Help us design the next Ambient product forums : latest news : news from ambient devices team
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We're busy prepping the next set of Ambient products for the market, and are looking for some direct feedback from our customers and potential customers. We'd really like your opinion on which information we integrate next into the Ambient Information Network for display on an Ambient Device.

Please fill out the following (should take less than 5 min) before
Wednesday end-of-day.

jun 30, 7:35pm permalink

Just filled out my survey. What, you're not giving away a free Orb or something?

I love the traffic commute idea, even though I don't really commute. And certainly one of my big problems is knowing how/when to keep in touch with friends, although I'm not sure what that would look like on a device.

And thanks for not asking my email, nice to know it wasn't some ploy to spam me.
jul 01, 12:30pm | permalink

Stay tuned, we're working on prototyping a traffic channel...
jul 15, 11:01pm | permalink

Hey, will Ambient post the results of the survey? We'd love to see how all our votes turned out (sounds like Traffic did well).
jul 27, 3:28pm | permalink

I think for people who have kids (like me), a crystal ball is way too risky, specially if it changes colors!
it draws their attention too much... A better idea would be to build a high impact acrylic version (looking like frosted glass if you like) that would be virtually indestructible.

One of the main reasons people buy this device is because they don't have the time to log in into their computers every time they want to check stocks or other information (besides the cool factor).

Ambient lights could also replace usefull devices around the house... (not being just decorations that can brake)
An example...
An impact resistant handrail that changes colors could be a good practical use for the ambient light applied to an otherwise 'boring' device existent in most buildings and 2 story houses, specially if you have kids.

you could also use it to tell kids 'recess is over'

I have tons of other ideas (and 2 patents on other systems so far)

cool device though, keep up the good work...

Andres Martinez (
Houston, TX
aug 21, 1:43am | permalink

Hi all,

I'm kinda new to the whole Ambient device scene. My wife bought me an Orb as a 15th anniversary present, and I'm loving this thing. I've only had it a few days (and I get spotty reception at my house so I have even less experience with it updating vs. just sitting there glowing but I do already have a few comments on things that I like and things that I don't like. Please take my criticisms in the constructive manner in which they're intended. I dont DISLIKE the Orb in any way and you'd have to fight me for it to take it away. I've marked my likes, dislikes, and some neutral comments/questions below. Sorry if I'm kind of wordy, I'm just like that. --Joe

PRO: I LOVE the frosted glass. It feels nice, and if the Orb is within reach on my desk I find myself stroking the matte surface. It's just relaxing to hold in your hands.

CON: The glass is gonna break pretty easily, even though it feels quite sturdy. I'd trade off a little tactile stimulation for an Orb that was a litle more rugged. Good quality acrylic would work acceptably well, I think.

CON: My particular Orb has a flaw (bubble) in the glass. It's not particularly large (only a few mm) but it's right at the point that faces me as the Orb sits on my desk. It's a little distracting.

PRO: I love the programmability, if that's a word, of the Orb. At the simplest level, just about anybody can write a program that will do some form of http GET to control the Orb from most any language and operating system. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

PRO: I like the fact that Ambient makes the technology (including schematics and parts sources) available to self-styled hackers.

I can think of a few uses for the Orb in areas where paging services are overkill - straight serial or even wifi applications, and the fact that Ambient makes the tools and software available to help me create these applications is tres cool - of course, that's going to sell more Orbs and the technology will doubtless make it back to Ambient, but I'm more than happy to give back anything useful that I might make out of these. I'm also interested (and will likely prototype one since I think I have most of the components on hand) in making my own LED circuit... I saw a show on Japanese television showcasing a VERY cool lamp by a Japanese designer. It was called al ToFu Illuminator and it was a clear glass (or acrylic, not sure) block with some of the surfaces half-frosted and half-silvered. When the block was lit the clear faces of the block did not look illuminated at all but there was a very soft light being projected from within the block onto the surrounding area. Would be a nice technology for an ambient device as well, I think.

CON: (but a minor one) Some of the information on the hardware developer's page seems to be describing an older style of Orb. Specifically does the serial hardware kit come with the little 8-pin cable for the Orb? It seems to refer to an RJ12 modular cable and a much larger paging receiver.

COMMENT: The PIC controller in this thing is something that I've never had the opportunity to tinker with. In order to use it as a PWM and in order to controll the RGB levels of the LEDs, what software is needed (if any)? Is this something that can be sourced, licensed, or purchased from Ambient or would I have to roll my own? Now that I mind, the PIC seems easy enough to work with, but if there's any way I can work less on reinventing a wheel and more on actual tinkering, I'm all for it. :-)

PRO: This is one awesome conversation piece. As simply a source of illumination it's the coolest thing I've ever seen (the Mathmos Tumbler used to be my favorite, I may actually disassemble it and convert it to an Ambient device if the implementation is as easy as it looks.) I had my Orb on my desk for about 5 minutes at work Thursday, and exactly TWO people saw it. Since Thursday I've received a dozen emails from people who heard about the Orb from the 2 people who saw it. I need to schedule appointments for it Monday so the crowd can play with it and I can possibly still get some work done.

CON: The Orb is a wireless device. It seems odd that there's a power cable going into it. I would much prefer an Orb with a smallish battery inside and the power connector going to a small stand (even only a plate) that charged the battery when it was at rest. This would allow someone to pick up and handle the Orb and it still remain functional without having to be reset.

CON: Half of the circuitry in the Orb uses an unregulated power source and this limits the alternative power sources for the Orb (this is even mentioned in the FAQ). I'd really like it if the power specs were better defined or if there were another voltage regulator built into the circuit so that a larger variety of power sources could be used - I'm still thinking battery here. I know I can figure this out on my own but as I said earlier my Orb is less than a week old and I'm not ready yet to smoke it playing with power sources. :-)
sep 07, 11:20pm | permalink

Great overview jgeorge... much appreciated.

I would differ on the glass bit, but generally agree. I love the glass and really think it is what makes this feel like quality and attention to detail instead of tchocke (sp?). But I don't have any kids running around the house with baseball bats or anything.

Haven't used the developer kit so I couldn't comment on that, I've really just been using the custom channel to send data -- and even that was just for a short time. After it was set up it has run like a dream. But, right now I just use the channels they have available and have been pretty happy.

If there was one suggestion I would make it would be that they would have a team constantly adding channels.. I mean there is SO much you can track with an Orb (or Beacon) they should add a new channel a month.
sep 15, 11:23am | permalink

The Orb as a silent, visible "reminder". Use a web based application to progarm dates and times for reminders. The Orb will flash and change color according to the type of reminder.
mar 09, 7:48pm | permalink

orbs to use in hospitals to let nurses know when and if a pt needs any kind of service or medical help. it just may save a life or two. brian
apr 16, 2:49pm | permalink

Can Ambient products be designed to monitor specific items in a person's home? This would be an obvious next step; I'm sure you've already thought about it. case you haven't...

1) I can imagine Ambient panels on just about any electrical appliance to indicate how well the appliance is functioning, how energy efficient the appliance is, even if specific parts are in need of repair/replacement.

2) I can imagine Ambient coatings, or liners for baby's cribs to monitor breathing, heart-rate, general well-being or to monitor any combination of symptoms, to warn parents that the baby needs Mom or Dad.

3) I can imagine Ambient disks on the back of watches to monitor one's heart rate, or any other indicators of medical distress; e.g. elevated sugar levels, blood pressure, breathing or heart irregularities.

4) I can imagine Ambient orbs, or disks, or panels to monitor the freshness of food in a refrigerator, or in sections of a refrigerator, or in multiple sections of a refrigerator.

5) I can imagine Ambient fixtures that monitor room temperature.

6) I can imagine Ambient disks in prescripton vial caps that monitor freshness of medication and indicate when meds should be discarded.

7) I can imagine Ambient plant sticks that would monitor soil moisture in a potted plant.

8) I can imagine Ambient panels in the rooms of any dwelling that would monitor the indoor air quality.

9) I can imagine Ambient paddles that could monitor the chemical content of any body of water, ie. swimming pools, drinking water, rivers, lakes, etc.

10) I can imagine Ambient liners or shells for artic outerwear that could monitor temperature and wind conditions.

I can't help it. I think sci-fi is just another word for tomorrow!!!
apr 17, 5:21am | permalink

oops, I didn't realize how old this topic was until I'd already submitted the survey. Anyway, I had suggested an ambient mouse/keyboard since all the good ideas were taken. I'm not sure about other people but I do have a problem with excessive moisture clinging to my palms and fingers. It'd be a wonderful help if a mouse or keyboard could detect the moisture and send up air currents or cool it's temperature to decrease the perspiration.

"7) I can imagine Ambient plant sticks that would monitor soil moisture in a potted plant." <-- Mmm, What about an ambient planting pot that could pump water into the soil based on its moisture level and glow a certain color once the water supply already placed in the pot was low or expended. Maybe my clammy brown thumb would actually be green for once, and my plants would at least live to be eaten by my cat.

"9) I can imagine Ambient paddles that could monitor the chemical content of any body of water, ie. swimming pools, drinking water, rivers, lakes, etc." <-- That'd be awesome for a PUR water filter or Brita, except with the added ambience. If the water in my area isn't as dangerous as the box says, then why should I keep buying water filters for what the company says could be in my water. They'd be making money off of my laziness to really check my water. I think an ambient device would watch my back for me...financially.

"8) I can imagine Ambient panels in the rooms of any dwelling that would monitor the indoor air quality." <-- This would be a great way to guilt co-dwellers about a smoking habit. If the panels could hook up to a device similar to an a/c control panel and give feedback in the form of colors it'd be quite an effective tool. Seeing red has an impact on a lot of people especially if it is related to health or safety conditions....although people do run a lot of red lights and fail to see that occasional STOP sign but that's another subject.

A lot of the above ideas would work to a fantastic degree in advancing the bio-versatility and splendor of technology without all the complication that requires a heart-to-heart with your tech manual or support line of the supplying company. The Orb and Beacon are great starts, and I'll be first in line to grab up the similar products when they are released.
apr 17, 11:29pm | permalink

I can imagine two devices that we can hold in the palm of our hand... that it vibrates and changing color with variable intensity when we approach the other device. Useful when we search someone at a party, for the kid, etc.
may 05, 1:31pm | permalink

I have only just heard about the brilliant concept of Applied Devices from the Economist periodical.
It immediately strikes me that this would a brilliant approach to keeping drivers informed as to vehicle progress in relation to legal speed limit and fuel efficiency perfofrmance
jun 12, 3:45pm | permalink

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