M-Links: A UI For Web Interaction On Very Small Devices

Jonathan Trevor and David Hilbert, FXPAL

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 26, 2001

Abstract: A basic objective of Weiser's Ubiquitous Computing vision is ubiquitous information access: being able to utilize any content (e.g., all the rich media content and services on the WWW), using devices that are always "at hand" (embedded in environments or portable), over a network with universal coverage and adequate bandwidth. Although much progress has been made, the ideal remains elusive. This talk examines some of the inter-relations among three dimensions of ubiquitous information systems: (1) ubiquitous content; (2) ubiquitous devices; and (3) ubiquitous networking. We use the space defined by these dimensions to reflect on some of the tradeoffs designers make, and to frame our discussion of M-Links (mobile links), a new system that takes aim at the elusive ideal of ubiquitous information. Based on our earlier experiences building and using a Web browser for small devices (Digestor) M-Links proposes a new UI that splits apart the integrated activities of link following and reading into separate modes: navigating to; and acting on web content. This interaction technique for very small

devices is both simpler for navigating and allows users to do more than just read. The M-Links system incorporates modal browsing interaction and addresses a number of associated problems.


Jonathan Trevor is a Research Scientist at FX Palo Alto Laboratory (FXPAL) working in the area of computer-based cooperative work. For his Ph.D. at the CSCW Research Center, Lancaster University, he developed an infrastructures for developing cooperative systems. While at GMD, Germany, he co-developed "BSCW" - a web-based shared workspace system that gained the European Software Innovation Award in 1996. He returned to Lancaster to work on a number of Europe-wide projects, including "eSCAPE" an electronic landscape providing interconnections to other virtual environments. His current research at FXPAL continues within an interdisciplinary team and focuses on the development of readily accessible groupware and HCI applications across a wide-range of technologies and platforms.

David Hilbert is a Research Scientist at FX Palo Alto Laboratory (FXPAL) working in the area of personal and mobile computing. His research interests lie in the overlap between software engineering and human-computer interaction. His Ph.D. work at U.C. Irvine explored techniques for capturing application usage data on a large scale to help improve the fit between application design and use. Before joining FXPAL, he also worked as a software engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and (for a short time) as a program manager at Microsoft.

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