UbiComp 2002 and the Disappearing Computer Jamboree

The fourth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, UbiComp 2002, was held in Göteborg, Sweden on September 29 – October 1. It was held jointly with the second Jamboree of the Disappearing Computer community, where all 16 projects in this proactive EU research initiative presented interactive exhibitions. The venue was the beautiful Draken Cinema – a 1950’s movie emporium with 713 seats and most of the original décor intact, including an amazing stage curtain portraying a traditional Viking Dragon ship.

The UbiComp conference series has attracted a growing interest in recent years, but this time was exceptionally successful. A total of almost 200 full papers and tech notes were submitted, out of which 27 were chosen for presentation at the conference. Posters, workshops and the new video category also attracted a great number of submissions. Sponsor interest was very high, which was particularly encouraging with respect to the problematic state of the IT industry. And the attendance broke all records: All in all, almost 500 people attended the conference – more than twice of any previous year! Although Europe and North America dominated, we had participants from almost all parts of the world, including South America, Asia and Africa. While delegates from academia dominated, industry attendance was also strong.

In the single-track papers program, contributions describing novel applications and technology for ubiquitous computing dominated, although there were several user- and design-oriented presentations too. For those wishing to delve further, the full proceedings are available from Springer (LNCS 2498). The poster exhibition was popular, and a doctoral consortium was a new addition for this year, forming the start of a community of Ph.D.-students in the field. A particularly successful innovation was the video program – created to take advantage of the fact that the conference was held in a cinema! The video program spanned over 20 years of ubiquitous computing, giving a unique perspective of the field’s development. The evening ended with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, and attendants were amused to see many of the technologies presented in the video program make an appearance in this science fiction film!

A big part of the success of the conference can be credited to the fact that it was co-located with the Disappearing Computer Jamboree. This was the second Jamboree and it also served the purpose of holding the annual review for all DC projects. The DC projects worked hard to present their research in an exhibition format – not an easy task, since it sometimes required moving entire research environments to Sweden! But the end results were worth it. Judging from the reactions from UbiComp attendants, the DC exhibition was very popular and served well to raise awareness of the work that is carried out in Europe. The exhibition was also the favorite hangout for the members of the press, resulting in several news articles where DC projects were prominently featured.

All in all, the UbiComp conference and the Disappearing Computer Jamboree were a show of strength in a time when most conferences have suffered great drops in attendance, due to the economy and other factors. There is a lot of exciting work being done in both of these complementary research communities and the mix of academic papers, interactive exhibits and other types of presentations proved very fruitful. Next year, the UbiComp conference will be held in Seattle. No definite plans yet on the DC Jamboree for 2003, but here’s hoping that both of these events will be even more successful next year!

Lars Erik Holmquist, general chair, UbiComp 2003

The Disappearing Computer Initiative © 2002