only user input needed here is walking across the room"
As technology embeds itself into the fabric of daily life, we anticipate
evolutionary impacts on human behavior and domesticity shaping
the way we learn, live and interact with each other. Technology
interactions will soon engage the entire spectrum of human senses,
pointing to the demise of our built environment as a static geometric
body. The integration of technology and physical surroundings is
the breeding ground for incredibly responsive and flexible environments.
Spaces like these will have dynamic relationships with the user/inhabitant,
and will be alive with adaptations, mutations, reactions and interactions.
Interactivity will be embodied in the familiar elements of our day
to day and we will interface with technology without an interface.
All these possibilities can be filed under "physical computing",
and how fast we are able to realize the potential is determined
by a number of key ingredients.
One of the promising
and critical aspects of modern technology is the way it has, and
will continue to, incorporate the artist/designer with science/technology.
Designers think differently than scientists human sensibility
versus pragmatic rationalism and process. Over the past twenty years,
the introduction of powerful digital media technology has spawned
a generation of designer/technologists. Future developments of digital
habitats will demand design intervention, focusing on the wholeness
of human experience when considering input as well as reaction.
The status-quo interface design of mouse/keyboard/screen employs
a conventional interactivity that comes out of the disciplines of
computer-human interface design and engineering, and focuses on
efficiency and productivity. It is an adoption of existing paradigmatic
metaphors and can be potentially detrimental to the development
and evolution of new methodologies and critical dialogues. The current
standard of interface is a manifestation of this danger the
design has been copied and adopted continually since its inception
despite advances in the capacity and performance of the machines.
The further involvement of the designer is necessary to provide
goals of provocation, discovery and exploration in order to stimulate
beyond this sort of static convention and facilitate innovation.
from the convention is to shift focus from how we react to computers
and other technological devices to how they can respond to us; how
does the machine perceive, sense and understand the user? Digital
media artists have been exploring the potential of machine responsiveness
to user since the inception of their media. Current work by artist
Daniel Rozin utilizes custom software to replicate images of the
viewer via digital watercolors or rotating blocks of
a wooden mirror. In this installation, balanced between
art and multimedia, the computer sees the viewer and translates
this back to be seen; a sort of staring feedback loop. Several recent
projects from multimedia group No-Organasation Cityscape,
Pixelzoom and Pattern to name a few, deal with computer reaction
and interaction to sound and human voice, some enacting manipulation
of image by sound and others manipulating data. The Future Computing
Environment group at Georgia Tech is in the process of refining
a concept they call a mechanism for natural user identification.
Also dubbed Smart floor, the system uses human presence acted upon
by gravity to measure footfalls and strides and the then identify
and track the pedestrian. The only user input needed
here is walking across the room. Various examples of environment-specific
interfaces are already in use, many at your neighborhood hospital,
to determine and record our physical statistics: weight, body fat,
heart rate, breathing rate, our DNA makeup. Innovative thinking
can translate and apply these readings as well as a host of additional
unconscious outputs to achieve a more meaningful and effective interaction
Another critical area deserving attention is our more conscious
manipulation and navigation of information. A standard mouse works
on X,Y coordinates and clicks, while the human body has over 200
ways it can flex itself. Consider utilizing all that flexibility
to communicate with computers waving hands over surfaces
to manipulate document visualization or pulling information into
view; flicking your fingers over a passage to brush it away like
dust. We already posses a natural vocabulary of gestures, so the
learning curve would be minimal and efficiency unlimited. Check
out Camille Utterbacks
Text Rain for an example - participants are afforded a visual interaction
between their bodies and movements with falling letters. The beginning
of this sort of evolution can be seen in the current development
of the infrared keyboard that works on finger gestures and movements
to enter text. Further integration of user movement and information
would include responses to eye movement, facial expressions, behavior
patterns and beyond. One of Thomas Igoes recent projects requires
users to engage a somewhat forbidding back brace in order to clarify
the audio and visuals of the installation. Although this study stems
from issues of distance and alienation of the artist, it is innovative
in the consideration of emotion, apprehension, curiosity and desire
in relation to physical interface.
in interactive media and physical computing are more than dazzling
exhibits to enjoy after a couple of cocktails at your local gallery.
They are more than an opportunity for artists and designers to engage
self-serving displays of science and technology. These examples
are proactive investigations and discoveries critical to the future
trajectory of our daily habitats and environments. As traditional
consumer electronics companies push the integration of technology
into the physical world, they are developing scenarios and products
for the future. As designers, there is an obligation to continue
to rigorously explore the relationship between information and body,
virtual and physical, action, reaction and interaction. Doing so
will develop new scenarios where physical computing can affect positive
changes in the way we interact with data, environments, and the
other people in our lives.
Sundbeck received her B.S. in Environmental Design from Texas
A&M University. She lives in New York City and is currently
working on her Master of Architecture at Columbia University. Current
fascinations involve concepts of a digital habitat and emerging
theories of Transarchitecture.