For the computer to realize its potential as a tool that significantly extends our intellectual and expressive abilities, new interaction techniques must call upon our abilities to manipulate objects; computers must be more usable in our everyday physical environment.
The graphical user interface has become the de facto metaphor for most of our diverse activities using computers, yet the desktop environment provides a one-size-fits-all interaction. Tangible and ubiquitous computing research, along with recent consumer products such as the Wii and the iPhone, show that we can create more compelling interactions through the co-design of sensing hardware and physical form.
We have built an interface that physically represents digital content such as files, variables, or other program constructs with a collection of self-contained, interactive electronic tokens that can be manipulated gesturally by users as a single, coordinated interface. Such systems do not rely on external sensing infrastructure like tabletop or augmented reality systems, and provide a more general purpose platform than most research-level tangible user interfaces.
We believe this style of human computer interaction presages a world in which people are able to accomplish information tasks anywhere, while remaining rooted in their physical world and leveraging their physical bodies – not staring off into a display, dumb to their surroundings.
David Merrill is currently finishing his Ph.D. in the Ambient Intelligence Group at the MIT Media Lab. Before MIT he was at Stanford (BS ‘00, MS ‘02), where he studied human-computer interaction and cognitive science, and built new instruments for electronic music. David’s work is in the area of interfaces and systems for ubiquitous information access and manipulation, and his expertise encompasses product invention, design, and implementation (hardware + embedded firmware + software + wireless communication). His latest project, in collaboration with Jeevan Kalanithi, is Siftables – the world’s first general-purpose, distributed, inch-scale tangible user interface platform.
David’s work has been featured in meetings such as Siggraph, CHI and Maker Faire, and publications such as PC Magazine, ID Magazine, and The Boston Globe.
David is from Santa Cruz County, California.
Jeevan Kalanithi is a designer and technologist specializing in human-computer interaction and physical computing. He is a principal and founder of Taco Lab, a design/engineering firm specializing in physical-to-cloud interfaces.
Jeevan and his collaborators’ works have been shown at venues such as Villette Numerique, EYEBEAM, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Miami Art Museum. Jeevan has received awards including honors from the ID Magazine Student Design Review and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. His work has been featured in publications such as Gizmodo, Engadget, Wired Gagdet Blog, PC Magazine, Media Magazine and The Boston Globe.
Jeevan holds an SM from The Media Lab at MIT and BS in Symbolic Systems from Stanford.
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