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The Grill: MIT Media Labs' David Merrill on Tangible Computing

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Assembling Siftables

Assembling Siftables

Credit: MIT Media Lab

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab graduate student David Merrill has co-invented Siftables to facilitate more natural and tangible interaction with digital media in a field he refers to as embodied media.

"Embodied media offers a new point in the interaction design space between tangible and graphical user interfaces," Merrill says. "It combines elements of both paradigms—physically embodied manipulatives that can be grasped and moved by hand, and screens that can show visual information."

Merrill says the graphical display is a central feature as it permits the interactive roles and content assignments to manipulatives to be visually understandable to the user and dynamically assigned at runtime. Siftables came out of an investigation Merrill conducted with Jeevan Kalanithi on how human-computer interaction might be enabled by manually manipulating a body of minuscule active, computational objects.

Merrill describes Siftables as a hybrid platform that combines concepts from tangible interfaces, pervasive computing, and sensor networks with the flexibility of pixels that defines graphical user interfaces. In their current incarnation, Siftables are small interactive computers equipped with a graphical display, neighbor and motion sensing, a rechargeable battery, and wireless communication. Merrill says each Siftable's size is primarily dictated by the display. The present display is big enough to show an image thumbnail or symbol such that it is easily recognizable from across a tabletop.

From Computerworld
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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