Is ubicomp already here?
Working on my talk for Frontiers in Interaction, I was wondering about a question I might address, which is "Is ubiquitous computing already here?" There are different options here to answer this question. At first glance, one might say "no" because as we do not see flying cars, super fancy fridges and context-aware cell phones are not used by 97% of the earth population. And when looking at the 3% (my approximation) well versed into high-tech practices, things are not that simple.
Another answer would be that yes ubicomp is here but not as envisioned by researchers, this is the claim by Bell and Dourish: "ubiquitous computing is already here, in the form of densely available computational and communication resources, is sometimes met with an objection that these technologies remain less than ubiquitous in the sense that Weiser suggested" that I share. This resonates with news press like this article in The Economist (It was hailed as a breakthrough that would revolutionise logistics. What ever happened to RFID?). The point here is to say that ubicomp is maybe less a matter of the gadgety future propelled by some researchers and maybe existing practices in countries well into broadband and mobile. Lots of reasons can be called to explain why we're not using location-based annotation systems or intelligent fridges, some are related to flawed assumptions about infrastructures, others to the problem of automation, regulation issues, etc.
Another way to think about it is that yes ubicomp is here, latent but not implemented like a sort of normative future waiting to be realized. The ideas and design of ubicomp so pervaded naive or pop culture about technologies (through cultural artifacts like Minority Report) that the future is thought to be like this. I can feel this when running workshop about the near near future (ubicomp, location-based app...). The symptom is simple: the ideas o buddy-finder, place-based annotations, intelligent agents are so present in people's mind that it's VERY difficult to reach innovative conclusions. What is even more remarkable (but maybe expected) is that it's not only the applications people want that are similar but also the underlying trend of hybridization: the improvement/facilitation ofconnection between people and people, things and people, place and things... all these *values* now pervade our culture...