Place-stat* Ambient signage system at Pervasive2010
Yesterday I spent the day presenting a demo of a flexible ambient signage system I’ve been working on called Place-stat* at Pervasive 2010. I had an amazing response from everyone at the conference, the feedback to the idea and its execution was beyond my expectations. I received many requests from people to buy it commercially, use it on their own research, photographs and a place to follow up on the project. I’m jotting down some notes on the initial rationale for the design for those who did not attend the demo, and the future development of the project. This also sets the direction for something that will occupy a good part of my time in the months to come.
What is an Ambient signage system? Ambient computing sits at the centre of an area of research called ubiquitous or pervasive computing. Ambient computing proposes devices that can present information in a way that sits at the periphery of our attention. This sits in contrast with the current desktop, laptop and mobile devices that we use to access information which require dedicated attention. Ambient devices are embedded in our surroundings and we can choose when and how to engage with them by simply glancing at them. There are two projects that clearly exemplify Ambient information systems: Live wire by Natalie Jeremijenko a real-time local network traffic indicator in the form of a wire hanging form the ceiling – Live wire wiggles proportionally to the amount of traffic on the net; And Ambient Orb a glass lamp that uses colour to show weather forecasts, trends in the market, or the traffic designed and sold by Ambient devices a spin off setup by David Rose and others from the MIT Media Lab. Why is this relevant? How does it matter? As we interact with an ever increasing mass of information exploring ways in which we can better access it becomes more relevant.
One property that traditionally characterises ambient information displays is the one to one relationship that exists between the display and the information presented. In other words, often a single type of information i.e a stock value is mapped into a single display element; for instance a colour, motion or sound range. As a result of this close coupling between display and data, ambient displays seldom have the flexibility to communicate effectively more than one set of information, neither do they have the expressiveness to show more than one perspective on a set of information. The proposition of Place-stat* is quite simple, we combine a colour display that allows us to present both abstract and figurative representation of information with an exchangeable physical outer shell that contextualises the information presented.
Images of demo display by pseudonomad
The applications are countless: energy awareness, environmental monitoring, realtime analytics, notifications of data coming from the cloud, email, social network activity, trends from log data… Wouldn’t you like to have a flexible display you can connect to sources of information and notify you unobtrusively for your personal use? Is it really necessary to check email/facebook/twitter as many times as we sometimes do? Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on what we’re doing and just lift our eyes to see if there’s anything new and continue working? or enjoying life. For groups it can be used as a team collaboration and notification tool, as a group activity or target alert system. It can be used at home, in workplaces, public spaces…
We are starting trials exploring its use as an energy display at Arup. In the coming weeks, we will finalise development work and test the device in real world scenarios. We will then incorporate the feedback gathered into the next generation where a larger number of devices will be manufactured. From then on we will study the viability of its development as a commercial venture. If you are interested in the developments of the project you can of course follow us on twitter.
Garcia-Perate G, Conroy Dalton R, Dalton NS, Wilson D. Place-stat* Ambient signage system. In: Pervasive Computing Adjunct Proceedings 8th international Conference. Helsinki, Finland: 2010. (pdf)