Informative Environments

by Luke Wroblewski February 4, 2004

Ambient Devices has introduced a new category of wireless device that subtly adds information to an environment. Both the Beacon (a weather forecast device) and the Orb (a stock market indicator) use subtle shifts of color to communicate information.

“…truly glance-ready technology requires careful thinking about the user interface. Numbers or bits of text on a small display require too much attention. If you're going to take advantage of peripheral perception, it has to be sound, color, angle or pattern," –David Rose, president of Ambient Devices

In both the devices the presentation of the interface consists of color and shape (to distinguish the devices). Quite a contrast from the type of experience you get at weather.com (where interface elements and content swarm within your entire field of vision). A lot of the stress we call “information overload” can be attributed to the manner in which information is presented to us. We look at a news Web site (for example) and are taken aback by the quantity of information. It’s nice when something communicates quietly for a change.