Fitness Trackers !

There are a lot of examples discussed by Pousman and Stasko in their paper about the taxonomy of Ambient Media where they explain the core factors that help us categorize ambient media systems. Systems have been categorized based on their levels in each dimension of information capacity, notification level, representational fidelity and aesthetic emphasis. One such example from the systems that have become very common now is fitness trackers.

Fitness trackers come in various sizes and a broad range of capabilities. Some are just a watch replacement where the devices, on connecting to Bluetooth, display very basic notification information from the phone along with the time. Others are more complex with heart rate monitors where the devices monitor sleep patterns, steps and calculate calories expended during the day. Let’s discuss the fitness trackers with a heart rate monitor. For the particular example of the Samsung Smartwatch, one can see a varying range of ambient information as well as personal information on it. Since it displays a lot of ambient information such as the weather details, activity tracker details, sleep pattern details, etc. we can categorize it as a high information capacity system. There are notifications both in the “ignore” and “interrupt” levels in the watch. While pulling up the watch in front of your face can show you the time and weather information or the fitness information, you also get notified whenever there is a phone call or a message is received. The weather animation with the state of weather around, the charts that represent the amount one needs to walk to reach workout goal along with various watch faces clearly shows how high the smartwatch is on the representational fidelity. Even though the watch is so much more powerful than a “normal” watch, it maintains the beauty and simplicity of a normal watch that looks great on one’s hands ! Smartwatches are truly very aesthetic.

In conclusion, I would say that there are plenty of other ambient media systems around us that fall into one of the different levels in the 4 dimensions. A status LED on a hard disk, the router with its different light modes which informs us of the status of the internet are all examples of ambient media.