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HCI, InfoVis

Response to [Ambient displays: …] by Wisneski et al.


This paper, back in 1998, proposed an idea called ‘ambient display’ where, as opposed to conventional GUI, researchers perceive the architectural space as the media for displaying information, mostly in a subtle and peripheral manner. The paper describes two projects to illustrate this idea. The ambientROOM is an artificial room mounted with various devices in order to create a room-sized ‘computer’ that informs people what is happening in the environment. The other project, Ambient Fixtures are standalone installations that convey (more global) information in similar ways as the ambientROOM. The authors also discuss some interesting issues that arose from this idea, including mapping information sources, foreground/background thresholds and transitions, and learning effect.


  1. Ambient Displays presents information within a space through subtle changes in light, sound, and movement, which can be processed in the background of awareness.
  2. Ambient Displays takes a broader view of display than the conventional GUI, making use of the entire physical environment as an interface to digital information.
  3. … and into future visions of wearable computers people might have on their bodies.
  4. Awareness is the state of knowing about the environment in which you exist; about your surroundings, and the presence and activities of others.
  5. The choice of modality for the background media should be considered with the person’s foreground task in mind.
  6. The mapping of data from information source to ambient display is a key consideration and challenge for ambient media.


Generally speaking, ambient displays is about making *everything* a display, while with various levels of attention and focus. This dawns on me that our body is also part of the environment that surrounds us. Should/Can we design ambient display on our body? The biggest answer might be wearable technology. But is there something more?


About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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