computing is a very difficult integration of human factors, computer science, engineer-
ing, and social sciences.'
The basic idea behind this concept is that technology should recede into the back-
ground of everyday life.This is connected significantly with the widespread introduction
of devices which are intuitive to use and do not require any special training and skills.
This naturally leads to a great interest in the development of innovative interaction styles
and equipment, such as those connected with senses which are often underused such as
motion and smell.
Since this concept is linked to communication through both local-area and wide-area
networks (LAN's and WAN's), opportunities related to computer-supported co-operative
work are closely related to ubiquitous computing.
Computer-supported co-operative work
A natural focus is now put on interfaces which permit and facilitate co-ordination and
shared work between groups of people for use in, for example, meetings, engineering
projects, and activities in which joint authoring may be an advantage or even a necessity.
In a museum this could be oriented towards visits of groups who would be able to dis-
cuss their impressions, and to enhance them by connecting them to their experiences of
other collections. Applications in this field are keenly anticipated and will result in new
practices for joint study of specific collections.
Virtual Environment technology
Virtual Environment (VE) is aimed at the development and exploitation of computer-
generated synthetic environments.The basic goal of developing such systems is to allow
users to interact with these environments in natural and easy ways and, in this respect,
interface issues play a crucial role. Probably the basic reason for such interest in VE sys-
tems is that they open up new application areas which were deemed too expensive or
dangerous before.Virtual environments which present ancient artefacts in detail could be
a typical application for the cultural heritage community.
Current expectations of enhancements to the technology suggest that well-designed
VE's could provide more intuitive metaphors for human-computer interaction. For the
cultural heritage field this would mean a broadening of the group of possible users, the
improvement of mechanisms of communication between users, and interfaces to com-
puter systems becoming more straightforward and natural.
VE's can be divided into three classes differing in the sense of immersion they pro-
vide: non-immersive, semi-immersive and fully immersive. Immersion is measured by the
power of attention that the user focuses on his or her activity. As well as the display char-
acteristics, other factors contributing to the sense of immersion will include image quali-
ty, the number of dimensions, the number of degrees of motion, and the overall level of
interactivity of the system.
Non-immersive systems are the weakest of the three, with an example being those
observed on a desktop computer using a standard high-resolution monitor. Interaction
with the system is based on the use of the keyboard, mouse, or a joystick, coupled with a
dedicated browser which allows the computer to render a virtual world from its source
code. As far as new devices go, datagloves complement such systems. Data gloves contain