Ambient intelligence: the next generation of user centeredness

XII.4 July + August 2005
Page: 20
Digital Citation


Manfred Tscheligi

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We have started leaving our desktops to think about the future of interaction design. More than ten years ago Mark Weiser (in his January 1994 <interactions> article) argued that the world is not a desktop—computers are not bound to a fixed location; they are integrated into the environment where real life offers much more challenging interaction contexts. Based on the developments in ubiquitous computing, natural interaction, and intelligent systems (to name a few), the concept of Ambient Intelligence (AmI) has emerged. Ambient intelligence anticipates user needs, adapts to user behavior, and dynamically optimizes user experience.

A quick investigation of the term ambience finds definitions such as "surrounding (on all sides...)," "encircling," or "completely enveloping." Ambience is sometimes described as a "special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment often combined with some form of excitement." Ambient music is an atmospheric and ruminant version of electronic music. Brian Eno, for example, in his album "Ambient1: Music for Airports" tried to develop enjoyable music for people passing through, as well as for people waiting. What an example of user centeredness and user experience orientation!

Over the last few years, ambient intelligence has developed into a leading vision of the European Technology Research & Development program (the IST—Information Society Technologies). According to this program, humans will be surrounded in an ambient intelligence environment by intelligent interfaces supported by computing and networking technology embedded into everyday environments and objects. Ambient intelligence defines a set of user-centered criteria for upcoming interaction environments.

Ambient intelligence has to be driven from the HCI perspective to achieve optimal user experience. The question, "What are the key ingredients of natural intelligent interaction?" has to be intensively investigated in much more complex contexts than before. In this special issue of <interactions> we have assembled a collection of articles to give an overview of ongoing endeavors and existing viewpoints in this field. We cover different viewpoints both from industry and research to introduce emerging AmI prototypes and environments. Every article delivers its own interpretation of ambient intelligence.

Ambient Intelligence faces a lot of challenges. Among these are:

  • the social implications of AmI environments
  • the different potentials of AmI to enrich our lives
  • aspects of privacy and trust
  • characteristics of different AmI interactions
  • how much intelligence people are willing to accept
  • the different dimensions of the term ambient
  • the design of future interaction spaces and intelligent artifacts
  • factors of user experience for implicit interaction
  • existing and emerging AmI application areas and scenarios
  • the connection of AmI concepts to physical spaces where it happens

Some of these issues are discussed in the following articles. Ambient Intelligence environments are already prominently placed into the agenda of the HCI field. We need to be a central part of future developments in AmI.

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Manfred Tscheligi, Guest Editor
ICT&S, University of Salzburg

About the Guest Editor:

Manfred Tscheligi is professor of HCI & Usability at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, University of Salzburg, Austria. His research interests are usability and user experience methodologies and innovative interaction environments. He is also founder and director of CURE-Center for Usability Research and Engineering in Vienna, Austria and the founder and managing director of USECON, a usability and user experience consultancy firm also in Vienna.

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©2005 ACM  1072-5220/05/0700  $5.00

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