The current research in pervasive and ubiquitous computing suggests a future in which we are surrounded by innumerable information sources all competing for our attention. These are likely to manifest as both novel devices and as devices embedded in common objects such as refrigerators, automobiles, toys, furniture, clothes, even our bodies. While this vision of the future has prompted great advancements in context-aware computing, wireless connectivity, multi-sensor platforms, smart materials, and location-tracking technologies, there is a concern that this proliferation of technology will cause us to become increasingly overwhelmed by information. This scenario moves us away from Weiser's notion of calm technology, which proposes that information should move seamlessly between the periphery and the center of our attention. Mark Weiser stated that good technology should not be experienced as technology at all, and we believe that ambient information systems could support this claim.
Ambient information systems (which include ambient, peripheral, glance-able, and subtle displays) are non-invasive and provide useful information while blending smoothly into our surroundings. These technologies are meant to be minimally attended and perceivable from outside the range of a person's direct attention, providing pre-attentive processing without being overly distracting. Examples range from large ubiquitous public displays to small bouncing icons on the Macintosh's dock.
There have been many interesting implementations of ambient information systems (e.g., AmbientDevices’ Stock Orb, Koert van Mensvoort's Datafountain, Philips Electronics' Ambilight, Jafarinami et al.'s Breakaway, Mynatt et al.'s Audio Aura and Digital Family Portrait, and Mankoff et al.'s Daylight Display and BusMobile). However, ambient information systems research is is suffering from a lack of consensus on terminology, methodology, plausibility, and the general design space of ambient information. We see this workshop as an opportunity for invited participants to explore and discuss such issues.