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Controlling your house via indirect means. Turning on and off lights, controlling your stereo or your furnace via a zapper or scripted continuous computer control. X10 is an interface that uses your home electricity as a way to spread the commands. A house that uses it is open to BoilerHacking.


There were a lot of movies in the late sixties and seventies about your house intelligence locking you inside and terrorizing you when it went insane. (One actually impregnated the victim!) Really, I don't think houses will need to become sentient in order to do what they need to do. It doesn't take much effort to realize that it's too cold or that the lights are on when no one is in the room. So, don't worry... yet.

Disney has a new spin on this called "Smart House", but all of these cautionary tales of computerized homes assume ArtificialSentience?, which is a different thing than ArtificialIntelligence or ArtificialKnowledge?. ArtificialKnowledge? is easy; you put something into a database or config file and the artificial thing knows it. ArtificialIntelligence is more difficult, but with ExpertSystem?s and the like, there has been some progress. ArtificialSentience?, to me, is what Turing was really getting at when he came up with the TuringTest. So, I know I can write something that knows it has to check daily for DaveBarry columns. I have that. I figure that there are software constructs that, after enough interaction, would know that I like DaveBarry, and that might suggest that I like someone else, like the part of Amazon that says "Other people who have bought DaveBarry also ordered....". I very much doubt that any computer in my lifetime, and I much doubt that any computer at all, would read DaveBarry for fun. --DaveJacoby

This is partly the dichotomy between intelligence and knowledge. To do a good job here doesn't take much intelligence but it does need knowledge - for example, to know there is no-one in the room.

Apparently an early "security card" system kept a running count of the number of people inside, updated it as people entered and left, and switched the lights off when the count was zero. Alas, sometimes two people would enter on the same card swipe, but leave separately, so the lights would go off when there was still someone in.

My dad told me he had meetings in a room where the lights were controlled by a motion sensor, and occasionally there wasn't enough motion from the participants for enough time, so the lights of the room got turned off. Perhaps thermal sensors would be the key, especially in warmer climates or in places without fireplaces.

This is one application of WearableComputing: just to know where everyone is. More generally, we need household networks to transfer the knowledge to where it can be used.

Not necessarily WearableComputing. In XeroxPARC, I've heard, you're given an ID badge with a microchip in it, and amongst the cool things it does is routing telephone calls, so if you're dialing someone, the closest telephone to him rings. Carrying a smartcard tacked to my tie doesn't count as WearableComputing. I'd be hard-pressed to find a WikiName to describe it, but since it doesn't have a HumanInterface?, it isn't replying to my input and providing me output, and thus isn't WearableComputing. --DaveJacoby

(Although I did see something on an MIT website talking about how WearableComputing takes care of all the things that PervasiveComputing has problems with, and vice versa. [1] From the reading, it seems that they use UbiquitousComputing? where we have previously defined PervasiveComputing. No matter.)


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