The Disappearing Computer Initiative - Artefacts

Objective 1: Creating Artefacts.

In the vision of the ‘disappearing computer’, information artefacts are future forms of everyday objects that represent a merging of current everyday objects (tools, appliances, clothing, etc) with the capabilities of information processing and exchange (based on sensors, actuators, processors, mircosystems, etc).

These artefacts have the capability of communicating with other artefacts based on local (typically wireless) networks, as well as accessing or exchanging information at a distance via global networks. In this way, these artefacts posses the capability of both local and global inter-working.

Individually, artefacts may have a small range of capabilities but together can exhibit a much broader range of behaviours. Alternatively, in certain cases, they may be designed to individually have a wider range of functions, but still working within an ensemble.

This objective focuses on how to create individual artefacts, particularly ones that will have the attributes of openness and connectivity, so that together they can form an open and adaptable system. How they can work together using this as a basis, is taken up in objective 2.

New Architectures

The creation of artefacts requires research on new software and hardware architectures, particularly ones that:

  • Accommodate trade-offs between networking, computing, and power consumption.
  • Form part of an open system that allows for wireless communication with other artefacts, for example to connect with global networks.
  • Allow for adaptive behaviour, for example through the design of adaptive software architectures, or re-configurable hardware.
  • Allow for an awareness of their context, for example with a system of sensors.
  • Enable an artefact to be modular, either from the software or hardware points of view.

Embedding into Everyday Objects

In order to make information artefacts, the IT components have to fit them unobtrusively. This requires research into ways of merging information technology with objects and materials, including for example:

  • Methods and techniques for adding-on or embedding IT components.
  • Techniques for miniaturising components so as to allow easy embedding.
  • Coating, or sticking components onto objects, or interweaving them with their constituent materials.
  • Research could also consider approaches that would make it easy for people to embed IT components into everyday objects themselves, for example, with ‘do-it-yourself’ toolkits.
The Disappearing Computer Initiative © 2002