How do you decide whether or not you should put on a coat before you leave your house in the morning? I like to open the door and step outside, but my wife likes to open the newspaper and read the forecast. Both of us are reading a display of the weather, but mine is implicit and hers is explicit. Weather is nice that way. It never goes down, and a quick peek out the window is often enough to tell you what you need to know. Other kinds of data aren’t typically available as implicit, or ambient, displays.
A Dutch artist named Koert van Mensvoort has taken on the problem of displaying currency exchange rates between yen, euros, and dollars as the dancing waters of a fountain.
As Koert puts it, “In the morning paper, I can read the weather report as well as the stock quotes. But when I look out of my window I only get a weather update and no stock exchange info. Could someone please fix this bug in my environmental system?” See the DATAFOUNTAIN website for pretty pictures and splashy sounds.
In the future, ambient interfaces will be so common you’ll be able to end awkward conversations with the plausible excuse “Sorry, but I’ve got a call coming in on this daffodil.”