Physical Computing

Physical computing is novel, interactive ways of working with a computer away from a standard desktop.

The interface:

  • The Graphic User Interface (also known as GUI) are things like Windows, Icons, Menu, Pointer (WIMP). These came about in 1973 and still dominates the way we interact with computers.

Pointer — e.g using a mouse/finger if using touchscreen

Post WIMP Computing: Mark Weiser (1991) — he believes that we get sucked into computers, and that we should have computers in a natural environment.

Has also said:

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

Ubiquitous Computing: This is the opposite of virtual reality, and is anything that doesn’t involve screens. Other concepts include Tangible, Physical, Wearable, and Locative computing etc.

Tangible computing: This is giving physical form to information. A good example of this is ‘Reactable’, as shown below:

‘Reactable’ is a sampler programme. Instead of using an interface the data and icons have been replaced with objects.

I did a little research and found this website below that has been inspiring to read through different experiments and projects that have been created using Tangible computing:


ListenTree: Audio-Haptic Display in the Natural Environment:

“ListenTree is an audio-haptic display embedded in the natural environment. Visitors to our installation notice a faint sound emerging from a tree. By resting their heads against the tree, they are able to hear sound through bone conduction. To create this effect, an audio exciter transducer is weatherproofed and attached to the tree’s roots, transforming it into a living speaker, channeling audio through its branches, and providing vibrotactile feedback. In one deployment, we used ListenTree to display live sound from an outdoor ecological monitoring sensor network, bringing a faraway wetland into the urban landscape. Our intervention is motivated by a need for forms of display that fade into the background, inviting attention rather the (…)”

“Drift Bottle V. Michael Bove, Lingyun Sun and Zhejiang University How can emotions be conveyed, expressed, and felt? Drift Bottle is a project exploring interfaces that allow users to “feel” others emotions to promote their communication. We have developed a voice message-exchange web service. Based on that, we design and develop several terminals with different interfaces”

“Slam Force Net V. Michael Bove Jr., Santiago Alfaro and Daniel Novy A basketball net incorporates segments of conductive fiber whose resistance changes with degree of stretch. By measuring this resistance over time, hardware associated with this net can calculate force and speed of a basketball traveling through the net. Applications include training, toys that indicate the force and speed on a display, dunk competitions, and augmented-reality effects on television broadcasts. This net is far less expensive and more robust than other approaches to measuring data about the ball (e.g., photosensors or ultrasonic sensors) and the only physical change required for the hoop or backboard is electrical connections to the net. Another application of the material is a flat net that can measure velocity of a ball hit or pitched into it (as in baseball or tennis); it can measure position as well (e.g., for determining whether a practice baseball pitch would have been a strike).”

“99. FlickInk Sheng-Ying (Aithne) Pao and Kent Larson FlickInk is a gesture sensing pen to support collaborative work and to augment the environment. With a quick flick of the pen towards a desired destination, analog written content on paper instantly transfers onto the corresponding physical object in the environment. The FlickInk gesture sensing module allows for wireless communication and directional gesture sensing. If multiple surfaces are present, the direction of the pen swing determines which screen the information is transferred to. Furthermore, multiple users can flick their written content to multiple devices, creating a personalized collaborative environment.”

“GIFGIF Cesar A. Hidalgo, Andrew Lippman, Kevin Zeng Hu and Travis Rich An animated gif is a magical thing. It contains the power to compactly convey emotion, empathy, and context in a subtle way that text or emoticons often miss. GIFGIF is a project to combine that magic with quantitative methods. Our goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of gifs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags. A web site with 200,000 users maps the GIFs to an emotion space and lets you peruse them interactively.”

“Augmented Airbrush Pattie Maes, Joseph A. Paradiso, Roy Shilkrot and Amit Zoran We present an augmented handheld airbrush that allows unskilled painters to experience the art of spray painting. Inspired by similar smart tools for fabrication, our handheld device uses 6DOF tracking, mechanical augmentation of the airbrush trigger, and a specialized algorithm to let the painter apply color only where indicated by a reference image. It acts both as a physical spraying device and as an intelligent digital guiding tool that provides manual and computerized control. Using an inverse rendering approach allows for a new augmented painting experience with unique results. We present our novel hardware design, control software, and a discussion of the implications of human-computer collaborative painting.”

**Find other examples above*****

*******optical handling below****

Wearable computing: This is made with conductive thread in conjunction with micro-controllers. You can use things such as a Lilypad Arduino and sew this onto clothing. You can use a programme and embed it into clothes and objects, and get it to trigger thing such as media.

  • wearable piano
  • indicators on back of coat
  • google glasses
  • smartwatches

There is an organisation called ‘Hackspaces’ where people can meet and socialise and members can use a space to work on projects;

This is interesting because they hold events, you can borrow materials such as soldering irons etc. There is a whole maker culture surrounding it.

Kobakant is a site surrounding the DIY production of wearable technology, they have a

mixed reality

merging physical with virtual

spaces to produce hybrid environment

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