Pervasive context-aware computing technologies are essential enablers for next generation applications for the digital workplace, consumer electronics, research, education, government and health-care. These enhanced technologies are expected to be in the mainstream in the next 5-10 years. Context-aware cognitive support requires activity and context information to be captured and, ever more often, moved across devices – securely, efficiently and with multi-device interoperability.
Task- and activity-based computing originated in the HCI/CSCW community, such as the ACM-SIGCHI/CSCW conferences. Recently, much work in context modeling, human activity recognition/modeling using machine learning techniques and sensor input has been presented in the AI and machine learning community. As such, activity-based computing lies in the intersection of these two communities. Context representation has received a lot of attention in the information technology community and in the industry among mobile vendors. This workshop laid the groundwork for techniques to represent activity context using a synthesis of these approaches to reduce demands on people, such as the cognitive load inherent in activity/context/device switching and enhance human performance within activities. This workshop set the stage for the creation of an international academic and industrial consortium for systems that capture, transfer, and recall activity context across multiple devices and platforms used by people individually and collectively.
The workshop and consortium interest was focused on using AI techniques to improve the human-computer interface for better human performance of knowledge work. Therefore, applications in machine-to-machine systems (manufacturing, smart grid, load balancing), standard data mining and web-based behavioral analytics were out of scope.
The workshop was introduced by Lokendra Shastri (Infosys) with a vision and motivation for the Next Generation Digital Workspace, where activity context representation techniques will be critical enablers.
Jakob Bardram (IT University of Copenhagen) described a powerful implementation of activity based computing in the healthcare space showing examples of benefits from activity context aware systems.
Dan Diaper (author of the Handbook of Task Analysis) highlighted that it is far more difficult to determine what context to represent, than the representation problem itself, and laid out a formal systems approach for machine capture, representation and use of context.
Arijit Laha (Infosys) described a rich context model for knowledge work. Ontologies to represent context were described by Monica Tentori (Dr. Jesus Favela’s group on Collaborative Information Retrieval at University of Mexico) and Juan Gomez Romero (University Carlos III of Madrid). Aptima researchers showcased their CHAT (Context for Human and Automation Teams) model of context representation.
The lively panel discussion led by Tim Finin (UMBC) defined the scope of the research to include creating context, activity-driven systems providing end-user value through monitoring, exchange and support on activities which can be performed better with help of computational devices than otherwise. This involves determining
a. what level of abstraction is appropriate for context representation
b. representing the social dimension
c. how to capture the range from pre-defined and transactional activities to ad-hoc and creative work
d. how activities change the context
e. recording and presenting context relevant information.
This will make information meaningful to applications and enable intelligent guidance to the user based on the meaning discerned. Such context includes related information that makes it possible to discern meaning of the information of interest.
The key research areas identified for longer term focus for the consortium and workshop were:
a. User/Intent Modeling, Activity Recognition, Detection, Acquisition, Observe and Record Tacit Knowledge,
b. Activity Context Analysis, Modeling, Representation, Modeling and Ontologies, Cognitive State Transfer,
c. Uses and Scenarios, Collaboration, Software Architectures, User Interfaces, Developer Tools, Benchmarking Tools, Text, Context and Behavioral Analytics
d. Security and Privacy.
The keynote lecture by Henry Kautz (Rochester) on activity recognition for way-finding and time management illustrated how guidance can be provided by knowing what the user’s activity context is. He cautioned that such a smart system could also result in the user having to speculate about what the system might do.
Philippe Palanque (IRIT, Université Paul Sabatier) showed a system providing context sensitive help for critical system operators. Maarten Sierhuis (PARC), Sonja Zillner (Siemens AG) and Tiffany Tsao (NTU, Taipei) presented proposals on Brahms, context in medical imaging and a hierarchical activity representation. Fei Li from Schahram Dustdar’s Distributed Systems Group (Vienna University of Technology) showed a learning technique for activity recognition.
The second day started with Paul Lukowiz’ (Universität Passau) keynote defining outstanding technical challenges in activity and context recognition, capture, representation and exchange. Aristotelis Hadjakos (Max Muhlhauser’s Telecooperation Group at Technische Universität Darmstadt) presented an approach for dynamic context labeling based on product usage. Yasamin Sahaf (Diane Cook’s group at Washington State University) showed an example of defining the complexity of an activity. Mobile context aware systems, context management and privacy sensitivity were addressed by Boris Moltchanov (Telecom Italia), Tim Finin (UMBC), Tom Lovett (Vodafone), Wolfgang Woerndl (Technische Universität München), Vidya Narayanan and Fuming Shih from Sanjeev Nanda’s group at Qualcomm Research and Tim Berners-Lee’s group at MIT, respectively.
Bo Begole (PARC) delivered a closing keynote on the future of activity context aware systems, technologies and research.
Based on the strong interest of the participants, the workshop and consortium members will meet at forums such as Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI, Lisbon, Feb 2011), Where 2.0, CHI 2012 and AAAI 2012 to carry the consortium effort forward. The work includes identifying use-case categories, motivating value with social benefits and business models, creating solution architectures, language, data structures, operations to enable top use-case categories, significantly augment existing standards, create an adoption plan addressing likely barriers such as critical mass, privacy, not-invented-here and complexity, provide advisory input to government funding bodies and industry investors, create fresh initiatives to enable capture, transfer, and recall of activity context and an index of repositories for open-source component software such as
activitybasedcomputing.org, planrec.org etc.
Lokendra Shastri, Tim Finin, Henry Kautz, Bo Begole and Matthai Philipose organized this workshop together with Vikas Agrawal. The organizers thank Gerrit van der Veer (President ACM SIG-CHI) for providing publicity among the HCI community for this workshop. The papers from workshop were published as AAAI Technical Report WS-11-04.