Access and Feeds

Communal Computing: Devices Need Greater Shareability

By Dick Weisinger

Life is all about sharing.” — Mary Berry, English food writer.

The idea of making computers and electronic devices that we can share has been around for some time.

As early as 1997, in an IEEE Personal Communications paper, Xerox PARC already had the idea:

“…researchers have begun to examine computers that would autonomously change their functionality based on observations of who or what was around them. By determining their context, using input from sensor systems distributed throughout the environment, computing devices could personalize themselves to their current user, adapt their behavior according to their location, or react to their surroundings.”

Craig Hockenberry wrote back in 2010 in an open letter to Steve Jobs:

“My iPad has a lot of personal information on it: email, business documents, and financial data. When you pass it around, you’re giving everyone who touches it the opportunity to mess with your private life, whether intentionally or not. That makes me uneasy… I can envision several ways to solve this problem: either with a traditional login screen or with something new like folders that require a passcode to open. I have no doubt that your designers can find something elegant that gives me peace of mind as I share my iPad with friends and family.”

Now, more than a decade later from Craig’s wish letter to Steve Jobs, devices suitable for communal computing are still rare or even non-existent. One area where some progress is being made is with home device controls.

Rishi Chandra, Google executive, told Forbes that “we continue to introduce technologies, which allow us to seamlessly transition between personal computing and communal computing. So things like voice match or face match will be key technologies, that lead us to a system that can recognize who I am, and adjust to what my needs versus the needs of my family or other people in the house. It’s got to be both communal and personal, even in shared spaces… An area we think has to evolve is the privacy model to go along with it.”

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One comment on “Communal Computing: Devices Need Greater Shareability
  1. Chris Butler says:

    Totally agree! I’ve also been thinking about this communal computing.

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