There’s a growing set of technologies that sense or control the ambient physical world beyond our screens. Smartphones have geopositioning receivers, gyroscopes, compasses, and barometric pressure sensors so that they can sense location, movement, and weather. The latest Apple iPad, launched this month, has a LiDAR time-of-flight sensor to detect and measure objects at a distance.

Sensors Will Enable Ambient Experiences With Physical Context

Product vendors have now placed sensors all around us. Sensor-enabled devices are on our bodies, in our homes and automobiles, and around us in the workplace. Combined with smartphones, these will enable designers, marketers, and employers to better engage their audiences in their real-world context, beyond screens. Forrester’s work on digital experiences shows how mobile apps are extending to a growing range of consumer experiences.

I’m starting research to explore the technologies and business implications of the growing range of ambient experiences. These are digital experiences that extend into our physical context to engage us in the physical moment. I’m exploring what the ambient technologies and products are and how they will apply in the workplace, on the go, and at home. Eventually, designers will use these ambient technologies together, rather than as isolated products. My goal is to help Forrester’s clients in marketing, talent management, and IT understand the growing use, capabilities, challenges, and value of ambient technologies to improve brand and employer relationships, plus the kind of tech infrastructure and business upgrades that firms will need to take advantage of them.

Early Ambient Technologies Include Virtual Assistants And Hearables

The most widespread of these new ambient technologies are virtual assistants, wearables, and smart-home products. Virtual assistants, in smartphones or smart speakers, are now widely used, though in a very limited fashion. Hearables, augmented reality, and mixed reality are growing. Hearables are a really interesting category. Vendors have added computing capability to wireless earbuds to enable features such as virtual assistants, refined noise canceling, and gesture controls. All the major tech vendors are now offering alternatives to the market-leading Apple AirPods. PC vendors are improving their products with more and better sensors for cameras, speakers, microphones, and presence detection. These are leading examples of the growing list of ambient technologies and products.

This research on ambient technologies and experiences will complement my ongoing internet-of-things research for product companies. It will guide product companies on how, when, and why to build great connected experiences — more on that soon.

If you’ve got ideas, feedback, or a cool new product to tout or share, please reach out via your Forrester client team or via a vendor briefing request.

Iot, Internet Of Things, Internet, Cloud, Technology

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