Calm technology is a type of information technology where the interaction between the technology and its user is designed to occur in the user's periphery rather than constantly at the center of attention. Information from the technology smoothly shifts to the user's attention when needed but otherwise stays calmly in the user's periphery. Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown describe calm technology as "that which informs but doesn't demand our focus or attention."
For a technology to be considered calm technology, there are three core principles it should adhere to:
The phrase "calm technology" was first published in the article "Designing Calm Technology", written by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in 1995. The concept had developed amongst researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in addition to the concept of ubiquitous computing.
Weiser introduced the concept of calm technology by using an example of LiveWire or "Dangling String". It is an eight-foot (2.4 m) string connected to the mounted small electric motor in the ceiling. The motor is connected to a nearby Ethernet cable. When a bit of information flows through that Ethernet cable, it causes a twitch of the motor. The more the information flows, the motor runs faster, thus creating the string to dangle or whirl depending on how much network traffic is. It has aesthetic appeal; it provides a visualization of network traffic but without being obtrusive.
Video conferences are an example of calm technology. Information conveyed such as through gestures and facial expressions can be gathered, as opposed to telephone conferences which do not provide this peripheral information.
Another frequently named example is a simple water kettle that we fill up, put on a stove and then can be out of our attention till the water boils and it whistles.
From 2001-2003, the EU funded 17 projects under an initiative called "The Disappearing Computer." The goal of this initiative was to explore new concepts and techniques that would lead to the development of calm technologies for people-friendly environments.
Another development of calm technology is its transformation into unattended technology, where the technology always exists in the periphery and never requires central attention from the user.