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2006-04-21
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Personal Jornal


1. Structure

The Personal Journal is one of the core structures of Specter. It is the system's memory, where any events noticed by Specter's sensors as well as conclusions drawn based on these events have to be stored. Since ideally the recording time covers the user's life span, a large-scale data structure is required, which provides the user with appropriate means for accessing all the varying data with varying means for varying purposes. In the following, we will have a close look at this component's technical structure, and then proceed to means of accessing the recorded data.

Sensors connected to Specter record binary signals. Such low-level information is translated into symbolic signal values, which are recorded in the Personal Journal. These values serve as input for an abstraction process under control of Specter's learning component. Its result are so-called journal entries. These provide an abstract and structured view on a subset of the stored signal information, and are the main data source applied during interaction with the user.

Figure 1: Storing information in the personal journal

Figure 1: Storing information in the personal journal

Figure 1 demonstrates the process of how information is stored in the journal. In the given example, a room temperature sensor provides a temperature value to Specter. Based on that value, a signal entry is created and stored in the journal. This new information may trigger one or more abstraction methods. Following the example, an abstraction method combines the temperature signal with the user's current state of affect (computed by another abstraction method), and creates a journal entry that represents the derived information.


2. User Interface

The quality of services provided by Specter depends strongly on the amount and quality of data stored in the personal journal. Thus the system records ideally permanently as many data as possible from the environment and compiles them into personal journal entries, a process that is performed automatically. And it has to be performed that way in order to free the user from the need of reviewing incoming data. Consequently, the actual process of entry generation will often be out of the user's control. Thus a means of inspecting the journal is required, which provides information about which kind of data have been recorded (and ideally how they have been processed) in order to provide transparency to the user and thus to extend her perception of the environment, and finally to increase her trust in Specter's actions.

However, such reading access will not be sufficient. In the best case, Specter records all information of interest, and provide relevant information based on these data. Unfortunately this seems out of reach for the near future: sensors may have malfunctions or might be completely missing depending on the environment, and especially in the training phase, the system will produce wrong conclusions due to an incomplete user model. Thus there is a certain need of editing manually content stored in the personal journal.

Finally, in order to accompany and to assist the user while she is interacting with an instrumented environment, inspection and editing should be possible at any time. Thus an appropriate user interface for these actions should be adaptable to varying scenarios in order to benefit from the varying environment features (e.g., small-scale display vs. large scale display).

Regarding the design of such an interface, there are systems with similar goals as Specter, which apply diverse techniques in order to achieve interfaces appropriate for their varying application domains. These domains overlap partially with Specter's domain, but none of them match it completely. To take this into account, Specter's personal journal user interface incorporates and merges the ideas of these interfaces where possible, and extends them where required.

A collage of personal journal browser and several viewers Basically, the personal journal user interface enables the user to browse the journal similarly as the Web. Thus it adopts the concept of a Web browser, which enables accessing the personal journal via so-called viewers. These provide varying data views of the information stored in the journal, an approach comparable to the one followed by MyLifeBits and the Personal Digital Historian. In this framework, the browser as well as the viewers may be exchanged in order to benefit from the specific advantages of a given platform (e.g., a large screen).

That interface enables the user performing certain tasks. A frequent one is the need to navigate within content stored in the Personal Journal. That navigation relies in the first place on Specter requests, which are organized like hyperlinks, including a request history and the option to bookmark requests.

An alternative way of navigating the journal is provided by the so-called reminder points. Such points are a specific kind of journal entry, which may be created by the user during interaction with the environment. The idea behind these points is that the user might be too busy or distracted to provide Specter with sophisticated feedback. Nevertheless she might notice the need to adjust Specter, and this need can be expressed via a reminder point. Later on, at a more appropriate time and location for introspection, she may inspect the recorded reminder points and perform in collaboration with Specter the required adjustments.

Beneath navigation, managing journal content is an important aspect for the user. That includes the option to provide explicit feedback by annotating journal entries. Such annotations include free text comments, references to other journal entries or Web pages, assigning content categories, and adding ratings (e.g., about importance or evaluation). Additionally, the user may group entries in order to indicate that some entries are related together. This feature enables manual organization, and provides Specter with additional insight in the recorded information's nature.