BT has developed a futuristic Minority Report-style always-on wireless technology for the home which notifies users of personalised news and information using ambient light sequences and sound alerts.
To access the information all a user needs to do is simply wave a hand across it, thus prompting the device to read out the relevant details.
The interface, developed by BT's broadband applications research centre at Adastral Park, is designed to bring users closer to natural interaction with computers by communicating in terms of colour, sound and speech.
It is expected to lead to "exciting new services" for BT's broadband customers by allowing personalised online information to be pushed directly into home environments without the need for users to go online.
Information such as emails or weather reports would manifest as ambient alerts on unobtrusive devices using animated light patterns and sounds.
Users can then wave their hand over the front of the device, prompting it to provide them with more detailed information. This would use BT's Laureate text-to-speech software to read out the information highlights in a natural voice.
One experimental "ambient interface" has a fluid, oval design and clear front from where the light sequences appear.
It is designed to integrate easily into any environment, BT said, sitting neatly on a coffee table or kitchen worktop, for example.
The device communicates with an "ambient service portal" using a Wi-Fi Lan access point linked to a broadband connection. Users can choose what information the portal monitors, and customise how that information is displayed on their device.
For example, information could include an alert when children are on their way home, notification of stocks and share prices or the status of bids on eBay.
The device can also listen for voice commands such as 'weather', translating the request using speech recognition software and delivering the relevant information.
Adam Oliver, head of access to information at BT Group, said: "This ambient device really shows the benefits of having an always-on link to information.
"We set out to find a way of creating a knowledge source in an integrated but unobtrusive way, bringing everybody easy, relevant and up-to-the-minute information.
"People who are older or disabled are often overlooked when creating new technologies but at BT we believe it is vitally important to design inclusively from the outset.
"The fact that you do not need keyboard skills or the ability to use complicated software to get information from the unit is fantastic."
Images of the prototype device can be seen here
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