Laboratory for Interactive Real-Time Computing Systems (LINCS)-Engineering Research Accelerator - Carnegie Mellon University

Laboratory for Interactive Real-Time Computing Systems (LINCS)

Over the last decade the Interaction Design Studio and Wearable Computers Lab have collaborated in design and prototyping of more than 20 generations of wearable computers, which have become cornerstones of the wearable computing field. By applying and refining our rapid prototyping methodology, the labs have introduced wearable computers in a number of previously untried application areas. Maintenance and inspection, augmented manufacturing, real-time speech translation, navigation, context aware computing, and group collaboration have all been explored using wearable computers, and a variety of engineering research has been performed to understand the principles underlying these designs. While the complexity of the prototype artifacts has increased by over two orders of magnitude, the total design effort has increased by less than a factor of two. Three prestigious international design awards have been received for our visionary designs: VuMan 3, MoCCA and Digital Ink. Design and prototyping of such systems requires expertise in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Industrial Design, and Mechanical Engineering.

This is a paradigm shift research which will deal with all four aspects of project development; the application, the artifact, the computer-aided design environment, and the physical prototyping facilities. The projects develop specifications for a mobile computer to assist an end-user customer. The application will be partitioned between human computer interaction, electronics, industrial design, mechanical, and software components. The research projects are divided into groups to specify, design, and implement the various subsystems. The goal is to produce a working hardware/software prototype of the system and to evaluate the user acceptability of the system. Upon completion of the project the participants will be able to: generate systems specifications from a perceived need; partition functionality between hardware and software; produce interface specifications for a system composed of numerous subsystems; use computer-aided design tools; fabricate, integrate, and debug a hardware/software system; and evaluate the system in the context of an end user application.

Topics Covered: The research is divided into three major phases (Conceptualization, Detailed Design, and Implementation), each composed of up to several sub phases.

1. Conceptualization

Problem Definition: The goal of this sub phase is to define the problem, which is being solved, perform requirements analysis, and evaluate user needs. A variety of brain-storming techniques will be employed to develop a product design definition including attributes such as functionality, cost, performance, technology acquisition, and fabrication techniques. The course evolves around our User-Centered Interdisciplinary Concurrent Design Methodology (UICSM), developed by the instructors, with the industrial partner introducing the problem and interacting with students throughout the semester.

Technology Survey: The final shape of a system is often determined by what technology is currently available. A survey of available technology, with special emphasis on input and output devices, will further refine the Product Design Specification. Lessons learned from prior generations of mobile computers will be discussed. New components will be acquired and interfaced to existing systems to determine the feasibility and complexity of the new technology. Videotapes of current practice as well as discussions with end users will generate interactive scenarios.

Subsystem Architecture Specification: Given the constraints of available technology and the user's computational environment, the architecture for the system will be developed. Topics such as local versus distributed processing, position sensing, computer/human interface, and information updating must be addressed by the selected architecture. Planning will also include interdependencies between the technologies, people, and resources available in the course.

Subsystem Specification: The system functionality will be partitioned and assigned to hardware and/or software components. Refinement of the Product Design Specification will include attributes of the subsystems including performance, interface, and evaluation criteria.

2. Detailed Design

Each subsystem will be designed and implemented. Design will be supported by contemporary computer-aided design tools. Mini workshops as necessary on relevant tools will provide students a basic introduction to the state of computer-aided design. Human computer interaction studies will be designed in conjunction with mechanical/electronic/software mock-ups to provide data for design decisions.

3. Implementation

The detailed hardware/software designs will be implemented using both on-campus and off-campus facilities. On-campus physical prototyping facilities will be used when appropriate. The state-of-the-art in rapid prototyping will be presented.

System Integration: The various hardware and software subsystems must be individually tested and then integrated into a working system. System integration and testing plans will be formulated commencing with the system architecture specification phase. The system will be evaluated through controlled user experiments.

Methodology Evaluation: As a final phase, the methodology followed in the course will be quantitatively and qualitatively evaluated and modifications suggested.