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SXSW 2021

More Human Ambiance in Ambient Computing

Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz around ambient computing; the future of interacting naturally with a multitude of devices embedded in your surrounding environment seems closer than ever. Most talks and articles approach the subject through the lens of feasibility and viability, but rarely desirability. Is this technology something people actually desire? Are people eager to live in a world with flashing screens and holograms whirling around their face?

In my talk I’ll challenge the audience to shift their understanding of ambient from ‘all-encompassing’ to ‘creating a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere’. I’ll share 5 provocations on how we can design ambient technology to subtly enhance the warmth and seamlessness humans get from interacting with other humans.

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  1. Technology should be bland and boring, not striking and memorable. Because it’s people, not products, who give the world its warmth and ambiance.
  2. Technology should optimize for joy and serendipity, not just scale and efficiency.
  3. Technology should support and enhance the warmth and seamlessness people get from interacting with other people.


  • Hector Ouilhet, Senior Director, Google


Katie Duckhorn, Account Executive, The Bulleit Group

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