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In an attentionally overloaded world, relief will come only from interfaces between humans and computation that are able to provide information in the background of our sensory and cognitive processes. Haptic displays may have a special role to play in this emerging movement toward ambient interfaces, because the touch sense is well suited to present many types of information in a way that treads lightly on our mental resources. This paper offers an introduction to the notion of ambient information display, and explores why and how the haptic channel could contribute. It begins with a discussion of the attentional problems posed by contemporary interface technology, and a broad overview of ambient interfaces themselves: their purpose, specification, features, and some general examples. Sense is made of the haptic ambient design space through a morphology of the functionality and social configurations exhibited by existing and envisioned examples. Finally, reflections on design principles and challenges for ambient haptic interfaces are aimed at inspiring, shaping, and informing future development in this area.
Date of Publication: July-Sept. 2009