April 14, 2003
Human-computer interaction experts were in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week at the biggest annual conference on the subject. Some of the most interesting work in the arena is in the area of handheld devices. By and large, the tradeoff when using them is convenience, such as small size, vs. capabilities, such as an often too-small screen and lack of computational power. The profusion of remote controls bedevils everyone with modern video and audio systems, and universal remotes have come into the market to address the problem. Taking that notion a step further is a team from Carnegie Mellon University and Maya Design, both in Pittsburgh, which is experimenting with "personal universal controllers." These are devices based on handhelds including PocketPC and mobile phones that might someday be the remote control for all kinds of household systems, including the lights and other appliances.