[RR04] Ambient Design Examples

It’s very interesting when I tried to think about ambient examples, the first one that came to my mind is actually quite a traditional example, which is almost everywhere today. I would argue that ambient design isn’t some concept that is entirely without industrial design background. This very first example I thought about is the smoke detector in almost every house in U.S. today. Why I think that’s a great example of ambient design? Several reasons are because of it being able to switch to the user’s main attention of focus, and being able to switch back to the background during the most of the time, and providing normally non-critical information, which is “no alarm”.

With that, we could even argue that the natural environment we are nested in could also be a huge ambient information system. If it rains a little bit today, your windows at your house would give you a little bit of visual hint of the traces of raindrops. This might be drag-to-attention information, but not such a piece of information that would require immediate attentions. But if there is a storm today, your windows will give you much more visual hint of dynamic raindrops running down the glass surface, you will also be able to hear the large sound of the rain dropping on the window, and there could even be thunders dragging to your attention. And this will require more immediate reactions, such as checking if your family members who are still outside are ok or not, and if you’re heading out, then you would be looking for rain gear immediately.

With this thinking, I remember a PARV paper discussed about how they imagined ubiquitous design several decades ago, and in their fictional narrative story of Sai, who lives in a ubiquitously designed house, could be able to look into his glass window of the house, and read the emerging information on the window surface about buses, his neighbors activities, etc. Isn’t this digital example actually a translated usage of the windows giving people ambient information in daily context?

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