Creating Personal Mobile Widgets without Programming

Developer track at WWW 2009: Creating Personal Mobile Widgets without Programming by Geetha Manjunath, Thara S, Hitesh Bosamiya, Santhi Guntupalli, Vinay Kumar and Ragu Raman G. from HP Labs.

Geetha starts by explaining that people want widgets for very specified tasks, she’s talking about several tasks on the virtual world but then also mentions that we might want to use widgets to control appliances and possibly embedded device (Dom: I agree with her 😉 Dom again: but she did not elaborate on this later in the talk).

She introduces the concept of Tasklets, which are task-based web interaction patterns. As an example a Tasklet could be to notify me when XYZ stock gets a value of more than 50, or to notify a fisherman about the forcast of tomorrow for his fishing region. Geetha goes on by presenting an ACM Widget which connects to HP internal library, logs in automatically and downloads the paper specified by keywords.

She explains that we should give to users the power to package these personal, specific tasks into easy-to use widgets. This is basically what the project tries to achieve. Three steps are required to create a widget. First, the system observes user interaction patterns within the browser to extract data (e.g. usernames and passwords to access the digital library, clicks, etc.). Then the user can select zones of the browsed pages to be extracted later on (Dom: some kind of screen-scraping). All this information is then used to compile a Tasklet which can internally reproduce the same actions. The Tasklet can later be run from several devices simply by getting its URL.

In the demonstration she shows how to create a tasklet that gets your horoscope automatically. The process begins in the Tasklet tool which records what the user is doing. The tool also allows for the user to select and extract zones of the currently browsed web page. In our case we select the horoscope. The tool then renders, on the server-side, a Tasklet corresponding to our horoscope. Geetha then shows how the Tasklet can be used on several devices. First she uses it from her desktop, a double-click on the downloaded widget directly displays the right horoscope in our own language. Then she shows how the Tasklet can be rendered by an engine reading the horoscope aloud. She explains that this version could help porting the Tasklet to mobile phones in developing countries.

The beginning of a very nice project, I believe.

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