Design thinking and innovation
Towards a global Dialogue

29 - 31 March 2006, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore.



Titel of the Paper:
Thinking ahead - Tangible Interfaces.


Michel Guglielmi
Denmark School of Design , Denmark

Hanne-Louise Johannesen
University of Copenhagen, department of Visual Culture, Denmark


This paper tries to investigate the relation between the immaterial substance of technology – mapable and computable in all aspects and the physical presence in a world of surprise and unpredictability.

Cyberspace seems no longer to be the right metaphor to describe our computing environment. It is the overlay of information over the real that makes the cyberspace metaphor obsolete. Cyberspace, after all, is conceived as a digital reality that exists ‘elsewhere’, and that is being eroded by applications of augmented reality systems. Increasingly, the digital world is mingling with the real world. The metaphor of cyberspace obviously worked best when the computer was represented only with the fixed version with the keyboard and monitor, but with cell phones and geographical applications based on highly developed positioning systems (as GPS) we are no longer peeking through a window into cyberspace. The window has been broken, and the computerised space has poured out into the psychical space.

This is why we want to investigate a tangible user interface instead of a more traditional graphical user interface. By doing that we attempt to make the input-output distinction as seamless as possible and try to open up new possibilities for interaction that blend the physical and digital worlds. Tangible interfaces emphasise touch and physicality in both input and output, and allow for parallel input (e.g., both hands or both voice and vision) improving the expressiveness and the communication capacity.

To be more concrete we are working with wearable computers in the context of clothes. The goal of this research is to seamlessly adapt clothes to the electronic communication system, so it becomes an integral part of a modern nomadic adaptability. In this case we combine exploration into reactive patterns, aesthetics, and creation of a new language for wearable expression. Our area of investigation includes person-to-person communication, intimacy, and reaction to environments. In this case, we design a set of clothes, which will recognize and react on each-others presence. When two people wearing reactive clothes approach each other, the pattern of the fabric will slowly change colour. Thereby, we create a metaphor of a paring dance similar to the one performed by peacocks with their colourful plumage.

 When the interface is removed from hand and mouse and a larger variety of skills is set in motion, it is our conviction that operationability is enhanced and the chances of the users affinity towards whatever they interact with is increased, and thereby the users can experience a continuously rearticulation of their environment.

The future will be material!



Physical Computing, wearables, Human-Human Interaction (HHI), Design Education, Sensor Technology