Ambient Interfaces

Ambient Interfaces connect smart systems with human users, i.e. they are capable to sense the users’ focus of attention and goals to support context-aware assistance, they are endowed with display technologies to render information adequately under the given situation, for instance to operate at the perceptual periphery to be unobtrusive and a calm technology, if this would be appropriate given the information and the expected urgency for the user. Furthermore, Ambient Interfaces involve novel ways how systems are being used, which we envision as different from explicit control interactions as today’s mobile Apps employ, but seamless, on the fly, fluid, differential, if applicable using artefacts that do not necessarily appear as controllers, such as tangible user interfaces, or by using gestures or physical contact.

We also consider subtle information given while using tools as Ambient Interface.  We currently witness – and actively contribute – to an evolution of tools, proceeding from simple physical tools use via specialized tools to smart tools that offer support particularly in those areas where the users lack abilities. A good example of what is meant is the self-stabilizing spoon for parkinson patients if it comes to tools that manipulate matter. For 'digital matter', i.e. information and data, likewise info lenses, ambient information systems and interactive sonification can extend human abilities. Obviously, smart tools do not require a full autonomy as it is expected from autonomous assistive robots. Such generalized smart tools can profit from good scaffolds, adaptability and resource sensitivity in the way they are set up, adapted to maximize cooperability and long-term availability for users. Familiarization with tools can become a mutual process, i.e. users adapt to tools while tools vice-versa adapt to expertise levels of users, and Cognitive Interaction Technology delivers the underlying intelligence to organize these processes to an overall maximized seamlessness and naturalness in interaction.

The following selected projects illustrate our activity in the research field Ambient Interfaces:

  • Weather2Go: A blended sonification system to create awareness of future weather data while leaving the home 

  • Blended Sonification: A design framework to bind sonification to structure-borne interaction sounds with the users' regular environment. 

  • InfoPlant: An ambient information system using a living organic plant as interface 

  • SonicChair: a tactile surface lay-on for office chairs, allowing chairs to perceive their use and react for instance on sustained sitting without movement by creating subtle auditory 
cues to stimulate breaks 

  • EcoSonics: a fuel-efficient driving interface using interactive sonification to induce a 
ecological driving style. 

  • InfoDrops: a smart shower that enhances water drop sounds by actual and integrated 
energy use while taking a shower. 
Smart environments