Introduction to Design, Interaction and Environment

This post will be the first of many as I attempt to document my learning process and outcomes for the unit Design, Interaction and Environment. As an introduction, I am to write about an example of creative work that has inspired me to enroll into this unit. Being from an Architectural background and enjoying making models and alike, I love the idea that this unit will be more practical and hands on.

Scrolling through the background readings, their was one article that helped me wrap my head around this massive theme. It was Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses). The author writes about the popular themes that occur in physical computing classes and gives examples about which ones he believes are successful and not so successful. The topics that I found interesting were;

  • Floor pads: uses pressure sensors as the output for interaction (I love Dance Dance Revolution)
  • Body or hand as cursor: uses a camera to track your hand or body’s movement and responds to specific gestures
  • Multitouch interfaces: a surface that can sense more than one point of contact
  • Fields of grass: an array of sensors that you touch to create an output like light or sounds
  • LED fetishism: uses LED lights to create whatever you can think of

The author explains the basics of how these physical computing projects work and levels of interaction vs looking pretty. He also goes on to express his thoughts that this theme is more about the user’s input and interaction with information systems, objects and/or environments rather than the output as seen in robotics.

Wanting to delve a little deeper I turned to Google and stumbled upon the term “sensate spaces” or “sensate environments”. Three articles I found on this topic were;

What I liked about these articles was the idea about gathering information from users to create responsive and interactive spaces.

Sensate environments provide a medium for humans to interact with space. This interaction includes ambient/passive triggering, performative artistic interaction and physical sensate spaces used for games and interactive entertainment.” 1

Having a background in Architecture, I really related to this concept and liked the idea creating a user-engaging experience with the focus on an environment that relates directly to the engagement and curiosity of users with real time responses. The articles also list the same devices as listed in Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses);

  • Passive / Embedded sensors: capture information streams about user activities, motion, number and proximity eg. pressure mats, infrared, video and web camera, sensors of distance, temperature and sounds levels
  • Active / Performance: require conscious, often physical interaction eg. gloves, motion capture suits, wearables, goggles, implants and video tracking

During this unit I would like to explore the idea of “sensate spaces” and how one might go about designing such an environment. It’s a pretty big concept so just even just creating a small part would beneficial and fun. If possible I would like to use LED lights as they are very attractive and people are drawn to them. A few project that explore LEDs with the combination of user interaction are;

1. Interactively determining generative sound design for sensate environments


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