquitous Computing User Experience at CHI'2001, Seattle, WA. html
  16. Choon Hong Peck, "Useful Parameters for the Design of Laser Pointer Interaction Techniques." ACM CHI'2001 Student Posters. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 5, 2001. pp. 461-462. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  17. Jeffrey W. Nichols. "Using Handhelds as Controls for Everyday Appliances: A Paper Prototype Study." ACM CHI'2001 Student Posters. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 5, 2001. pp. 443-444. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  18. Brad A. Myers, Choon Hong Peck, Jeffrey Nichols, Dave Kong, and Robert Miller, "Interacting At a Distance Using Semantic Snarfing," ACM UbiComp'2001, Sept 30 - Oct 2, 2001, Atlanta, Georgia. pp. 305-314. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  19. Brad A. Myers and Jeffrey Nichols, "Communication Ubiquity Enables Ubiquitous Control." 'Boaster' for Human-Computer Interaction Consortium (HCIC'2002). Winter Park, CO, Feb, 2002.  html
  20. Brad A. Myers, Rishi Bhatnagar, Jeffrey Nichols, Choon Hong Peck, Dave Kong, Robert Miller, and A. Chris Long. "Interacting At a Distance: Measuring the Performance of Laser Pointers and Other Devices." Proceedings CHI'2002: Human Factors in Computing Systems. Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20-25, 2002. To appear. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  21. Jeffrey Nichols. "Informing Automatic Generation of Remote Control Interfaces with Human Designs" CHI'2002 Student Posters. Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20-25, 2002. To appear. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  22. Submitted for publication
  23. Karen Cross, Adrienne Warmack, and Brad Myers. "Lessons Learned: Using Contextual Inquiry Analysis to Improve PDA Control of Presentations". Submitted for Publication. postscript or pdf (Acrobat).
  24. Brad A. Myers, Yu Shan A. Chuang, Marsha Tjandra, Mon-chu Chen, and Chun-Kwok Lee. "Floor Control in a Highly Collaborative Co-Located Task." Submitted for Publication. pdf or Postscript.
  25. Jeffrey Nichols and Brad A. Myers. "Studying The Use of Handhelds To Control Everyday Appliances". Submitted for publication. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
  26. Brad A. Myers, Sunny Yang, Brian Yeung, Jeffrey Nichols, and Robert Miller. "Using a Handheld to Help People with Motor Impairments". Submitted for publication. Adobe Acrobat (pdf)

Future Work

We plan to continue to work on Pebbles project. Let us know what would be useful.

If you have ideas or requests, please email them to us at

Please also consider supporting the Pebbles project by providing a research grant. This will help us continue this research. The companies that are "affiliates" of the Pebbles projects will be given advance notice of future directions, and will be asked for advice on future directions. They will also have access to source code. We would also be interested in gifts of equipment, especially additional PDAs or wireless technologies for connecting them.

Related Projects at CMU

Maintained by: Brad A. Myers
Page design by:
Joonhwan Lee