“More than any designer this side of Cupertino, Matias Duarte has made phones easy to use. During his tenure at Google — first overseeing the design of Android — the vice president of design watched Google’s operating system capture more than 85% of the global smartphone market. Duarte has likened his own work in mainstreaming these addictive devices to that of an arms dealer — “I just make the guns! I didn’t make you guys shoot each other!” — but he’s also not slowing down.

After pioneering Material Design — a user interface metaphor that’s helped de-uglify and unify Google’s products — he’s here to stump for a new vision of Google’s computing future, one that extends well beyond the smartphone. “We’ve been calling this idea ambient computing,” says Duarte. “Where you are able to reach services wherever you are.”

Ambient computing — also dubbed ubiquitous computing or calm computing — isn’t a new idea. It’s simply the premise that, eventually, computer interaction will reach beyond our devices into the environment around us.

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