AiryLight: Ambient Environmental Data

AiryLight: Ambient Environmental Data

Annelie Berner (Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8142-2.ch017
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This chapter explores the practice of combining ubiquitous computing—information in everyday objects—with the approach of calm technology – designing ambient, intriguing presentations of information. Borrowing from these two approaches, we can define a more faceted path, imbuing physical objects and environments with data about their own surroundings in an aesthetic, tangible, and crucially subtle way. The chapter presents the concept of combining three sensory methods to strengthen learning in unexpected situations. One, the role of the spectacle produced through a dynamic, aesthetic object in learning and engagement. Two, providing an optional, detailed reference layer for said spectacle. Three, placing this experience in physical space. Information need not be constrained to the physical page of paper nor the digital screen (European Commission, 2004). Instead, it can flow through our daily life, finding place in subtle (Weiser & Brown, 1995), thoughtfully designed (Löwgren & Stolterman, 2004) surfaces and objects. This chapter discusses the example project, AiryLight, and how its motivation and execution exemplify the more faceted path and the three methods – abstract spectacle, layering of detail, and placement in physical space.
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Environmental Data And Ambient Objects

Whereas environmental information surrounds us constantly, we often neglect to read it, to note it, nor do we have the patience or time to collect and analyze it. However, as mentioned in the prior section, we are now able to use technology to track scientific data around us and extrapolate that data to something that is tangible, aesthetic and intriguing.

This mapping, or transformation of scientific data into tangible, aesthetic forms is particularly crucial when designing for scientific information about the environment. While nature is in and of itself one of the highest forms of beauty, often the presentation of scientific information about nature is far less aesthetically pleasing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ambient Objects: Devices situated in the domestic or office environment that passively relate information.

Ubiquitous Computing: Computational power in devices throughout our lives as opposed to only in our computers or handheld smartphones.

Periphery: At the edge of our attention rather than directly alerting or confronting us.

Tangible: An object that we can touch, that is anchored to physical space rather than digital pixels.

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