A wave of recent papers draw on Hall’s Proxemics to design ubicomp systems*. The paper by Greenberg et al. “Proxemic Interactions: The New Ubicomp?” even made the cover of Interactions Magazine a few months ago, that’s quite a statement.
The ideas of proxemics are attractive, as they seem easy to operationalize**. But proxemic systems, like many ubicomp ones, rely heavily on sensing and this will always be tricky to manage. Just to give a practical example: the new macbooks, adjust the screen luminosity to the presence/closeness of a user. They measure it through variations from the light sensor placed close to the camera. I find it super frustrating to have your screen luminosity drop out of nowhere, and looking at the forum threads on the topic, I’m not the only one annoyed.
Since proxemic systems won’t work perfectly in most real-life situations, they will end up being complemented with micro-mobility management, reasoning on traces of user activity, general heuristics and fine tuning. And boom, we’re back to the sensing issues  described 10 years ago by Belloti et al. (2002):
- “When I address a system, how does it know I am addressing it?
- When I ask a system to do something how do I know it is attending?
- When I issue a command, how does the system know what it relates to?
- How do I know the system understands my command and is correctly executing my intended action?
- How do I recover from mistakes?”
* Back at CHI in 2009 (not sure of the year), one of the Keynote actually presented proxemics as an inspiration for designing interaction.
** I’m not sure it’s the right operationalization though. Proxemic circles are super coarse. This might be ok for spatial interaction between people, but it sucks for interaction between people and objects, where we know that things get subtle and will be really hard to pick with sensors (see for instance Luff and Heath on micro-mobility ). And yes I’m aware of Nick’s great work tackling the problem.
 Victoria Bellotti, Maribeth Back, W. Keith Edwards, Rebecca E. Grinter, Austin Henderson, and Cristina Lopes. 2002. Making sense of sensing systems: five questions for designers and researchers. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’02). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 415-422.
 Paul Luff and Christian Heath. 1998. Mobility in collaboration. In Proceedings of the 1998 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (CSCW ’98). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 305-314.