Responses & First Thoughts

Tom Igoe:

While I definitely understand the critique of many of the physical computing themes, I suppose my only concern about disregarding or looking down upon the themes can be counterproductive when trying to design better solutions for solving problems. Although perhaps one, two, or maybe three of the themes might be a Frankenstein of a project, I wonder if by combining multiple aspects of multiple themes or even implementing some aspect of one of the themes could ultimately help a new project interface with a user. I guess what I mean is that the discussed themes can be boring when they’re repeated over and over, they might have something to offer a project that has hit a brainstorming/troubleshooting roadblock.


The short story presents an interesting take on human reliance on technologies that, in at least some regard, are objectively better, smarter, stronger, or more efficient. After a devastating crash, the individual and the suit are thrust upon a tireless never-ending journey through an unforgiving planet. What is interesting, and also representative of humanity to an extent, is the habit of the individual to complain. The heat, the sweat, the smell, and every bit of discomfort is detailed throughout the individual’s journey. This isolates a very critical part of humanity, our insistence on not adapting, that there is a way to solve problems and to adjust for what we aren’t capable of or aren’t designed to do. And this also presents an intriguing dichotomy of humans discarding technology as soon as there is better in contrast with technology being designed to cover for all of our deficiencies.

The story also focuses on the interaction between the human and the suit. One party experiencing a organic concoction of pain, desire, and confusion with the other sensing what is physically, mechanically, and chemically possible in the former. This disconnect leads to two paths, one which points out the lack of appreciation, at times, of what we have and what is made possible through technology, and another which defines a critical issue when interacting with technology in the complexity of communication that must be felt and sensed.

And last thing, I thought this quote was interesting:

“We created something a little closer to perfection than ourselves; maybe that’s the only way to progress” (63)

In creating things that are closer to perfection compared to ourselves, are we bridging that disconnect? I wonder about when that disconnect disappears, does technology cease to exist? Do it merge with us and do we become one entity?

Related Skills:

I have taken an Architecture course dealing with accessibility called Human Factors in which we studied, among other related topics, how various places on- and off-campus are architecturally hostile and exclusive to someone in a wheelchair. I have had experience in theater and acting in high school, which has been a smaller part of my experience in university. In regards to digital fabrication, I’m familiar with laser cutting, CNC-ing, and operating architectural robots.

Intro and Reading

[EDIT:  Sorry, I forgot to mention this earlier.  If you could, please, post your comments in new posts in this category instead of posting a comment to this post. ]

tl;dr: Update your profile on the class blog by noon Thursday, post feedback on the reading assignments.

Review Tom Igoe’s page that we looked at in class. Any changes you would make?

Read the short story mailed to you tonight.

Ask yourself what skills you have in addition to the pre-reqs:

  • performance skills: music, drama, improv
  • work with disability
  • linux shell
  • javascript / p5.js
  • CAD software
  • digital fabrication – laser cutters, 3d printers, mills
  • game theory

Class Notes: 27 August, 2019

Class Theme – “Accessiblity”

We’re looking at how we can make physical things more accessible.
We do this by improving the human condition by improving living spaces with tangible interaction design.

Nathan Shedroff’s list of interaction components.

  • Assist
  • Enhance
  • Improve
  • Qualify
  • Sense

Introduction to Tangible Interaction

Reaction vs. Interaction

Classic thermostat (temperature sensor and on/off switch) vs. smart thermostat (PID controller or AI google hive mind)
Tangent: explain how PID is different from a sensor + relay
Explain how machine learning is different from PID


  • What if we had a smart (AI) thermostat?
  • change heating/cooling controls based on history
  • change temperature related to outside environment
  • react to weather changes
  • modulate temp based on who is in the house: I like it warm, spouse likes it cold
  • modulate temp based on predicted activities: “they always stay up late on Friday”
  • error control: “never let the house go below 50F” to prevent pipes from freezing

Short History of Tangible and Interaction Design

Physical computing and tangible interaction design are recently created fields but there is a history of how we got here. The key point is the size (scale) of computing hardware

Water powered tools and windmills
beginning of the PID idea, centrifuges to maintain speed in grain mills

Industrial revolution
early punch-card computing
steam engines that can react to malfunctions
sophisticated PID for steam engines

Transistors as second industrial revolution
first computers that didn’t fill buildings

Beginning of HCI
1976: first use of “human-computer interaction” in a published paper
1983: The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction brings the concept to the general computing community

Early arcade games with haptic outputs/feedback (helicopter game that shakes when you are shot)

Modems and broadband access
Interaction moves from an isolated software package to a network of software packages
People can interact with other people at distant locations
People can interact with systems
Still no physical interaction

Mobile phones
contains sensors, CPU, network access
has output in the form of image, sound, and vibration

first affordable, usable embedded controller
opened up a market of input/output hardware
set the space for Rpi, BBB, etc

Five years from now
where we’re thinking in this class

What can we do in this class?
Study physical computing and interaction
Look at near future concepts
Design, build, and demonstrate physically interactive devices and systems