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Designing Calm Technology (by Amber Case at #NUX6)


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Designing Calm Technology

Slides from the NUX6 talk by Amber Case, Friday 27th October 2017. /


Our world is made of information that competes for our attention. What is needed? What is not? We cannot interact with our everyday life in the same way we interact with a desktop computer. The terms calm computing and calm technology were coined in 1995 by PARC Researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in reaction to the increasing complexities that information technologies were creating. Calm technology describes a state of technological maturity where a user’s primary task is not computing, but being human. The idea behind Calm Technology is to have smarter people, not things. Technology shouldn’t require all of our attention, just some of it, and only when necessary.

How can our devices take advantage of location, proximity and haptics to help improve our lives instead of get in the way? How can designers can make apps “ambient” while respecting privacy and security? This talk will cover how to use principles of Calm Technology to design the next generation of connected devices. We’ll look at notification styles, compressing information into other senses, and designing for the least amount of cognitive overhead.

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Designing Calm Technology (by Amber Case at #NUX6)

  1. 1. Calm Technology Amber Case | @caseorganic Fellow Harvard Berkman Klein Center MIT Media Lab Design for the next 50 billion things
  2. 2. 50 billion devices will be online by 2020. -Cisco
  3. 3. Sound good?
  4. 4. Consider…
  5. 5. The "Smart" Watch
  6. 6. The "Smart" Fridge
  7. 7. The Dystopian Kitchen of the Future
  8. 8. Connected Animals
  9. 9. The new Schrödinger's Cat Failure forces humans to ‘manually’ feed ravenous pets
  10. 10. PetNet is not held responsible for any service failures: Source:
  11. 11. An era of interruptive technology
  12. 12. We need a Calm Technology
  13. 13. XEROX PARC: mid-90s Mark Weiser John Seeley Brown
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Designing Calm Technology
  16. 16. I. Technology shouldn’t require all of our attention, just some of it, and only when necessary
  17. 17. A Tea Kettle
  18. 18. II. Technology should empower the periphery
  19. 19. LUMOBack Smart Posture Sensor Buzzes you when you exhibit poor posture.
  20. 20. III. Technology should inform and encalm
  21. 21. Ambient Awareness
  22. 22. 1. Haptics vs. auditory alerts (haptic compass) 2. Light status vs. full display (on/off) 3. Positive or negative tones (home electronics) 4. Transparency (inner-office windows) awareness through different
  23. 23. Weat her Statu s
  24. 24. Make the invisible visible
  25. 25. Heat Sink Ambient Awareness and Synesthesia
  26. 26. Vuforia and ThingWorx display from PTC
  27. 27. Tormach PCNC Cell #3 Pre-finishing Cycles Next Maintenance Liftgate Fault Tormach PCNC Cell #4 Pre-finishing Cycles Next Maintenance Liftgate Fault Final Assembly Final Assembly Plant 78, Pre-Finishing Line 2 15 cells 45% Operational 2 faults
  28. 28. 1. Machines shouldn't act like humans 2. Humans shouldn't act like machines IV. Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity.
  29. 29. •  1500 times faster When automation goes right 3Scan: 1500 times faster than humans
  30. 30. V. Technology can communicate, but it doesn’t need to speak
  31. 31. The Roomba Robotic Vacuum Cleaner :)
  32. 32. VI. Technology should consider social norms
  33. 33. Restorative Normal Enhancing Fear-inducing Accepted Invisible
  34. 34. Google Glass
  35. 35. VII. The right amount of technology is the minimum amount to solve the problem
  36. 36. Street Lights Toilet Occupied Sign
  37. 37. VIII. Technology should make use of the near and the far
  38. 38. Mainframes Personal Computer / Desktop Internet Remote Mainframes (Cloud) Personal Servers 2016 - 2020 2000 - 1994 - 1978 - 1994 1944 - 1978 Workstations 1968 - 1975 Far Near Mobile 2006 - Evolution of computers over time
  39. 39. Technology should work even when it fails
  40. 40. Process as much as possible on the device itself. …
  41. 41. Good design allows people to accomplish their goals in the least amount of moves
  42. 42. Calm Technology allows people to accomplish the same goals with the least amount of mental cost
  43. 43. A person's primary task should not be computing, but being human.
  44. 44. The scarce resource in the 21st Century will not be technology. It will be attention. - Mark Weiser
  45. 45. Calm Technology @ And O’Reilly
  46. 46. Sound and User Experience @ And O’Reilly
  47. 47. More at! 8 Principles at
  48. 48. Thank you very much! Amber Case | @caseorganic