Case study space, Goodwin Hall, Virginia Tech, VA (Photo from Virginia Tech website)

Designing Interactive Human-Aware Academic Space

This collaborative project, in which Dr. Nazila Roofigary-Esfahan in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, Virginia Tech, USA and I are PIs, is also a prime example of Beyond Boundaries. Entitled “Designing Interactive Human-Aware Academic Spaces to Enhance User Experience through Ubiquitous Information Management” this project involves faculty from Industrial Design, Building Construction, Visual Communication Design, and Computer Science.


Millions of devices powered by intelligent computation are becoming seamlessly integrated into the spaces in which people live and work. Spaces including buildings are becoming ever smarter through the incorporation of various sensors, actuators, and wireless networks, where a massive amount of data is collected for different purposes. However, the integration attempted so far has mainly concentrated on the data acquisition and data analysis processes. The interpretation of the collected data and context-aware delivery of the acquired knowledge to the targeted space users as well as users’ interaction with these smart spaces has been largely neglected. Academic building spaces are one the most information-intensive environments that are designed for enhancing the knowledge quality of the community. In addition, as a result of the type of users of academic spaces (mainly students), these spaces are more vulnerable in emergency situations. As such, building emergencies create more concerns regarding threats they impose to the safety of their inhabitants. Despite its importance, the issue of context-aware information transmission in academic spaces has not yet been investigated. To address the aforementioned needs, we propose a framework for building a context-aware information system to augment current academic spaces into human-aware spaces that facilitate seamless information transmission. The proposed framework supports data acquisition, aggregation, interpretation and delivery, customized to specific requirements of various academic-space users. The outcomes of the proposed system are twofold. First, we present strategies that facilitate the multi-level diffusion of information into academic buildings and develop a framework for data acquisition, aggregation and knowledge discovery. Then, a user-interactive demonstration framework will be designed that enables access to the acquired knowledge for different levels of users including students, professors, visitors and security personnel. We specifically aim at developing a system that provides “Academic Data Sharing,” “Occupancy Security Data Sharing” and “Public Service Information” without invading personal privacy. The proposed system will be evaluated through initial building-size experiments in Goodwin Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. The results of the research can be extended to develop a campus-wide, smart, context-aware, information management system that can further be used in settings other than academic environments.