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Amber Case on calm technology

Amber Case
Why next gen devices should be as reliable and straightforward as washing machines

Amber Case explores how humans and technology interact, believing that technology can – and should – “amplify our humanness”: that is, help us connect with each other in truly meaningful ways. Her insights help build devices that enable uninterrupted, human-to-human contact, such as tech that makes use of our peripheral attention – via sounds, touch, or light – which leaves us free to focus our attention on more meaningful things.

The researcher and entrepreneur shares her thoughts on what’s next in the evolution of calm technology.

Calm Design is about making technology that’s there when you need it, not when you don’t.

It doesn’t get in the way of your life, but seamlessly blends into it. We don’t think twice about buying a washing machine or lawn mower. The next generation of technology needs to be as straightforward and as reliable as the long term devices we grew up with.

Technology that’s used as a tool can allow for some amazing things to happen. Technology that’s used primarily as a form of consumption can be addictive.

I think we can do and have genuinely meaningful exchanges online – think about the grandmother Skyping into Thanksgiving dinner from Hungary, or the people that meet their soulmates online. When landline telephone was first introduced, people were worried that we’d turn away from each other and into small rooms with phones. Instead, the phone became something that helped us to connect when we were far apart.

But I see the risk of becoming addicted to media all the time, and using phones in the same room or at a restaurant without interacting with each other. I think the biggest risk is instead of going home to rest and read or watch television, we might check email or work some more.

I think we should be wary of what Douglas Rushkoff calls “Present Shock”.

It’s the idea that we’re dealing with so much information right now that we can’t even keep up with the current moment. We’re experiencing what I call micro-singularities of information and we have less and less time to reflect. Conferences like Camp Grounded and the increasing attention drawn to Mindfulness are a reaction to this. I believe it will become increasingly important to have moments of disconnect so we can reflect on our lives and process our memories.

Right now I’m working for a wellness company named Healthways on a lifelogging app called Compass.

Compass surfaces insights from your phone and shows you how you live your life. Too many hours at the office? Eating right? Flu got you down? Too much phone light affecting your sleep? Compass helps you to see what’s affecting you, and how it affects you. Our vision with Compass is for it to be an interface for your life, and to change your future. In a world of non-stop information, we could all use a bit of reflection – followed by action.

Amber Case is a member of the Libertine100. Image credit: Kaboompics

Technology that's used as a tool can allow for some amazing things to happen. Technology that's used primarily as a form of consumption can be addictive