Ambient Displays

Ambient Displays: Turning Architectural Space into an Interface between People and Digital Information

Year: 1998


We envision that the architectural space we inhabit will be a new form of interface between humans and online digital information. This paper discusses Ambient Displays: a new approach to interfacing people with online digital information. Ambient Displays present information within a space through subtle changes in light, sound, and movement, which can be processed in the background of awareness. We describe the design and implementation of two example Ambient Displays, the ambientROOM and Ambient Fixtures. Additionally, we discuss applications of Ambient Displays and propose theories of design of such interfaces based on our initial experiences.

Related Work

Ambient Room

The ambientROOM is based on the Personal Harbor product from Steelcase Corp., a 6’x8’ enclosed mini-office installation. The ambientROOM surrounds the user within an augmented environment – “putting the user inside the computer” – by providing subtle, cognitively background augmentations to activities conducted within the room.

Ambient Fixtures

Ambient Fixtures are standalone ambient media displays. We have taken concepts developed within the ambientROOM, and have moved them out into an open space, inhabited by many people. In the ambientROOM, the user is “inside the computer,” while Ambient Fixtures allow us to externalize the displays and distribute them throughout an architectural space.