David Rose is betting there is money to be made heading against the crowd. His company, Ambient Devices, a start-up in Cambridge, Mass., is producing devices that display limited information in ways that can be understood with just a glance.

Researchers have speculated since the 1980’s that data-deluged consumers might welcome a new class of unobtrusive display devices that can instantly convey general information like the direction of the stock market or traffic conditions to viewers who know what is being monitored. The potential appeal of bare-bones displays is clear in the continuing popularity of things like clocks and nondigital speedometers.

The information age twist is that, thanks to computers and wireless communications, even the simplest display can now draw on data from anywhere in the world. Moreover, computers make it possible to switch such a device from being a stock monitor to a traffic reporter without replacing the display.

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