Ambient devices, physical presence and spatial awareness, non-mobile vs. mobile


If I allowed myself, I would talk about ambient devices for a long time. I'm fully convinced about the importance of physical devices performing certain functions occupying physical space. There's a reason clock on the wall, especially analog ones, are still used by people. There are many ambient ‘devices’ that we use every day to help us.  Amazon Echo reinforces the need for physical ambient devices. Why has it done well, especially for people who already have an iPhone and thus Siri?  Because the iPhone is a collection of “everything” and does not really have an ambient presence.   An ambient presence includes the concept of physical existence, generally non-moving like a wall clock.  Amazon Echo also has one purpose (kind of) in that you talk to it.  Siri is blurred in with the rest of iPhone functions. 

People are aware of these ambient physical devices spatially and almost treat them like people or entities in a way. My kids without my prodding apologize to Amazon Echo as if it was real.  Well, it is real, it’s sitting “right there” I see it. They know it’s in the other room and feel it’s lonely.  Is it?  ;-)   Ambient devices don't necessarily have to be computing-based either. A ruler is an ambient device. I can use a ruler app on my iPhone, and sometimes do, but I much prefer the physical version. I think it harkens back to our cavemen thinking with tools. People like to interact with “physical things” even if they're inanimate objects because they can master them physically. They exist in the 3D world we live in.  However, if the physical devices become too complicated it loses its purpose or ability to be mastered.  Siri is kind of like that in a non-physical sense.  Although, I still use it of course.

A laptop or desktop computer has all the capabilities that Amazon Echo has and certainly much more. But, while a physical object, it's a collection of everything and thus not masterable mostly due to its unnatural interface.  People don't want to interact with it. It is more of a blob than a single functioning ambient ‘entity’ like Amazon Echo, a clock, scoreboard or even a ruler.


Bring on the ambient !!!

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