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POUTS-The Physical World talks back June 18, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, physical interaction design.
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I am quite interested inTangible Interfaces in our daily lifes. Quite nice are in this sense the Fridge Magnets by Microsoft research, which are augmenting your family’s information source by blinking after a certain time. 


Even more interesting are the POUTS (2005) from the University of Nottingham. Just to explaing the word: “PINS push in and POUTS pop out” – finally the revenge of the physical world!

I really like the idea of notes falling down from a pinboard after the expired!



Braille for Non-Blinds… June 14, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in biofeedback, innovative interfaces, physical interaction design.
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Oren Horev, one of the last generation student at IDII, is exploring in his MA thesis the potential of ShapeShifters.


Inspired by the concept of the toy PinPression (here a digital version from 2003) Oren developed the idea of the tactile representation of information on a mobile phone. He is suggesting to having a tactile display area on the back of the mobile, which – from my point of view – makes more sense than the visual display – at least while talking on the phone. Oren is calling his phone the TactoPhone.

In a video prototype Oren is exploring different shapes for tactile icons, or Tactons as he is calling it.

Oren also developed application scenarios, which he is showing through short videos. I especially like the idea of using the Tactons also as input by pressing them like buttons.

When watching one of the video scenarios, I was surprise to see how the hand of the user is interacting with the device: the finger tips are waiting in one row until something tactile sensation arrives. Then they start exploring the surrounding environment. I think that the user would always want to try to grasp the entire area by putting as much as possible of his hand on the area.


Oren's project is an interesting exploration of Ivan Poupyrev's LUMEN, which is a working prototype of such a display plus the idea of making each tactive pixel also a visual pixel.

Erfassen your world! June 6, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in biofeedback, innovative interfaces, mobile, physical interaction design, rfid.
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I am using the word "Erfassen", because in German it means "to comprehend", but literally it translates into "touching".

A lot of interaction research is trying to enhance the experience of blind people. The digital cane is – of course – one of the favorite places to start such a new experience:


The UltraCane is a cane, which informs the user of obstacles ahead through vibrating buttons in the handles. Different buttons tell the direction of the obstacle. Here is a nice animation of how the UltraCane works.


The GuideCane (pdf here) by the University of Michigan is more complex, but also more academic: It not only recognizes obstacles, but also steers the blind person around.


Another project was presented during the confenrence "Internation Symposium on Intelligent Environments" and is using RFID-technology for a similar purpose: SPOT-IT by the university of Bratislava, Slovakia, is suggesting a system for blind people, which provides contextual information about their surroundings. However, I am not so sure whether this is the right approach, especially as RFIDs have rather short-range reach. Furthermore do I think that there is such a big need for international agreements on standards that it will be difficult to make such a project come true (just think of the fact that there are more than 3 sign languages for German shows how difficult an agreement is in that field).


Beyond tactile feedback, sound is also an interesting source for non-visual experience of the world and how to navigate it: This reminds me of a project by Haraldur Unnarsson, students in Ivrea, who used music to tell directions in a car navigation system: through emphasis on the left or right channel in the car's stereo system, the user is told how to navigate. Unfortunately this project is not findable online, only here.