Let’s Make More Calm Technology

Why I created Accent, the smart picture frame with a pop of color and no cables

Max Braun
OneZero
Published in
7 min readApr 15, 2019

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Do I have a thing today? Accent showing a monthful of calendar events. (Images courtesy of the author)

SScreens live a double life. They serve us dense information in bright colors, only to transform back into black mirrors. We have gotten used to it, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

As more and more connected devices arrive in our homes, it’s a good time to remember the principles of Calm Technology, first formulated at Xerox PARC in 1995. They talk about how technology should respect our attention and remain in the background most of the time, how relevant information should be presented calmly and make use of the periphery.

In my previous projects, I used two-way mirrors and minimal user interfaces to create smart displays that blend in with the space around them. This time, I turned to e-paper, which achieves similar effects with a matte and non-emissive surface while operating on much less power.

I’m calling it Accent. It’s a small picture frame with a black, white, and red e-paper display. Accent is battery-powered and connects to Wifi, but only changes a few times each day.

An automatic schedule determines which type of content to show at what times. The latest prototype features a map of the commute on weekday mornings, which is replaced by a…

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Max Braun
OneZero

Engineering at Google AI. Previously building products in robotics, wearables, and augmented reality. Exploring art, technology, and philosophy. braun.design