Ubiquitous Computing Research Group

Invisible Tech

Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp):

It is in essence, computing that is everywhere. It is the concept of the pervasiveness of computing penetrating our lives. No matter where we are – no matter which devices we use – it is the interaction of humans with computers in their everyday environment.

The Toronto Ubicomp Research Group (TorURG) is located within the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.


solve computing problems

Powerful Innovative Solutions to Today’s Computing Problems

Our aim is finding solutions through scientific study and research in all areas of human computer interactions. By finding the problems in the interface we are able to find better ways to blend computing with a more natural interaction.

Working Towards Natural Interaction Between People and Computing

Creating a seamless bridge between man, machine, and his environment across all devices and networks. We are paving the path for better technologies that will blend more seamlessly with daily life.


The Age Where Technology Recedes to the Background of Our Consciousness

Ubiquitous computing can be considered a third stage or paradigm of computing. Society has now moved from the second stage of PCs with one computer and one person to now one person and many computers. The aim of this type of networking concept is to force computers to a place where we do not notice them as they work to help make our lives beter. They are to work quietly in the background assisting us in everyday life. The ultimate form of technology is invisible and undetectable, while it does the job we need it to do.

computer technology recedes to the background



In the areas of human-computer interaction (HCI) and ubiquitous computing (ubicomp), we are most often investigating problems at their intersection. Specifically, we focus on the design and evaluation of:

  • Underlying input / output pervasive technologies;
  • Novel interaction techniques;
  • Ubicomp applications such as automated capture and access to live experiences, context-aware computing, and assistive technology;
  • Social issues surrounding the proliferation and adoption of ubicomp.

List of Research Projects

An Examination of Daily Information Needs and Sharing Opportunities

A person often has highly context-sensitive information needs that require assistance from individuals in their social network.

However, a person’s social network is often not broad enough to include the right people in the right situations or circumstances who can satisfy the needs. The ability to satisfy context-sensitive information needs depends on a person’s ability to seek the answers from appropriate individuals, who must then provide a response in a timely manner. We examine people’s perceived daily information needs and sharing desires.

We provide a structured framework for understanding the types of information people need and discuss when and how people are able to satisfy their needs.

This work has resulted in:

Dearman, D., Kellar, M., Truong, K.N. An Examination of Daily Information Needs and Sharing Opportunities. CSCW 2008: ???-???.

Breaking the Disposable Technology Paradigm: Opportunities for Sustainable Interaction Design for Mobile

How do people understand the lifespan of their phones? What factors, such as style, service contracts, and functionality, affect how they attribute value to their phones, and their awareness and actions regarding mobile phone sustainability? We explore open areas for sustainable interaction design and generate seed ideas for designs and services to provoke thought and further exploration towards more sustainable mobile phone interfaces and practices.

This work has resulted in:

Huang, E.M., Truong, K.N. Breaking the Disposable Technology Paradigm: Opportunities for Sustainable Interaction Design for Mobile Phones. CHI 2008: 323-332.
Huang, E.M., Truong, K.N. Situated sustainability for mobile phones. interactions 15(2): 16-19, ACM Press, 2008.
Huang, E.M., Yatani, K., Truong, K.N., Kientz, J.A., Patel, S.N. Understanding the Situated Sustainability of Mobile Phones: The Influence of Local Constraints and Practices on Transferability.To appear in IEEE Pervasive Computing, IEEE Press, 2009.

An Exploration of Location Error Estimation

Many existing localization systems generate location predictions, but fail to report how accurate the predictions are. We explore the effect of revealing the error of location predictions to the end-user in a location finding field study. Because providing a dynamic estimate of error results in significant benefit in location finding tasks, we design practical algorithms for estimating the error of a location prediction.

This work has resulted in:

David Dearman, Alex Varshavsky, Eyal de Lara, Khai N. Truong: An Exploration of Location Error Estimation. Ubicomp 2007: 181-198

An Evaluation of Stylus-based Text Entry Methods on Handheld Devices in Stationary and Mobile Scenarios

Although text entry in a mobile device has been heavily explored, most of the existing techniques have been studied only in a stationary scenario. Furthermore, we observed that the thumb of the non-dominant hand is available for the secondary input while a user is holding a device.

Based on this observation, we designed a two-handed software keyboard with the stylus and the thumb. We compared four different stylus-based text entry techniques, including ours, in one stationary scenario and two mobile scenarios.

This work has resulted in:

Koji Yatani, Khai N. Truong: An Evaluation of Stylus-based Text Entry Methods on Handheld Devices in Stationary and Mobile Scenarios. MobileHCI 2007: 145-152




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