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Theory and Practice of Tangible User Interfaces

Project Forum

Submitted by admin on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 15:39

Project Updates

Team members Midterm Project Continuing to expand the midterm project? Looking for new partner(s)? Open to exploring a new direction/idea for the final project? Describe your current status.
Andy, Erin, Nick N. Smart Clips We've taken a couple of themes identified in our midterm project, such as fidgeting, and are looking at ways it can be used as a tangible user interface.
Miguel, Sean Foosball Art Machine
Becky, Carol, Connor Music Gear Toy We will continue to work on our Musical Gear Toy. We're refining our interaction model.
Ashley, Laura, Michael Bubbles We are continuing with our bubble wand as a tangible interface, but we are looking for new, innovative concepts for what we can do with our virtual "bubbles"
Mike L., Simon Mood Bracelet We may continue to work on the Mood Bracelet idea, but are open to branching out if other intriguing ideas exist.
Jonathan, Ryan Energy Consumption Display We are discussing the possibility of going with a completely different idea, and may possibly split to join other groups.
Kate, Nathan, Sohyeon Emotion-sharing devices in classroom We are continuing to work on our emotion-sharing device between an instructor and students. We are currently researching how to find the best means for sharing and what kinds of input/output are needed to share in a large lecture room, in order to improve the communication.  We decided to work together with the same members for the final project.
Seth, Xiaomeng Interactive Wall We are interested in further developing and implementing the interactive wall, but we may be losing our third member and require a replacement (it is a daunting task for two people). If we lose one and do not get a replacement, we will probably need to find other teams.
Annette, Ljuba, Sarah Powerglass We are continuing with our midterm project idea, but we are exploring new directions for it.
David, Tilman Social Elevator We abandoned the idea of the bouquet of flowers and no want to create an experiment for social dynamics: The social elevator. Still looking for one more member to join the team.
Nick R, Ashkan Digital Shadow We'd like to explore the idea of having a 'digital shadow' of your internet life introduced into your public, real-life interactions.



Please add your project ideas/description below:

Peiyi Ko (peiyiko[at] - still looking for partner(s)

My idea is "Day Dream Dance Composition," a desktop interactive setup that allows a user to engage in fun and creative acivity (composing soundscores and movements), exercising the mind and body without leaving the seats. Therefore, it could provide good breaks for prolonged office work. For example: (1) To make a song composition, the user can use feet tapping, hand/finger movements (maybe mediate through a touch pad or a force sensing object), eye gaze or facial muscles (maybe tracked by a video camera) to directly manipulate the sound elements (pre-recorded voices or music); features of those physical movement inputs could also be analyzed (e.g. amplitude, trajectory in x-y-z coordinate, speed/frequency) and used separately or in conjunction to modulate the soundscores. (2) Or, in a reverse fashion, the user can use his/her voice as the input to drive the motions of certain physical stimuli ( e.g. moving objects displayed on the monitor or different LEDs connected in a circuit) to engage assigned physical tasks (i.e. feet, hand/fingers, face or eye movements).


Jonathan Yen (jonyen - at - gmail - dot - com):

(ideally looking for 1 more partner)

My idea is to do a project that would be ideal for learning foreign languages. A couple of ways that I think this could be implemented is to have different objects in a small environment, and then a tool can be used by an "expert" of the language to annotate the object with meaning. A "learner" could come by later and use a separate tool to retrieve the annotation on that object. This could work beyond just learning language, and could be a way to learn about the everyday world rather than being confined to textbooks.


Michael Lee (michael_lee -at- berkeley):

My idea is to have a "mood cube" that allows for easy updating of one's current mood based on the orientation of a cube. The cube could utilize existing websites such as facebook, blogger/xanga, or twitter to keep track of updates. Another cube could easily be programmed to be an "ambient monitor" where each side of a cube can be assigned to a certain person (there could be a slot on each face where you could slide in someone's photo). This cube could monitor each assigned person's status and adjust accordingly (e.g. different colored LEDs) to represent that person's mood. These cubes would be small enough to sit comfortably on a desk without taking up much space. In addition, this allows for an ambient, unobtrusive method to quickly keep track of people important to the user.

To expand on this idea, there could be additional sensors on the mood cubes. For example, it can have a light detector so that it could keep track if it is night or day (or if the room is lit or not during the evening) where another person is.

Additionally, these updates can be saved so that a user could track their mood throughout a certain period. This could be used for fun, or even for clinical puposes (e.g. those seeking therapy can use this to track their moods with their counselor).

Ashkan (e-mail?): I've also been thinking of doing the same idea but had intended to plug in the 'sensor' to an open backend such as LifeMetric which can be used to then power different remote visualizations/displays. Maybe we can work together.

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): I'm interested in this idea; it reminds me of Empathy Mirror, a project in a previous version of this course (see Please let me know if you are pursuing this.

Tilman: I am thrilled by the idea and think it could be expanded to a programmable cube. So the user could actually "program" 6 different moods of his choice for example.


Neha Kumar (

I am not wedded to an idea, but here are a couple of spaces that interest me:

1. Annotating Spaces: Consider the Berlin Wall (or the Space Needle/White House/South Hall) - if people could annotate these spaces with their stories, experiences, historical accounts, etc. such that this information was subsequently accessible by visitors to these spaces, all of that information could be captured, preserved, and used for learning. Kids going to zoos would be able to access images of birds, animals, maybe even extinct species. Tourists could learn about the history of the Berlin Wall, etc.

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): How about annotating spaces with handprints, photos taken on-location, or something physical that the visitor could mold/edit/create on the spot? I'm trying to link this to a tangible interface, because I keep imagining the most obvious scenario - people walking up to a kiosk with a keyboard.

2. Energy-Awareness: I feel that there is a need today to make people more energy-aware, conscious of their own activities and how they are affecting the earth, i.e. their own carbon footprint. I'd love to explore applications that helped to make them more aware, and encouraged "good behavior".

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): I agree with the need, and I can imagine something like a light switch that does something to make you "feel good" when you turn it off. (Interpret "feel good" as you will.)


Nick Rabinowitz (nrabinow@ischool.berkeley):

I have a couple of ideas/topic areas that aren't fully formed, and would love to work with one or two other people who would be interested in exploring one of them.

- Clothing - I'm interested in the potential for using clothing as an input and output device. I've thought more about output than input - e.g. using a tie or jacket as an ambient display that might show the value of your stock portfolio or change with the seasons - but I think there are a lot of possibilities for input too, such as body temperature, attitude of arms or legs, etc.

- Physical Pixels - I'm really into the idea of physical pixels, i.e. real world items whose position or color can be set to show images. Again, I have more output than input ideas, but it would be neat for people to be able to physically edit the picture by moving/changing pixels, or to create images that can be caught by a webcam and translated to a large physical pixel display.

To be honest, mostly I just want to make something really cool - I'm more interested in evoking a sense of wonder in the user than I am in practical applications.

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): Were you at the Wednesday brainstorming session? I really liked the idea of kicking a wall mural to affect its picture, or at least its "physical pixels". Would this be an idea you'd like to pursue?

Nick: I've actually been thinking about this a lot, and would be interested in pursuing it, I think. I'm not so sure about the kicking part, but touching a wall to create changes might be really neat. Some key issues I've been thinking about: Are all the pixels controlled by one program, or do they react to each other as cellular automata? The "pixels" could be practically anything that can change state - for example, cocktail umbrellas that open and close - so the trick to doing this well in this class would be choosing pixels that wouldn't require excessive work on our part to get them to change state on command. Also they should be cheap :). Anyone else interested?

Seth: I sent you an email, Nick. I am interested in working with you to create something "really cool" although I do not have any definite concept in mind. Anyway, you can count me in (seth.horrigan <at> berkeley).


Erin Knight (e-mail?):

I am really interested in younger children's educational tools since I feel like they very focused on tangible objects and interactions at that point in development. At the same time, they are learning fairly straightforward, yet abstract skills such as: telling time, distinguishing patterns, counting coins, addition/subtraction. One of my ideas in this realm was the Math cube - a tool for younger kids learning math. Each side of the cube has an operator on it (+, -, *, etc) and when a problem is projected down on the table top, the child chooses the correct operand and presses the cube down. A sensor on each side tells the computer which one they picked...if correct, it glows green and the next problem is displayed. If incorrect, it glows red and they try again. Just one of many possible things in this realm, definitely open to ideas...

I also mentioned:

  • Keys that glow (I love me some LEDs) based on traffic patterns - so glow red if there is bad traffic on their typical morning commute.
  • Plant pot that measures moisture levels in the soil and glows when it needs water (although according to Kimiko, working with plants is TOUGH so might be retracting this one).

And one I didn't mention:

I am a post-it/physical note person, I still write things to remember on post-its and it would be really cool to have bulletin board pins that remind me when something is due. So if I had "tomorrow", "next week", "2 weeks from now" pins that I could use to attach things to my bulletin board. Then the computer would have to count down and when they are due, the pins could glow. There would need to be some way to set and reset pins but again, just throwing it out there.

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): I am also a physical note person, and would love a bulletin board like you describe here. Alternative lighting: as the tasks get more urgent, they start glowing brighter and brighter shades of red. So at a glance, you could see what tasks were more urgent than others.

Tilman: There is a similar project that has been conducted at the university of Munich that you may want to check out: The Display Cube


Andy Brooks (e-mail?):

I'm interested in looking into ways to make it easier for people to subtly communicate with one another, either asynchronously (1-way) or synchronously (2-way). I'd like to focus on our existing behaviors and objects we carry with us, and use them to frame the design challenge. Are there ways to leverage our existing discrete gestures to interact with someone across the room, in another city, or another country?


Wednesday Afternoon's Brainstorming Session:


Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): The "Stick a Fork In It" idea was for a cooking thermometer that would light up (I guess green/red) indicating the status of your food. I think it would be a step up from traditional cooking thermometers - I wonder why they haven't thought of this yet?

Simon Tan (simtan@berkeley): Where is the first round of post-its? (Kicking + Outside + Physical Pixels) I liked those ideas a lot.

Somebody edited 'em out! Now they're back:

Kicking + Outside + Physical Pixels


Ryan Kaufman (

Table-top sequencer: I've thought about different ways a digital sequencer could be used in a tangible environment to make a game or collaborative music. The marble sequencer shown in class was pretty inspiring. I was thinking a "touch-screen" type of table that could sense certain hand movements (using IR, etc.) and have specific movements tied to functions on the sequencer. Also, light cues, corresponding to different parts of the "beat," would bring a visual element into a game or, more simply, a collaborative sound. "Simon says" comes to mind on the visual side?

Very basic, I know. I'm trying to keep it abstract until we get closer to Tuesday or anyone becomes interested. I ha

ve a few ideas that follow from the basic idea above. If you have any general interest, suggestions, or ideas, my email is next to my name. :)


TRON - Ashkan Soltani (asoltani@ischool)

I'm interested in creating a mixed-reality game based loosely around TRON (from the 80's):


This game is consists of opponents riding 'light cycles' on a grid. The object was to race across the board without crossing your opponents 'trail'.


Phase 1 - I'd like to create a stationary version of the game using real bicycles mounted on 'indoor trainers' and create an environment similar to gold sprints that occur at various bars/outdoor venues. Cyclists could mount one of the real-life bikes using the pedals and steering as input to race one another to the finish, being careful not to cross their opponents path in the game, which is projected on a large screen for everyone to view.

Phase 2 - This would be the more ambitious version of the game and would attempt to use a device such as the iphone to track opponents on a real-world map (such as trail guru or insta mapper). The game itself would be setup more as an alleycat race and require opponnents to race one another across the city without crossing one another's path. The actual implementation could either via a birds-eye view of the game map, or just use some auditory or haptic feedback mechanisms (such as beeping or vibration) to warn riders when they're approaching another rider's trail.


Interactive Bouquet of Flowers

Tilman & David

We're currently looking for ways to enhance the basic idea and scenario of our flower bouquet. People are welcome to join our group as well as to gather for a collaborative brainstorming session on project ideas and enhancements for the final project. Feel free to contact us (dingler [at]

Project Description

The idea of our 'Bouquet of Flowers' is to create a customizable and interactive bouquet. Thereby the flowers of the bouquet are the interactive elements. They can play sounds as well as change their colors.

Possible Scenarios

The user/customer of the 'Bouquet of Flowers' might have a preference for certain flowers or colours and thus wants to costomize the bouquet. So the color of each bloom can be changed according to individual preferences. Each bloom could contain a unique melody or the blooms could be able to create a single melody all together. We could also think of wheezing as a means of triggering the blooms to play a specific melody. It could be used as:

  • A valentine's gadget (for men)
  • A design tool for flower combinations in your home
  • A design tool in flower shops in order to quickly find interesting combinations of flowers
  • ...

Bouquet of Flowers

If you have any questions, feedback or want to join our project, you're more than welcome.