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 UW MSR Institute 2009
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The 2009 Summer Institute, co-sponsored by the University of Washington and Microsoft Research, will be held at the Semiahmoo Resort (www.semiahmoo.com) in Blaine, WA, from July 26-29, 2009. The Resort is located approximately 2 hours north of Seattle, near the US-Canadian border.

Title: Unraveling the technological knot in homes

Proposal: Modern homes are well on their way to becoming one of the richest everyday computing environments with a diverse mix of inter-connected devices, infrastructure and services. Even today, the task of managing this ensemble often leaves users feeling frustrated and helpless, and the problem is only getting worse. The lack of effective approaches that enable users to easily and securely manage devices inside homes threatens adoption of new technologies. For instance, wireless routers are the most frequently returned electronic equipment because many find them too complex to setup and administer. It would surely be hard to convince such users to accept more audacious technologies that are currently being developed, e.g., an in-home eldercare service based on multiple sensors and devices. The underlying issues are challenging because solutions must work well for non-technical users, across a heterogeneous set of multi-vendor devices, and in the face of fast-changing environment.

The goal of this summer institute is to articulate the key aspects of this problem space, identify new and promising solution approaches, and encourage inter-disciplinary research efforts that revolutionize computing in the home. We believe that it is necessary to cross-fertilize ideas and experiences across many areas such as systems and networking, HCI, AI, security and ubiquitous computing if we are to make substantial progress on this topic. In our view, approaches that explore networking or HCI issues (say) in isolation are likely to be less effective.

Examples of topics that we will explore include:

  • What kinds of interactions work well to allow non-technical users to use, change, manage and troubleshoot the home ensemble?
  • How should functions and tasks be placed inside or outside the home and divided among lay users and professionals?
  • How can the organization and capabilities of the home ensemble be reconciled with the mental model of users?
  • How can we strike a balance between usability and privacy and security?
  • What game-changing technologies or architectures can recast the problem?
  • How can technology management keep pace with the fast evolving set of technologies inside homes?
  • What explains the low success rates for using networked devices in practice even in the limited setting of existing homes?

Organizers: Ratul Mahajan (MSR) and David Wetherall (UW/Intel)

Descriptions of past summer institutes may be viewed at: http://www.cs.washington.edu/mssi/.

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[comments to Kay Beck-Benton]