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(infosthetics @ Ambient Information Systems Workshop) some conceptual ambient displays from David Rose's (CEO of Ambient Devices) keynote talk this morning: a Sailing Zone display using multiple needles to display the ideal situation to go out sailing (they then all point towards the middle), a thin electronic display built inside a wallet, & several new electronic display designs based on the Weather Watcher, specifically geared towards different user personas, such as bloggers or sailers.

more notes about these applications & his interesting talk in general after the break.

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see also Adam Greenfield's keynote talk one day later.



some notes about David Rose's keynote talk (sorry for the writing quality, I just made the notes during the talk itself):

the need for interfaces has become accute, for instance, we all want a calendar at work & on the fridge at home, however they need different resolutions. today's interfaces, both push & pull, demand a lot of attention. David's definition of "ambient display" focuses on that it has to be "pre-attentive", so basically glancable & understandable within 250ms. as a result, the ambient weather station is "fast", the Orb is "ambient". in addition, ambient devices should be like clocks, analog, easy to configure, affordable, simple, elegant, peripheral, calm, even polite, should never breaks & never need a upgrade.

Ambient Devices are currently serving over 200,000 devices, scalable to over 10 billion devices. interestingly, the Ambient chipset cost now less than $5US to produce.

the Ambient Orb never sold more than 10,000 per year, probably because of a market education problem: its complex features are relatively hard to market, lots of people even will not believe its sophisticated features or have difficulties to understand the ambient concept. the Ambient Dashboard is configurable with swappable cards & more easy to understand, but still does not do well in sales.

actually, the Weather Watcher is the first hit product, & noticably not really "ambient", but recently shipped about 150,000 in one quartal. different new interfaces for this device are in development, showing data geared towards different user personas, such as sailers or golfers (weather & wind), bloggers (AdSense results) & so on.

their emperical research about the weather device proves that most people watch their device multiple times per day, while most devices are put in the kitchen, then living room, office & bedroom. many opportunities exist in integrating persuasive qualities. for instance, people would be trading 3x more with an orb, glanceable energy pricing makes people conserve 30% more. in fact, energy utility companies started to hand out orbs for free to specific customers.

a recent device, called Home Joule, $50, uses background color to show the cost of energy or the electricity usage in the house, & is now being trialled in New York. the Ambient Umbrella pulses with color, & will come out in July. the battery will last for about 1 year for a relatively rainy city, although the handle looks quite big in shape.

a Google clock that shows a glanceable view of your day, & which is tightly integrated around the Google Calendar application. the background color changes from blue over yellow to orange to alert people to the beginning & end of events. currently, a prototype is available online as an iGoogle widget.

a new conceptual design is the so-called "Sailing Zone" object (image below), which shows a metaphor of using multiple needle directions as a unique visualization technique. the needles "line up" with each other (or point to the middle) when the "ideal" circumstances to go sailing (e.g. wind, temperature, surf) are met. similar displays exist for other activities. another conceptual idea includes an electronic graph displayed within a normal wallet, for instance to advertise or alert people for upcoming commercial offers (image above).

other examples shown of MIT's AmbientRoom & LumiTouch.



The 'sailing zone' tool is for a rather niche market, but is quite elegant. Very nice!

Mon 14 May 2007 at 11:57 AM

While the 'sailing zone' device is rather niche, the concept is elegant, and thought-provoking.

I myself am already trying to figure out a way to use an interface like this in my own work, to help my boss (and myself) easily & quickly see what's going on.

Thu 17 May 2007 at 10:59 AM
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