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  Ambient Intelligence with Tangible Objects  
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Within the Pervasive Computing framework, we develop ambient intelligence in physical devices to be used both in daily life and in industrial production. Ambient intelligence is the integration of technology into our environment, so that people can freely and interactively utilize it. In concrete terms, ambient intelligence is provided by a large number of small, intelligent devices, ´in-built´ into our surroundings. These devices have three important characteristics: they can be personalized, they are adaptive and they are anticipatory. One instance of such devices is what we call tangible objects. The term tangible object covers the idea that an object is designed and implemented to have elements from the physical, informational and conceptual spaces. The tangible object represents a much more extensive coupling between these spaces essential to future computations.

The research and development of product and production technology based on ambient intelligence with tangible objects share a number of aspects. Fundamentally, both applications are based on the basic research into ambient intelligence with tangible objects. The basic research suggests distributing control from a central control to individual tangible objects that can communicate with one another and with external devices. In the case of the entertainment product application, the tangible objects are LEGO bricks with processing power, whereas the tangible objects are production equipment in the case of the production application. Both LEGO bricks and production equipment are provided with communication technology and intelligent processing.

The two applications complement each other by looking at different levels of processing capabilities. LEGO bricks will be equipped with simple hardware and the aim is to investigate the sufficient requirements for obtaining ambient intelligence, both in terms of hardware and software. A main goal is to show the feasibility of using simple (cheap) hardware and simple, modern AI principles to achieve interesting behavior of the overall system. The simple hardware puts limitations on the possible data structures and communication between the tangible objects. In general, the research aims at defining the minimal “cell structure” (i.e. building block) that allow interesting behavior to emerge when more cells are connected. Therefore a parallel development of processes and technologies enabling the physical realization of the intelligent LEGO brick will be carried out as a part of the project.

The production application looks at the scaling up issue, within the limits of e.g. LEGO MINDSTORMS or PDA control hardware. It is believed that the simple cells can emerge to larger clusters that provide functionality in a modular way. In the production application, we investigate tangible objects with such a higher level of functionality. In this case, the modules are pre-defined, since we are interested in the next step on top of the modules. It will be investigated what the most appropriate software architecture for such tangible objects is.

By looking at both the low level processing in single cells (the product case), and the high level processing in larger clusters of cells (the production case), we believe that both applications can feed valuable input to each other, and form a generic base for design of future distributed systems. The design of the single cells may be guided by the desirable higher level functionality asked for by the production application, while the high level software architecture may be minimized by the hardware and software possibilities at the low level of the single cells.

Further, on a technical level, both applications needs the investigation of wireless communication, and joint initial studies of Bluetooth and its integration with microprocessor technology will feed into both applications. PIC programming will be used to allow interfacing with Bluetooth from devices such as LEGO MINDSTORMS, PDAs, and small circuits (in LEGO bricks). In general, the study of intelligent sensors (sensors with on-board, intelligent processing) is a major issue in the distribution of control, and the technical developments will feed into both applications. Finally, the investigation of communication with external devices (e.g. communication points in the room) is important for both the entertainment and the production scenario.


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   CfPC©, updated: 14-nov-05