Ambient: Environmental interface

Emerging ambient devices give users a unique way of giving information without having to be in front of a screen. This kind of devices use contextual environment as the front-end. Interaction between device and user is minimal and cognitive efforts to understand information falls dramatically.
The following image is just an example: Ambient Umbrella «tells you» when it´s going to rain by glowing a soft light in the handle:

The company behind this kind of state of the art gadgets is Ambient Devices, and having a look at the team we can see brilliant minds such us Nicholas Negroponte or Richard Saul Wurman.

To me, the richness of this kind of products lies in how they´re designed to give information without paying attention to them. We don´t need to stop and start to understand the inputs we are getting from these devices. And this is really important nowadays: As NYT says «Since the 1990s, we’ve accepted multitasking without question. Virtually all of us spend part or most of our day either rapidly switching from one task to another or juggling two or more things at the same time«.

The challenge for Environmental Interaction Design is obvious: You´re not designing something to be showed on a screen, you´re designing something that will be running contextually on a handle, hanging on a fridge or wherever and above all, with a low level of user´s attention, always in a hurry.

Showing 3 comments
  • Jesus Encinar

    si te interesa todo esto del diseño de objetos conectados échale un ojo a esta gente y a lo que están haciendo

  • seisdeagosto

    Conocía a esta gente por el conejillo de Nabaztag, pero no sabía que se dedicaran a más cosas. Le voy a seguir la pista, gracias!

  • Outsider

    The ambient umbrella is a funny idea, but not quite in the spirit in my opinion. In order to catch the message that it’s going to rain, your attention should be already put into your umbrella. A situation that can only take place if you are already suspecting it may rain. Or, if you have the umbrella put in such a place where you will see the blinking light even if you’re around doing stuff and not thinking of rain at all.
    Then again, maybe if you always place that umbrella hanging from a hook on your house’s door, then as you walk to the door with the intention of leaving the house, you would see at a glance whether you should take the umbrella with you or not. Piaget, the French psychologist, wrote about memory impairment as he got older, and he said that he had got the habit of reading the weather forecast and, if it was going to be rainy the next day, he would leave his umbrella hanging from the door’s handle so he would not forget to fetch it as he left the house in the morning.


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