M ost current interface designs require that the user focus their attention on them in order to be of value. However, as the price of computation falls, and computational capabilities make their way into many everyday objects, the demand for attention from many different directions may begin to seriously reduce the usefulness of these computational objects. Ambient information displays are intended to fit in a part of the interface design space that does not have this property. They are designed to convey background or context information that the user may or may not wish to attend to at any given time. Ambient Displays are designed to work primarily in the periphery of a user's awareness, moving to the center of attention only when appropriate and desirable. This work considers a new ambient information display that is designed to give a rich medium of expression placed within an aesthetically pleasing decorative object. This display - the Information Percolator - is formed using air bubbles rising up tubes of water. By properly controlling the release of air, a set of pixels which scroll up the display is created. This allows a rendition of any (small, black and white) image to be displayed.

The following paper provides the full details of the design and construction of the device, and considers several applications.

Jeremy M. Heiner, Scott E. Hudson, Kenichiro Tanaka, "The Information Percolator: Ambient Information Display in a Decorative Object", ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, pp. 141-148, November, 1999.
An earlier version of this paper also appears here: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~hudson/bubbles/bubbles_paper_draft.pdf (655KB)

M lease click on one of the links below to see a movie of the Information Percolator in action.

clock icon clock.mpg (7.1MB)
cmuhcii icon cmuhcii.mpg (4.2MB)
mellow icon mellow.mpg (6.3MB)