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

Doing so challenges a number of concepts introduced with the vision for pervasive computing. For example, ‘invisibility’, ‘ambient intelligence’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘(de-)composition’ – turn out to require respecification with regard to people’s practices of using technologies at work, and in everyday life and play.

Notions like

• inspection
• experimentation
• translation
• emergent use

become important, as people creatively connect and use ‘assemblies’ of palpable pervasive technologies.

PalCom, short for ‘palpable computing’, is a European research project devoted to examine these challenges and designing for palpability.

PalCom is about: // making computing palpable


The PalCom project brings together a consortium of European research and private organisations to create a software architecture to support palpable computing in a variety of application domains. 
PalCom is a European IST project which was established in January 2004 and will run until December 2007.


PalCom embraces ubiquitous computing – that is computing available in the environment and a multitude of everyday devices, connected, and partially automated – to be used for work and play. PalCom’s researchers develop prototypes of future palpable ubiquitous devices and services in collaboration with a number of users in different domains: healthcare, landscape architecture, emergency response. These prototypes run on (and inform the design of) a software architecture that seeks to increase interoperability and support for making computing palpable.


Palpable computing is a new design initiative that envisions ubiquitous technologies that are designed to support people in making their actual and potential activities and affordances clearly available to their senses. Palpable systems support people in understanding what is going on at a level they choose and they support the user’s control and choice.