Upstairs

Upstairs – Implicit Shared Presence

Upstairs is an ongoing research project that shall create the illusion of a remote person of interest living in the room above. To create the illusion interaction sounds are picked up by contact microphones on the floor. These sounds are then made audible at the remote location. The projects tries to establish an unobtrusive implicit communication channel between spaces and people.

Today’s telecommunication services (like e.g. cell phones, Skype, or Facebook), focus primarily on the explicit parts of conversations. They thereby do not mediate information streams about subconscious actions of their users. In order to actually provide these cues, we think that long-term connections need to be established, which mediate data streams that are designed for unconscious/implicit usage.

Interpersonal interaction consists of many parallel information cues which the interactants most often process in parallel. Roughly, these streams can be discerned into being either more explicit/conscious (e.g. speech, sign language) or more implicit/unconscious (e.g. prosody, facial expressions, proxemics). While the explicit part of a conversation might stop at a point, implicit streams usually last until one of the interactants leave the scene. This circumstance means that, though people might not talk to each other, there is still communication going on.

This work was inspired by the observation that noises diffused through walls, e.g. coming from the neighbours living one floor up, can give long-term insights about their behaviour and emotions. When sharing a space, we are subconsciously aware of other people’s activities, mainly because of their interaction with the environment. This awareness can be recognised as a socially organised and contingent achievement which is often bound to artifacts in the users’ environment. Upstairs was built to study if a subconscious level of awareness and communication can be sustained while separating interactants into two remote places. Based on communication theory, such a system should consist of at least two parts for each space: a capturing device and a display for peripheral use i.e. “out of a person’s primary focus of attention”. Interpersonal interaction consists of many information cues that the interactants most often process in parallel. Roughly, these streams can be discerned into being either consciously (e.g. speech, sign language) or more implicitly used (e.g. prosody, facial expressions, proxemics). While the conscious part of a conversation might stop at some point, implicit streams remain indefinitely as long as people share a space. In other words, although people might not talk to each other, there is still communication going on. Today’s telepresence and social presence research focuses mostly on the transmission of the conscious part of communication.

REFERENCES

  • Upstairs – Supporting Peripheral Awareness between Non-Colocated Spaces, T. Bovermann, R. Tünnermann, C. Leichsenring and T. Hermann,  International Conference of Pervasive Computing 2012.

A joint work with: T.Bovermann, C Mertes, T. Hermann.