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wireless communication between users/administrators and the database, and sensor com-
mands and user instructions for the robot's navigation.The mobile platform may also fea-
ture camera controls that allow visitors to select a specific exhibition zone for detailed
inspection and, among other parameters, adjusting distance, and resolution.*
Avatars and Home Media Servers
The convergence of technologies has led to the development of home media servers
(HMSs), which bring together the features of television/video and computers, with dif-
ferent modes of connectivity. An HMS could typically serve as a wireless TV tuner; a data
recorder currently supplied with a hard drive; audio/movie/PC data file server, and a
wireless broadband router.With memory capacity measured in tens (or even hundreds) of
gigabytes, an HMS can be used for storing large amounts of audio, video and multimedia
data.The price for such a device is currently over
1000, but as ever it is expected that
successive implementations of this technology will increase in popularity as the prices fall.
Digital television was initially organised in the same way as analogue TV, the only dif-
ferences being the improved picture and sound quality. Digital TV gained in popularity
when it started offering new services, such as Video-on-Demand (VoD), multimedia
games, and Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs). EPGs combine the user interface with
a programme schedule, accessed via an infra-red remote control. Since it is designed for a
multi-channel technology, one of an EPG's basic uses is to assist consumers in discovering
and bookmarking content. Interactive guides allow advanced searches by channel, pro-
gramme, actors, year created, genre, time, and a number of other variables, hence EPGs
raise a user's degree of choice to a new level.
In addition to this, home media server users are able to access information about the
presence of other users by means of instant messaging technology similar to that used in the
desktop PC environment.This is a very simple and very popular form of communication,
and one that may be enriched by the addition of avatars.The scenario on `Television,
Avatars and an Art Gallery' later in this chapter explores these possibilities in more detail.
Personalisation
Home Media Servers have more than one way of bringing content to users.Their core
capability is in contributing to a personalised user experience, with information adapted
to the user's preferences.This is another attempt to respond to specific informational and
emotional wants and needs of the user. Users are provided with an optimised individual
experience.The system requires the capacity for constructing, storing and querying user
profiles. Building user profiles can be done directly by asking users to complete a ques-
tionnaire and to specify topics of interest, asking them to choose from a list of standard
profiles, or by automatically constructing profiles based on the analysis of a user's actions.
Profiles should be continually updated by tracking, for example, preferred types of music
and movies, amount of time spent on particular channels, and other users with whom
the user communicates frequently.
Approaches to personalisation could be grouped by types of action, including selection
from a list of keywords or categories, query analysis, or the intelligent filtering of preferred
Cultural Agents
and Avatars
73
*
See the forthcoming DigiCULT Technology Watch Report 3 for more detailed coverage of the
combination of avatars with robotics.
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