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‘Ambient computing’: A future where computers are all around us

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Children today have their first encounter with digital technology through the smartphone. They’re so used to this mode of interaction, in fact, that many will try to swipe through content even on TVs. These children have been using smartphones without even thinking about them being computers. It’s second nature for them to interact with screens - like those on TVs - as they would with smartphones. “Ambient computing” refers to such changes in the way users approach computers. Today we’ll be exploring this term in detail. Ubiquitous computing to ambient computing

Remember the term “ubiquitous” from the early 2000s? The term comes from a Latin word meaning “existing anywhere at any time”, and refers to an environment where networks can be accessed regardless of time or place. As of 2019, with smartphones now being universal, we are living in a truly ubiquitous world. “Ambient computing” takes this concept one step further. An ambient computing environment is one where users engage in digital activity without even being aware of the devices they are using. While the devices available around a user are central to the ubiquitous world, in the world of ambient computing, user behavior, not specific devices, is most important. All of the recent technological trends - artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Smart Home, and autonomous driving vehicles - are developments on the way to ambient computing. Connectivity-based ambient computing environments

Ambient computing is a concept that first gained attention through a 2017 column by tech columnist Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, in which it was underlined as an important IT paradigm. Mossberg forecast a future wherein computers would vanish from sight– one where they would exist but not be felt, much like the air around us. In an ambient computing world, even smartphones would be considered “un-natural”, as they require human manipulation. Connectivity infrastructure is crucial for the realization of ambient computing. A good example of ambient computing may be “Bixby”, Samsung Electronics’ AI platform. When controlling Bixby-enabled Galaxy smartphones or smart TVs and refrigerators, all a user needs to do is call Bixby’s name and tell it what it needs to do. In the near future, moving beyond remote voice control of individual devices, multiple interconnected devices across multiple spaces will be organically linked as a single giant computer. Users will be using computers every moment of their everyday lives without even noticing these computers exist. Like thin air: The computers of the future

Ambient computing is still in its early stages. Running a computer still requires a physical AI-enabled “device”, and users still need to remember specific commands to operate these devices. Ambient computing, which will be the culmination of Quaternary Industrial Revolution technologies, aims to create an environment where computers run without conscious user-device interaction. Most experts expect ambient computing to be an integral part of our everyday lives in 20 years. This means when we wake up in the morning, our beds will sense our movements and automatically turn the lights on. Walk into the kitchen, and the coffee machine will automatically start brewing. And as we whip up breakfast, we could holler at the washing machine to start doing its thing. That’s computing that’s everywhere but hardly noticeable, just like the air we breathe. Remember that “ubiquitous” was once a futuristic concept but is now just part of everyday life; likewise, it won’t be long before we reap the benefits of ambient computing in our daily lives. It’ll be exciting to see how much better human lives will become with this advanced technology.

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