MIDAS: Multi-device Integrated Dynamic Activity Spaces



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Mobile phones, tablet computers, laptops, desktops, and large screen displays are increasingly available to individuals for information access, often simultaneously. Dominant content access protocols, such as HTTP/1.1, do not take advantage of this device multiplicity and support information access from single devices only. Changing devices means restarting an information session. Using devices in conjunction with each other poses several challenges, which include the presentation of content on devices with diverse form factors and propagation of the content changes across these devices. In this dissertation, I report on the design and implementation of MIDAS - architecture and a prototype system for multi-device presentations. I propose a framework, called 12C, for characterizing multi-device systems and evaluate MIDAS within this framework.

MIDAS is designed as a middleware that can work with multiple client-server architectures, such as the Web and context-aware Trellis, a non-Web hypertext system. It presents information content simultaneously on devices with diverse characteristics without requiring sensor-enhanced environments. The system adapts content elements for optimal presentation on the target device while also striving to retain fidelity with the original form from a human perceptual perspective. MIDAS reconfigures its presentation in response to user actions, availability of devices, and environmental context, such as a user's location or the time of day.

I conducted a pilot study that explored human perception of similarity when image attributes such as size and color depth are modified in the process of presenting images on different devices. The results indicated that users tend to prefer scaling of images to color-depth reduction but gray scaling of images is preferable to either modification. Not all images scale equally gracefully; those dominated by natural elements or manmade structures scale exceptionally well. Images that depict recognizable human faces or textual elements should be scaled only to an extent that these features retain their integrity.

Attributes of the 12C framework describe aspects of multi-device systems that include infrastructure, presentation, interaction, interface, and security. Based on these criteria, MIDAS is a flexible infrastructure, which lends itself to several content distribution and interaction strategies by separating client- and server-side configuration.