Interaction with physical material is experienced relative to body movement. When our finger moves over a wooden surface, the interaction between the surfaces and our finger causes vibration. This vibration shapes the experience of the material, we feel wood.
By measuring the actions of the body and providing artificial tactile feedback, mimicking the vibration which would otherwise be created naturally by interaction with the material, the experience of the material can be created artificially. This approach might not only be used to generate sensorimotor experiences of existing materials, one might also encode information which typically is not available to us, such as the direction of home, or wireless data passing through our bodies.
Example of recent work: bARefoot. I also present some of these ideas in my 5 minute talk I did for the SIGCHI Outstanding Dissertation Award and it is the topic at the core of my thesis.
Body Integrated Systems
Wearable devices still largely mirror the design of screen-based mobile devices. However, digital systems on and around our body can utilize their unique placement. Using tactile and electrical communication channels, on-body systems can integrate with users in ever more closely coupled ways. We investigate the design of devices which integrate with the body and act as a natural extension of the user.
Key questions here include the design of information presentation or how abstract information might be communicated to the user through their body, the physical design, or how complex devices can be made to conform to the body and be truly wearable, as well as exploration of human computer integration, or what factors must be fulfilled for technology to be experienced as an extension of the body.
Example of recent work: SkillSleeves
New Materials, Sensor & Actuators
Tactile Rendering & Sensorimotor Augmentation require sensing and actuation systems which operate at faster frequencies than most commercial systems. Body Integrated Systems require malleable, elastic, and robust electronics. We investigate the design of such high-frequency sensing systems and explore how to functionalize materials – particularly fabric – so they might be used for our other research purposes.
Here an important focus is placed on craft. There are three primary reasons why craft is important in this context. For one, we can draw on rich traditions of material manipulation, which helps establish repeatable manufacturing processes. On the other hand, this also helps in disseminating the processes we develop as the craft-framing make them accessible for a broader number of people. Finally, rethinking high-tech as craft will support an artisanal approach to creating devices, allowing the creation of high-quality unique devices which accrue personal value, as opposed to the current throw-away ecosystem of our current devices.
Example of recent work: PolySense