Palpable Computing

If the computer is invisible – how do you fix the error when it makes a wrong decision?

As computing technologies become an ever more ‘invisible’ and powerful part of our lives, it is crucial that people are supported in understanding what these technologies are doing and what they could do for them.

The European FP6 research project PalCom has developed the concept of ‘palpability’ for IT-design that fits the information age. By ‘palpable’ we mean ‘noticeable’ and ‘understandable’. 

Thus, PalCom – short for Palpable Computing –  marks a new perspective in
Ambient Computing challenging a number of concepts introduced with the vision for pervasive computing and requirring respecification with regard to people’s practices of using technologies at work, and in everyday life and play.

Palpability is not a property of technology itself, but an effect of people’s engagement with technologies, objects, and environments. For designers of pervasive computing, this means that they cannot design palpability into technologies. But they can design for palpability, to support people in making computing palpable.

And developers can find support for this in the PalCom conceptual, architectural and infrastructural frameworks. Using an appropriate software architecture  becomes essensial when supporting palpability, and therefore one of the key results from the project is the specification of an Open Architecture for Palpable Computing. Another key result is an open source implementation of the architecture.