Evaluating Unattended Technology, a Subset of Calm Technology
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Information is a central theme of the twenty-ﬁrst century. This is evident in the fact that everyday objects are being augmented to provide information. Thus, ubiquitous computing – providing information using everyday objects – becomes increasingly popular. The problem is that information requires attention for acquisition. Hence, ubiq- uitous computing puts a strain on attention, which is limited. There are many innovations that attempt to solve this problem; this thesis focusses on one: calm technology, which was introduced to interface design by Mark Weiser. Calm tech- nology attempts to reduce the attention required to acquire information. Ideally, calm technology would provide information without requiring any attention. I call this technology unattended. Calm technology research, however, typically provides little evidence showing that calm artifacts reduce the amount of attention required. Moreover, evaluations that are conducted on individual artifacts often fail to generalize. That is, evalua- tions only apply to the artifact that is evaluated. They do not identify properties of the artifact that make it calm. In this thesis, I design and conduct a dual task experiment. The results of the experiment indicate that users can perform an attention saturating primary task, and acquire information from a calm artifact not involved in the task, without sacriﬁcing performance on the primary task. Thus, the artifact does not require any attention, as can be measured by the experiment, while providing information. Thus, the artifact is unattended, which provides an existence proof for unattended technology.