Tangible Interaction

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Ishii, H. and Ullmer, B. 1997. Tangible bits: towards seamless interfaces between people, bits and atoms. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 22 - 27, 1997). S. Pemberton, Ed. CHI '97. ACM, New York, NY, 234-241.

ACM Digital Library or Local mirror

Mattkc7 - Apr 29, 2010 03:11:52 pm

Jason Wu - 4/26/2010 2:08:21

Ishii and Ullmer claim that Tangible User Interfaces are a way to make computing truly ubiquitous and invisible, and I wholeheartedly agree that TUIs have a lot of potential. However, I feel that the three prototypes described by the authors have a long way to go before they are ready for prime time. In particular, the metaDESK is anything but invisible, since it relies on a clunky arm-mounted display as well as specially created phicons and other instruments. To be truly transparent, a TUI should be able to interact with regular everyday physical objects (perhaps via robot vision/object recognition) rather than require a user to acquire new objects with RFID chips or other special technologies built in.

I really like the ambientROOM idea, since it is based on the idea that the brain will naturally shift the user's locus of attention to the ambient information if it becomes anomalous. There is a still a lot of room for improvement, and HCI designers should think about adding more ambient information than simply sound and light. What about smell, heat, vibration, or even gusts of wind? Philips' amBX technology uses the latter two effects in the foreground to create immersive gaming and film experiences, but I can easily imagine these effects being used in the background to convey information.

Geoffrey Wing - 4/26/2010 9:50:04

"Tangible Bits" is definitely an interesting concept - it seems very futuristic to me. I especially liked the marble answering machine and the bench they talked about. The marble answering machine is very intuitive, and frankly, clever. It's the one example that I thought was most useful, and best suited for actual application. I liked the benches concept because it seems like taking communication to the next level. Currently, we have video chatting, where we can see and hear the other person, but the bench utilizes our sense of touch, to make the interaction seem more realistic. These examples definitely utilize direct manipulation, which is key concept for good UI.

While I think all examples in the article are great exercises in creativity, I am still not sure how practical they are. Yes, current computers are quite confining. However, I think we've gotten quite efficient at using computers. I don't see how a lot of these examples could be faster than current systems. People can type really fast, and using the mouse is most efficient. Perhaps, I shouldn't be so skeptical. With time, these systems could surpass our current systems.

Eric Fung - 4/26/2010 10:00:07

After reading about the marble answering machine, I looked at my desk and saw how cluttered everything was, and wondered whether anyone would be able to keep track of 'awakened' objects in addition to normal objects. It seems like designers for such graspable objects will need to keep in mind that typical physical objects have nuances that differentiate similar objects from each other - you can identify the pens that you use more often than others. This ought to translate over to awakened objects.

It was important to bring up the possibility of using peripheral signals, since most interfaces seek to grab and direct the user's attention. But if computing were to be ubiquitous, we are in danger of an information overload, with everything trying to grab our attention at once. I read an article about research being done into a solar-powered contact lens that could potentially display some information right on the lens. While it's exciting to imagine possible uses, such as a heads-up display for driving, these contacts would still need to allow the user to push information to the periphery and focus on the task at hand: driving.

Alexander Sydell - 4/26/2010 10:10:46

While the idea of expanding our computing experience outside of a computer screen is novel, I'm not sure if that is what people want. I think that a good precursor to this research could have been a survey asking people for their opinions on this topic. Perhaps people would be interested in expanding computing in this way, or perhaps they simply don't know that they are yet as with many new inventions. However, another possibility is that people like their computers confined to a monitor, and could feel that technology would be too invasive if it was absolutely everywhere.

Daniel Ritchie - 4/26/2010 10:32:36

There's a part of me that really likes this paper. The idea of using "the richness of human senses and skills people have developed through a lifetime of interaction with the physical world" to enhance our experience of interacting with information certainly sounds exciting. The authors do present some compelling evidence: the passive water ripple interface to web server traffic is one example. Imagine trying to design a traditional desktop application for the same purpose that can so easily shift from mental background to foreground process--not an easy proposition.

However, the majority of the examples presented in the paper left me much more skeptical. The authors, in their excitement about utilizing human abilities from the physical world, have tried perhaps a little too hard to make unphysical things physical. Take their first proposal for monitoring web-server traffic: grabbing a physical avatar for the information to be monitored (the toy car), placing it in front of some receptacle, and then listening to the sound of raindrops. This is a clumsy and forced metaphor, I feel, and from the paper text it appears that this came out in their user studies.

There's a more fundamental potential problem with Tangible User Interfaces, though: speed. Today's culture of SMS, Twitter and instant messaging has accustomed us to very fast (order of seconds) and very frequent interactions with information. Can TUIs, even with all their physical affordances, match the speed of mice and keyboards in this culture of information saturation? Or are they a notion that sounds great in theory, but can't work in practice (at least not with a significant accompanying culture shift)?

Ultimately, I hope that TUIs do succeed. I would love to see the world slow down and embrace the physical over the flat-panel display. I'm just not sure how likely such a shift really is.

Jeffrey Bair - 4/26/2010 10:50:47

The notion of tangible interfaces is something that is quickly becoming a part of every day life and is developing into a very real concept as we speak. With the advent of touch screens pushing a new wave of interaction, many more are sure to come. Before the touch screen we had not had much experience with tangible interfaces. We had only had desktops and monitors for pretty much the entire last decade. Only recently have touch screens become popular and even other types of tangible interfaces have become widely popular. An example could be the Nintendo Wii which has multiple peripherals to try and engage the user by giving them interactive items such as skateboards that connect to a skating game, the wii balance board which acts as a tangible yoga mat, and even the wii controller can sense movements and you can even interact with the game as it senses your movement rather than just presses of a button.

Kathryn Skorpil - 4/26/2010 10:51:51

Flight simulators that NASA and pilot schools are a good example of tangible UI. Using simply a simulator in a computer would not fully immerse the pilot-in-training in what it would really feel like flying with a real machine. It's also simply too expensive and dangerous to train using real space shuttles and airplanes. However, it also must be extremely accurate and cannot be "hacky" in the way that many GUIs can be.

Arpad Kovacs - 4/26/2010 10:57:38

I found the article very interesting by proposing novel interfaces outside of the traditional HCI paradigm. The article first summarizes past and present approaches for non-traditional human - computer interaction. Then it proposes and describes prototypes of three distinct interfaces: the metaDESK, the ambientROOM, and the transBOARD platforms, with a focus on graspable physical objects. While transBOARD is mainly a modified, digitized whiteboard, and ambientROOM is an attempt to conveying background sound and light information, I found the metaDESK platform a very useful concept. Adding physical objects (phicons) to the desk that in turn could invoke and display various functions on the projected desk and/or on an activeLENS (a wearable, movement and position sensitive display), the interaction between user(s) and the computer can be dramatically enhanced and moved to a different level. For example, a practical application for city planning and space utilization could be based on 3D building models placed on a map, and by simply moving the models around while recording the layout and observing the 3D landscape, planners could combine physical 3D appearance and digital design capabilities interactively.

Long Chen - 4/26/2010 10:58:18

This reading was definitely a jump and a philosophical depart from the "traditional" user interfaces in the 90s, but is it much better than the current evolution of smaller devices of smartphones and tablets? The article does not put much store into "exporting a GUI-style interaction metaphor to larger and smaller computer terminals" and really emphasize physical interactions. But is having to use multiple hands or senses for input much better than just a standard computer interface? There are physical affordance that may make certain actions more "intuitive", but there is also a sacrifice in availability of use limited by physical capability and static interfaces. The current system that has evolved from the 90s call for a standardized convention and makes systems such as the iPhone App interface an "intuitive" UI simply by a wide range of use.

For example, the marble answering machine may be more cumbersome than the traditional button answering machine. The novelty of having messages as marbles will wear off after initial use, and be replaced by displeasure in having to lift and grasp physical objects rather than simply using one spare finger to push a button. Image someone just getting home with hands full of groceries or someone else leaving with coffee and notepad in hand. Both cases would find it difficult to use the marble answering machine.

Another reason such systems as Tangible Bits did not take off is because of the bottom-line. The proposed solutions, even if developed further, significantly increases cost and reduces feasibility. The goal of computer the last several years has been to make PCs ubiquitous, but in the sense that everyone should own one no matter the economic condition. Their idea of ubiquitous computing would only be realistically found in corporations or upper scale residencies. News studios or film production currently already use such systems because they can afford them. The key takeaway I personally gather from the reading is that companies such as Blackberry, Apple, or Palm should consider such physical accessories to their current smartphones. When the stylus first came out, it was a huge hit; people had not seen something like it and enjoyed playing/using it to simplify some tasks. Perhaps the next Tangible Bit item will be something equivalent and even maybe already in development?

Charlie Hsu - 4/26/2010 11:07:51

The tangible bits paper emphasized two ideas to create more tangible user interfaces: graspable objects and ambient media. I especially liked the idea of ambient media being applied to all of the human senses. The paper discussed the sound of raindrops as ambient media, which I think is a great application. Other applications might include ambient light color in the room to display a system status. However, some senses are harder to give ambient feedback for (smell and touch), and it would be bad to fall into a trap of simply creating some excessively complex notification method when a simple alert view might be more effective. The ambient media needs to be something that has many states and degrees of magnitude to portray.

Vidya Ramesh - 4/26/2010 11:08:17

This paper discusses a method of interaction between the users and interfaces where the gap between the interface and physical objects is bridged. The authors point out that there is a bias towards graphical output in the most widely available HCI designs nowadays. In order to overcome this problem, they suggest three solutions: interactive surfaces, coupling of bits and atoms, and ambient media. In order to research both the foreground interactions as well as the background perceptions of humans, the authors have devised three prototypes. The most interesting prototype is called ambientROOM and uses ambient media to relate information to the user.

Linsey Hansen - 4/26/2010 13:00:34

This was definitely my favorite reading in a while, I mean, the stuff described was just so cool and amazing. At first I thought it was rather weird when they were discussing using water and stuff to make the interfaces realistic when there was a water background (I still think that is weird), but eventually the ideas became really innovative. I mean, I will acknowledge that a lot of the tangible interfaces were far from perfect: for example the marble answering machine, since marbles are easily losable and the marbles themselves would not display any major identifying information (aside from color), unless you were to place them near some sort of sensor, thus just having some sort of menu screen with a number and the time a message was left with the option of calling that number and hearing the message would probably be a lot more efficient (sorry that that sentence was so long). However, the concept of turning verbal messages into tangible objects like marbles and placing them in a slot to hear them sounds much more entertaining than using a display (though this does sound kind of like a cd player).

Jessica Cen - 4/26/2010 13:05:25

It is very important in videogames that their HCI is able to recreate the “human senses and skills people have developed through a lifetime of interaction with the physical world,” and that GUIs have lost. Video games care that their users feel the game environment while they are playing. One example is Guitar Hero, where the controller is shaped as a real guitar, which gives the user the sensation that they are really “playing” music. Video games that have controllers shaped like a gun or another real physical object are the most popular and preferred by people, and it is not the same to play it with a regular controller. Even though HCI in other areas such as business and education have also their own advances, I believe that video games are leading the connection of the computer to the physical environment.

Wei Wu - 4/26/2010 13:06:42

I am wary of the use of "ambient media" in the physical world to communicate information about the digital world to a user that this article proposes, primarily because it is very difficult to create something that is active in the user's background that will not distract the user from his foreground task. Visual cues like flashing lights that represent the activity of some system are already distracting if constantly in our periphery. The sound of rain in the background, as proposed by the article, may be relatively easy for a user to get used to/block out and a fairly innocuous sound, but wouldn't a user eventually get tired of constant rain sounds whenever he works?

In a sense, I don't feel that the digital space needs to be that fully integrated or combined with the physical space. For example, the concept of the marble answering machine seems excessively frou frou, and does not apparently improve the user experience of an answering machine that much, if at all, besides the "cool" factor involved. Practically speaking, it's much easier to push a button to play back messages / dial a number rather than keeping track of a bunch of different marbles.

Hugh Oh - 4/26/2010 14:00:35

The difference between the digital and physical makes Augmented Reality very limited in what it can represent and do. The disadvantage to physical objects is that they cannot change form (i.e. a brick). While the object may be able to represent some digital objects very well, for other digital objects it will just confuse users which will defeat the whole purpose of Augmented Reality. I think Augmented Reality can be useful for more ad hoc activities such as buying a meal at a restaurant.

Long Do - 4/26/2010 14:07:24

The reading doesn't address the efficiency of having a centralized computing area. If users have to move physical objects even for the slightest detail, the task takes longer, is not as accurate, and may be more cumbersome and would deter the users. The idea of having two objects that you move around to zoom in and out of a picture would take more work than using your own fingers to pinch and zoom, or just having some kind of slider on screen that you can quickly access. I wonder if the productivity gains of being able to physically interact and understand bits is greater than the efficiency losses of having to expend extra energy interacting with said bits. It is related to the issue of which is more efficient: having a mouse with relative tracking or a touch screen with absolute tracking to use for long periods of time.

Nathaniel Baldwin - 4/26/2010 14:17:40

I was torn in how I felt about this week's reading. On one hand, I think it's great that people are doing HCI research into information I/O methods that are dramatically different than current conventions. At the same time, I found a lot of what they were trying to describe hard to follow, perhaps because it was so foreign. Also, much of the time, I really LIKE not having to have physical manifestations of objects - for example, I sure don't miss carrying CDs around instead of an iPod. So things like that marble telephone strike me as undoing positive change. I'm looking forward to tonight's lecture hopefully bringing some light onto some of these tangible computing ideas.

Divya Banesh - 4/26/2010 14:31:54

In the research paper, the author mentions working with tangible space, going beyond just the monitor to space that surrounds us. One example of such an interface is the KeckCAVES immersive environment at UC Davis. Using a 3D glasses and a remote control, with the KeckCAVES, data can be projected to the surrounding three walls and the floor of the cave. The user literally has the experience that they are in the middle of their graphical data. It is quite an interesting experience.

Tomomasa Terazaki - 4/26/2010 14:38:18

This week’s article was different than regular readings we have to do since it did not really talk about what we can do to make better interfaces (usually we can use the knowledge we gained from the readings in the projects for the class). However, the article talked more about brief history and the future of the Homan Computer Interaction (HCI). The author talks about how computers are becoming more tangible and physical rather than having a desktop design inside the computer. It is still difficult to believe that there maybe time that your actual desktop is going to be the computer. Right now we say Graphical User Interface (GUI) because they are all things that are all on the computer screen but soon they will be called Tangible User Interface (TUI) because all the technological related things will be tangible. Tangible GeoSpace is a good example from the reading. I did not like how it looked but I understand this is just the beginning of tangible computers or technology and someday we will all be using something like that. ambientROOM and transBOARD look and sound ridiculous but what I get from the article is that someday technology will takeover the physical world. Right now people use technology but soon we will start saying people live technology.

Jonathan Hirschberg - 4/26/2010 14:50:37

The article presents the idea of Tangible Bits, where there is a 3D environment that allows users to interact with surfaces in this environment with graspable objects and be aware of background bits using ambient media in an augmented space. It seems to me that this is a return to the old computers that take up entire rooms because an environment like this would have to take up a large area. It would probably cost a lot of money because it has to cover a large area. How useful would it be for the various tasks that people have to perform with their computers? Can it really be used to replace the desktop metaphor that we have now? I find myself limited by screen space on my little monitor, and in that case, it would be useful to have extra space, but I think the mouse and keyboard are sufficient for my interaction with the computer. Using multiple specialized objects, like the phicons in the examples, to be placed in some space, would be too much to keep track of. They could get lost or the user would have to remember which object does what. If you have a bunch of specialized objects that can only do certain specialized tasks, like placing objects on a map, you can’t really extend them to do things outside of a limited range of activities. I’d instead prefer the simplicity of having one keyboard and one mouse that can do multiple things. I’d say that a 3D interactive environment is a good idea, but it won’t be a replacement for 2D desktops.

Dan Lynch - 4/26/2010 15:10:40

The paper brings up a new term, Tangible User Interfaces, which is associated with the acronynm TUI. The idea is to allow users to grab and manipulate physical objects to transmit information between a human and a computer. Three experimental models are discussed which demonstrate the three research platforms of "Tangible bits". The metaDesk and transBoard, which allow foreground objects on interactive surfaces to be used, or the ambientROOM, which is simply a person working in a room by himself. The most interesting to me was the ambientROOM. This is a room that utilizes ambient light, shadows, sound, airflow, water flow as a way to communicate with the user! This is phenomenal. These ways of communication help display information that is not the foreground of the user, or his/her primary task. It helps provide background information.

Saba Khalilnaji - 4/26/2010 15:17:24

I particularly liked the ambient room metaphor where the room uses shadows, light, and sounds to give users information in the background of the current task as hand. I remember when I used to play video games and suddenly my game would be minimized to give priority to a semantic anti-virus update alert. Taking one's attention off their primary task for secondary concern can be annoying and inefficient which is why i liked the ambient room. Such a notification can be alerted to user which background information such as light changes or water sounds that she/he will take in when the foreground application is not completely occupying the user's mind. Furthermore the general idea of tangible interfaces seems like the next step in user interface designs. Using other parts of our cognitive functions and bodies is only logical

Calvin Lin - 4/26/2010 15:34:53

I think the idea of bridging the gap between the digital and physical world is a great idea (the movie Minority Report comes to mind), and I found the ideas in the paper to be interesting, but… I think we are a long ways off from ever moving away from the desktop computer to a more physical type of interaction with digital information. One big hurdle is in fact how physical their ideas are. Having multiple physical objects on the metaDESK for example, can result in clutter and more trouble than a user may want. A user would have to be physically managing a bunch of separate pieces. Also, I imagine that this type of interaction would only be useful for very specific kinds of tasks. One reason PC’s are so universal is because of the fatigue factor – we barely have to move physically to operate a computer. I can imagine how much more mentally taxing a larger and more physical interface would be. I think GUI’s are here to stay for a long time because we only have to focus on 1 centered screen (for most people), and we know what to expect. Their idea with the ambientROOM is analogous to pop-ups and notifications. We have desktop widgets and other things that do the same thing – we’ll notice them if something changes that will draw our locus of attention. Also, with GUI’s, everything can be manipulated/changed easily with code. With physical objects, you’re stuck with what you’ve got.

Yu Li - 4/26/2010 15:35:03

A tangible user interface is a user interface where a person interacts with the digital information through a physical environment. The goal of tangible bits is to bridge the gaps between both cyberspace and the physical environment, along with the foreground and background of human activities. Ishii proposes to do this by adding graspable objects and ambient media to user interfaces.

Chris Wood - 4/26/2010 15:35:46

The dichotomy between the two worlds that now exist, the physical world and cyberspace, is an interesting topic. Much of our interaction with cyberspace is indirect manipulation using GUIs, and most users have little knowledge about the inner-workings of their computers. Allowing users to use more of their senses than are used when simply staring at a computer screen will make HCI much more natural. Notwithstanding this fact, the implementations in this paper do a good job of taking advantage of a wider range of human senses than do traditional HCI techniques but do little to make cyberspace less mysterious for an unaware user.

Boaz Avital - 4/26/2010 15:41:53

I don't think there's any question that turning our surrounding environment into a way to interact with computers would be useful. The question is, WHAT would it be useful for. Would we be able to get rid completely of the way we interact with computers now? How much of what we're used to would be able to transfer over and how much would have to be reinvented? People enjoy the automation and simplification of small tasks, but the more complex the task, they more they may expect a machine devoted for it.

Richard Lan - 4/26/2010 15:49:07

The purpose of the Tangible Bits project is to create seamless couplings between the physical and digital worlds. Current user interfaces lack a variety of input and output methods, limiting the level of interaction. Tangible bits aims to integrate computing into our interactions with the rest of our world. Some attempts to achieve this goal include projecting images onto physical surfaces By taking advantage of the affordances of common everyday objects, a user interface can create a much more immersive experience for the users. The interfaces explored in this article exhibit a level of direct manipulation, but also provide physical outputs, such as tactile feedback. In addition, users are allowed to control physical objects that have been mapped into the user interface's data model. In this way, the user's manipulation causes direct interaction with the underlying model. In this augmented reality, the user's experience with the computer is meshed with their interaction with the physical world. Because of the close correlation between the data model and physical world, the ways in which the user interacts with the interface closely match their typical interactions with everyday objects.

Bobbylee - 4/26/2010 15:49:46

This paper is done in 1997. However, recently, I already saw some of the TUI products emerged in the market. But, I really wondered whether the advent of TUI will heavily increase the usage of natural resources. Or the TUI will just utilize the physical affordances and the physical property to supply power for itself.

Spencer Fang - 4/26/2010 16:18:40

A problem I see with the ambient room is that it is not immediately clear how to make sense of the system's output. In the paper's example, a user can move a phicon representing a web site near a speaker, and hear the sound of raindrops. The intensity of the raindrops is proportional to the volume of visitor traffic. But a user would only know how to derive meaning from the sounds if he knows how the system works, and knows that the website phicon is near the speaker. What if a coworker had replaced the website phicon with one representing their cafeteria? Then he might be hearing a representation of the traffic to the cafeteria instead of website visitors, and not even know it. Or he may come from another department where the sound of raindrops is used to indicate the length of the queue in their software build system. When he visits this ambient room, he has no idea what the noise of raindrops is supposed to represent. He would need to first find the speaker, and then find the phicon, which could be very small and could not be discerned from a distance. Even after seeing the phicon, a toy car in the example, he may not immediately know what it represents. I believe a large graph displayed in a prominent place can do a better job at passively conveying information.

A problem with the paper's phicons is that they can only have one physical world meaning. The phicon in the MIT map example is that of a campus building. That phicon can not be reused in other applications that do not deal with maps or MIT. I think this could mean two things. The user can buy one set of phicons for each task, which could increase the cost of the system by a lot. Or the user can use "blank" phicons with LCD displays that can indicate what the phicon represents in the virtual world. This would make phicons more reusable but would detract from the idea of a phicon, that a user can figure out what it does in the virtual environment just based on its physical appearances.

Matt Vaznaian - 4/26/2010 16:24:47

I think this whole world of tangible, graspable UI is pretty interesting. However I think it will take a lot of time to become integrated with modern society. I do like the idea, though, of being able to interact with the things I see on the screen of my current computer. But it would be quite interesting to start interacting with the icons and widgets of my computer as physical objects. I'm still working on understanding the benefits of having a system like this in place.

Daniel Nguyen - 4/26/2010 16:27:11

Out of all the projects presented in this paper, I feel that transBOARD is the most interesting and promising. All the projects seem to be the beginning of good research topics and themes, and may provide interesting results somewhere in the future. However, I feel like transBOARD is the only one that could have real impact in the near future. All the other projects seem to try to create a new innovative way for people to interact with computers by extending the desktop metaphor to a three dimension space. On the other hand, transBOARD takes an interaction that must of us are already familiar with, writing on a board, and melds it with computer interaction to enhance the use of a white board. This seems more realistic with the possibility of success because this project does not try to create a whole new way for users to interact with their environment or the tools available to them. Instead, it tries to make the use of white boards more convenient and deliverable across large distances. I find that projects such as these, projects that improve upon existing designs by making small innovations, are much more interesting, and also may be more successful in developing new technologies in the future by moving towards a far off goal in small, tangible steps rather than trying to achieve the same goal in one giant leap.

Wei Yeh - 4/26/2010 16:38:37

I find augmented reality really interesting. Properly implemented, it can make a person feel like a god. Through a mobile device, the user can get information on everything he sees, and even the things he can't. One application I can imagine is one that fights crime. Imagine a cop who is trying to chase down an identified crook in a crowded airport. His approximate appearance is known from earlier security camera shots. Just by himself, the cop has little hope of picking out the crook; it's like finding a needle in a haystack. However, an augmented reality app can be constantly scanning the live environment through a camera and overlay a red dot over the potential crook. How cool is that?

Richard Heng - 4/26/2010 17:16:14

I think it is important, as we bring more "atoms" into our interface that we think about what reducing the number of atoms can get us. We can get more portability with less physical substance to work with. Also, if the pieces are consolidated into one piece, it is easier to keep track of. If there are many pieces, the pieces can be misplaced. For example, it would be good to reduce atoms for something like car keys. If we had passwords instead of keys, we would lock ourselves less often (assuming, we were cautious in choosing a memorable and secure password). Therefore, it is important to recognize what having more atoms provides us, and designing specifically for that means, and not for the other.

Andrew Finch - 4/26/2010 17:17:07

This article draws attention to a number of intriguing topics, all generally aimed at better integrating computers and electronic interactive interfaces into the world around us. Many of these ideas, such as the marble answering machine, sound cool, but seem to be too focused on allowing the users to interact with physical objects, and ignore other issues that are important. For example, using actual marbles to represent voice messages seems like a good idea at first, but carries a lot of problems with it. What if you get 100 voice messages? What if you drop a marble and lose it? Isn't shipping a device with actual marbles more expensive than using a virtual alternative to represent the messages? All of these drawbacks appear to drastically outweigh the minor benefits the user gets from picking up marbles instead of pushing buttons.

Jungmin Yun - 4/26/2010 17:17:07

Tangible Bits allows users to grasp & manipulate bits in the center of users' attention by coupling the bits with everyday physical objects and architectural surfaces. Tangible Bits also enables users to be aware of background bits at the periphery of Human perception using ambient display media in an augmented space. The goal of this is to bridge the gaps between both the physical environment and cyberspace, as well as the foreground and background of human activities. This reading describes three key concepts: interactive surfaces, the coupling of bits with graspable physical objects, and ambient media for background awareness.

Joe Cadena - 4/26/2010 17:17:20

Although the ambientROOM concept may someday be a useful tool, I foresee other tangible bit concepts such as the metaDESK and the transBOARD as viable additions to current industry technology. As demonstrated by Professor Agrawala, computer animation can be modeled and manipulated by physical drawings moving about a surface and is a prime example of metaDESK functionality. I understand the potential of harnessing data aimed at peripheral perception but I believe focusing on GUI advancement will prove to be more useful in general. Besides, the majority of our attention is focused in the direction of our eyes and many people have become quite efficient at drowning their surroundings out.

Wilson Chau - 4/26/2010 17:21:38

This reading focused on what I think is one of the biggest problems when designing interfaces which is that for the most part there are few affordances and tangibilities. This reading talked about how we can connect people to digital interfaces physically as we do physical objects by making use of new technologies such as ambientROOM, metaDESK and Clear Board.

Mohsen Rezaei - 4/26/2010 17:22:06

This is another situation where user interfaces design comes in handy and helps people or even designers figure out hard problems. By having this technology we can understand the bits and atoms better and easier. We can convince ourself that what we think about some object is actually what is happening with that specific object. This is almost like the chemistry studies case, where people are not able to understand whats going on with some chemical bound but by putting together objects made specifically for them they express themselves.

Angela Juang - 4/26/2010 17:22:34

The concept of Tangible Bits is interesting, but it also increases the complexity of the real-world representation of the system - a system like this requires more parts and more physical space. The article argues that an interface like this might be easier for users because it integrates computing with the real world, but I believe many users would be opposed to a system like this one. I feel that computers are contained for a reason; it is a collection of tools and information that are accessed through one simple interface, and when you aren't using it, it's neatly packaged in one place. The Tangible Bits system seems to involve a lot of different parts for the user to manipulate, and these items would still be left in the real world taking up space without any real functionality when the users does not wish to interact with the system.

Victoria Chiu - 4/26/2010 17:23:23

Unlike traditional HCI, tangible user interface makes the surroundings part of the interface. The idea of tangible user interface is similar to ubiquitous computing. This includes "graspable" interfaces that assemble real world objects.

Andrey Lukatsky - 4/26/2010 17:25:20

One particular technology I liked from the reading was the transBOARD. I was surprised to see it not being used more in this day and age. It seems like a such a technology that facilitates the sharing of information would be more adopted - especially since so many school and universities publish webcasts online.

Darren Kwong - 4/26/2010 17:28:34

I was not aware of such research efforts, which date back to 1997. The concept of integrating digital/virtual space with the physical world through tangible interfaces seems separate from the concept of a personal computers. The uses of tangible user interfaces as presented in the paper seem very application specific, while a personal computer covers a broad range of applications. Is it viable to implement this research into everyday interactions, or is it primarily a vision of possible HCI? I think it would take a long time to streamline the technology, either as many application-specific interfaces or as a very flexible/broad one, due to the nature of what people have become accustomed to in HCI today--almost like a step backward or a giant leap forward.

Sally Ahn - 4/26/2010 17:31:26

I found the idea of TUIs very interesting. By coincidence, I was reading about the Tele-Immersion project, which is current research being conducted here at Berkeley. I think that combining peripheral perception of ambientROOM with Tele-Immersion would be an interesting path to explore. Remote communication and interaction is still current research, but I haven't heard about any that seeks to incorporate tangible interfaces. I think such incorporation would dramatically enhance such remote communication systems.

Bryan Trinh - 4/26/2010 17:31:35

Tangible Bits highlights a need to change the way we consume digital information before computing can really fall into the background of everyday life. By bringing the digital graphical user interface into a physically tangible world, the affordances of objects can be utilized to seamlessly teach users the system model. The elements of the interaction between computers and humans can extend to include all of our senses using physical objects.

It'd be interesting to see if we could ever come up with a technology that could actually physical augment objects using digital signals in real time. By directly manipulating a physical objects shape, we can taylor physical objects to suit the needs of any application, just as a programming language can be built to suit a specific application.

Brandon Liu - 4/26/2010 17:33:50

While the authors are right that using an optical metaphor is more consistent with real space, they don't really justify why it is an effective conveyor of information. For example, they describe physical objects such as their "phicons" having digital shadows that can be manipulated. This is consistent with our understanding of the physical world, but "shadows" may not necessarily have a strong semantic meaning in the physical world. Since shadows are always the function of some light source, one possible metaphor is for "phicons" to represent objects with attributes, and "lights" to represent methods or accessors on those objects. One benefit to this approach is that lights can be composed in a way similar to functions on a computer. One possible application is physical manifestations of people via phicons that cast different "digital shadows" depending on what source is applied (Flickr stream, facebook profile, etc).

Annette Trujillo - 4/26/2010 17:40:04

This article lists a lot of technologies that were introduced at one point. These technologies seemed innovative and interesting, but they did not last because their user interfaces were very complicated and not very easy to learn. All popular programs today are simple and are very easy to use and learn, like for example the Microsoft Office suite. Unlike the metaDESK, for example, it was more complicated than need be because it was not necessary to have the gadgets be physical as they were.

Weizhi Li - 4/26/2010 17:42:27

This article presents the idea of tangible bits, which is a Human Computer Interaction technology that allows the user to interact with interface by grasping & manipulating bits on the display as objects in real life. I think this is an area with a lot of potential. The three key concepts are: Interactive Surfaces, Coupling of Bits and Atoms, and Ambient Media. The last one is a brand new concept to me and has impressed me the most. It focuses on processing the environment around the user and give corresponding feedbacks that is so powerful.

Aneesh Goel - 4/26/2010 17:44:05

The tangible UI research referenced in the article is all amazing; however, there are some concerns that don't seem readily solvable.

For example, phicons seem like a temporary solution at best. If each phicon represents a single discrete set of information, then users either must be able to create their own phicons - a task reaching back to earlier discussions of end-user design, but in this case for all end-users, regardless of prior experience or inclinations - or must be restricted to some necessarily limited set of interactions. For example, the map needs to recognize every phicon of a location, and making a phicon for every landmark in the world is hardly reasonable; reprogramming phicons has to be easy so users can customize their applications as necessary.

Additionally phicons require organization and physical object management. Finding digital objects is fairly easy; finding a physical object in a pile of others rarely is. The need to organize potentially large sets of phicons for a variety of applications would be quickly overwhelming when one considers how feature-rich most GUI interactions are, unless TUIs are to be much more limited in scope.

The other concern is one of feedback; most of the discussed applications are about tangible input, but output still depends on 'lenses' - functionally just a screen analogue - and audio playback. The ambient room addresses this, to some extent, but while it is an interesting proof of concept that could eventually solve this problem, no compelling use cases are provided in the paper - it is merely an interesting concept that merits exploration.

This issue can be seen in a concept video for a new system compatible with the Nintendo Wii (though it required a cracked firmware, one could see Nintendo incorporating it into the official version) which was recently released. It used a camera to scan for several highly visible objects provided with the system. One would indicate the plane of the floor, as a reference; two others would mark objects as 'cover', and by being placed on top of them provided information about position and height. The game would then build game environments based on the marked cover, placing objects in those positions; it played like a traditional rail shooter (think Time Crisis, House of the Dead, and similar arcade games) using the Wiimote as a light gun, but with the added ability to see the player moving between cover based on a fourth object he wore, using the physical environment to alter the game environment. There was one major problem; in some rooms the game generated, only one of the two sources of cover was present, yet both were still physically present for the player; there was no reasonable way to provide feedback in a generic environment. Some sort of specially constructed, extremely expensive system would be required for any real feedback; this becomes the major concern for the TUIs that relegates them to being curiosities that deserve more exploration rather than near-future revolutionary devices.

Mikhail Shashkov - 4/26/2010 17:51:07

It's really interesting to me to note the strength with which HCI researchers propose their visions. Of course it would hurt their point to mention than integrating computers into everything is a bit scary for the common person. But I think they should really think about what implications that has on useablity and prevalence. For example, would I really want a whole digitized room? That most likely will need to use cameras to track my motion? Surely not, especially not if I have security qualms.

I also appreciate the notion of being able to turn off a device, which seems to disappear with augmented reality. The authors, in their quest to return to an era of haptic aesthetic, are risking plunging us even deeper from manipulating anything other than something that was specifically designed (by some design researcher) to be manipulated in some specific ways. The beauty of the haptics of ol', was that they were unintentional discoveries. I don't see this happening with digital devices.

Conor McLaughlin - 4/26/2010 17:51:45

I'm a big Science Fiction kind of guy, so I really enjoyed this week's reading even if it was a little much on the bravado of tangibly linking bits and atoms, etc. etc. Humanity is inextricably intertwined with the physical and tangible world, so being able to actually hold and manipulate the digital as well pushes us further and further towards a world where the creations of nature and God are increasingly blurred together. It's almost a frightening thought, but I thought things like clear board and the fan that's motor ran at certain speeds depending on the rate of bits through an ethernet cable were great examples of how the world can increasingly reflect what is going on through the mysterious interface of the computer. However, this idea of ambient media is already increasingly infecting our lives as digital advertisement boards and video screens are increasingly populating city streets and signs. I believe in the idea of ambient media, but being able to manipulate bits themselves and feel the effects of such seems just like an overly dramatic way of simply describing direct feedback. I think we are decades away from the kind of experience the authors describe in the paper, and I think it's important we don't over saturate the senses by revealing everything that is going on in both the world around us and the digital world.

Vinson Chuong - 4/26/2010 17:53:16

I would agree that there are endless possibilities for increasing the bandwidth between us as users and digital interfaces. But, from all of the examples I've seen so far, I'm not convinced that such increased-bandwidth interfaces would be useful. How would they fit into my life? More precisely, how would my life be improved by using them? It feels as though these examples are mere gimmicks, lacking motivation and application in my daily tasks. I believe that it's worth discussing more how such interfaces would find their uses in our everyday lives.

Jordan Klink - 4/26/2010 17:54:44

The paper seems to propose an idea to take direct manipulation interfaces to the extreme, using a system where every single "bit" of the interface directly maps to a single atom in the real world. My first impression was that this was highly an idealistic vision and simply sounds good in theory, but is far from attainable and perhaps not even practical. Whether or not it is attainable I do not completely know, but to get a precise mapping from a bit to an atom will not be easy. On the issue of practicality, though, I question why "tangible" systems should even be enacted when atoms already exist as an interface between humans and the real world. Why make them interfaces for the digital world as well when the work that's being done is already represented in the physical world?

David Zeng - 4/26/2010 17:56:51

While having a tangible object to grasp can greatly improve the usability of the tool itself, I believe that ultimately, we will have to rely on the "virtual bits" as opposed to real objects. The difference between them is the amount of information that can be portrayed. For example, the tangible phone relies on marbles to represent the message which can be dropped into the machine. However, the difference is that while phones can store up to hundreds of messages, the real object may not have hundreds of marbles, thus limiting the use of the phone. Other objects such as maps, may lend itself better to the tangible idea. One great example can be see in Iron Man, where he works at his table, using hand motions to manipulate and rotate objects, instead of using the mouse. Thus, while some tools may be better represented as objects, ultimately, the massive increase of information will force us back to the virtual world.

Brian Chin - 4/26/2010 17:58:15

I thought this weeks reading about making the digital world more similar and tangible to our physical world was very interesting. I, however, wonder if people would prefer to keep the two worlds separate. If we keep the interactions that are possible in the digital world (e.g. clicks, pointing) separate from the interactions possible in the real word (e.g. grabbing, holding), then we have no problems separating the two from each other. However, if the actions possible in both worlds greatly overlap, it could be difficult to tell where one world ends and where one begins. There are obvious benefits to this, as it will likely greatly increase the possibilities of what can be done in the digital world. However, there could be problems with this as well, that have yet to be fully explored.

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