Introduction

Tangible interfaces are interfaces that you touch. You control them with your hands, feet, and other body parts. Their shape, feel, and arrangement provide feedback. This is where interaction design meets industrial design. In this class, you’ll design, program, and build devices with tangible controls in order to better understand how humans understand and control technical systems through our sense of touch.

We’ll discuss physical interaction concepts such as expressive interfaces and utilitarian ones, real-time control vs. delayed control, and implicit vs. explicit interactions. You’ll learn programming and electronic techniques to sense state change, thresholds, peaks, and other signs of user action. You’ll also learn how to design, shop for, and construct housings for the devices you build.

On the electronics side, the primary tools will be the microcontroller and common tangible controls: pushbuttons, switches, rotary encoders, rotary and slide potentiometers, force sensors and touch sensors. The class will also cover on-device feedback through LEDs, speakers, and force-feedback actuators. On the fabrication side, you’ll work with the tools of the shop and CAD programs.

You’ll design and build three projects in the course of the semester. Projects will be designed (and parts specified).Projects will build on the skills learned in Intro to Physical Computing and Intro to Fabrication.

Prerequisites: Intro to Physical Computing and Intro to Computational Media, or a working knowledge of microcontroller programming in Arduino; Intro to Fabrication or basic knowledge of laser cutter.