report, TEI°09

day 1


Before I start to report from the TEI*09, which was the occasion i originally headed to the UK, I have to show you some nice coincidence. I arrived in london at saturday to meet my friend Olivia in her place, to see London and get used to the language again. It turned out that one of her best friends, Mark Hauenstein is an interaction designer and we immediatly started talking about tangibility of computer interfaces. He showed me some of his older work, that can be seen on his website and I´am still so impressed of that OITV project that I want to show it here, as some kind of introduction. Visit his website to get to know more about him. Now he´s working for the London based ALL OF US making nice projects and are worth a look as well.


The opening keynote was held by Tom Igoe, …. I missed the beginning so I just got the last 15 minutes. I highly recommend his book “making things talk” about hacking and augmenting physical all day products with digital manners.

The first papersession was headlined by ” Embedded Artefacts, Garments and Environments” and started with a talk by Ylvae Fernaeus from the swedisch institute of computer science. Her topic “Comics, Robots, Fashion and Programming: outlining the concept of actDresses” was handling the question of how to design a physical language for robotic consumer products. What on first glimpse sounds quite cryptic – physical language – is a very nice concept of speech- and “sign”less communication. She presented the little dinosaur robot called pleon, which “…is a robotic baby dinosaur and one of the more sophisticated consumer products designed to simulate real life-like behaviour as a form of ‘electronic pet’. The robot has approximately the same size as a cat or a small dog, and is equipped with a large number of sensors that make it responsive to touch and has a sophisticated posture control system aimed to imitate how real animals respond to petting”. Next to this, they supplied it with a RFID antenna inside.

By outfitting the toy with RFID tagged clothes it is possible to determine it´s “mood”. For example: by putting it into a pyjama, it turns into sleep mode, by giving him a metal patched necklace, it turns into the watchdog mode, detects any movement in the surounded space and reacts on it. Putting shoes on it, let it walk. The most smartest part is, that one can denote a social habit with a cultural code, like feeling tired is linked with wearing a pyjama and acting choleric and suspicious is imaginated with a watchdog and symbolised by a necklace. What they do not refer to, is that cultural codes differ between persons. So one action or sign could stand for some completely different meaning from one other persons point of view. There is no solution presented for this. For this reason, a little, simple mood configurator would make sense on which the RFID clothe is put upon and just a few parameters ( choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine…) can be changed. For avoiding again unwanted (cultural) symbolic relations, the paramaters could be denoted by the criterias of the image scheme, presented by jörn hurtienne this day too. Because it´s for childrens use, a more pure and simple solution for it is more appropiate.

The next very interesting project presented in this first session was by Marcelo Coelho from the MIT Media Lab. He is also part of the Fluid Interface Group and held a talk last year too. He is still into active transforming garments and smart kinetic textiles and presented a light permeable surface for environmental control and communication called “shutters“. It works similiar to his textures project but this time it´s more comparable with a curtain on which certain parts are moving according to environmental parameters. The curtain piece, he compares with the façade of l´Institute monde arabe in Paris, where jean nouvel designed the windows as eye like isises to shut when sunshine gets to strong.


Marcelo Coelho shows up the disadvantage of this very technical and complex construction and talks about his work with shape memory alloys, that can be activated and controlled really “low tech” … ok … “smart tech” is a more proper name for it. By controlled kinetic movements a complex structure can be displayed by builing up a x-y-matrix on one sheet of fabric. By the angle the shutters are closed or opened, the shadow can be abstracted into grayscales. If you see one shutter window as a pixel you could greate complex pattern images or structures.

There is another video of the SIGGRAPH presentation to be found here.

The next project was allready well known, because it hit the blogs quite intense in the last three years. Overall it was a very professional and good talk held by Fabian Hemmert from FH Potsdam -Germany. He presented the digital hour glass, a tangible digital device using the metaphor of the sand filled hourglass and transferred it to a digital mock up. This works good, looks still quite geeky, though the idea allready is three years old. Ok, there don´t has to be some super styled surface around it, and as you can see here Fabian Hemmert and Susann Hamann know their tools very well. But I still miss the digital enhancement in the concept. It only copies a real world phenomenon, a cultural technique into a technology and doesn´t enriches it with smarter features, only a digital device can bring with it. Maybe I´m wrong on that, so I put the video here, to give you the opportunity to figure out on your own.

You can find some other more or less nice sand clock metaphors here and here

Another vey nice talk came from, again, the MIT Media Lab by Amanda Parks, research assistant at the MIT. She is allready well known for her TOPOBO project, the Muklukflux and Nomad pneumatics. Now she teamed up with Adam Kumpf and Hiroshi Ishii to create a garment harvesting energy from the natural motion of the human body, called Piezing. At first sight this sounds like a weird workshop invention of Gyro Gearloose, but is a very smart concept. “Piezing is a garment which harnesses energy from the natural gestures of the human body in motion. Around the joints of the elbows and hips, the garment is embedded eith piezoelectronic material elements which generate an electronic potential in response to applied mechanical stress”


That leads to the conclusion that you´ll can load your ubiquitous electronic devices by having a walk from the bus station to your studio or workspace. Because fabrics are flexible and react on mechanical stress with stretching she used Iberall´s depiction of the line of non extension to know where the skin stretches the less. It was originaly created in the late 1940´s for the upcoming spacetrips to create a well fitting pressure suit for astronauts. On this lines she puts on the piezoelectronics in an ornamental way, so the mechanicel input on them is as constant as possible. A few questions still remain: is it really possible to make that much energy just by this little brass plates. And isn´t there a high energy loss in the whole process of getting the power from a piezo electronic sensor to a battery… However, this was a very inspiring talk, making me think of future fashion a bit more often.

The last talk I want to present here cam from Ayah Bdeir, from the MIT Media Lab aswell, and she held a very eclectic, colourful and inspiring lecture, presenting the thesis “technology as identity” leading to “electronics as materials”. Those electronic materials, called “little bits” and work like lego. With little magnets attached on it, one can easily connect different electronic components like switches, led´s, poti´s, sliders, wires… to each other. The advantage of the magnets is that you can´t mess up the polarity. The wonderful video shows how it works, how simple it is an what you can reach with it.

littleBits workshop from ayah bdeir on Vimeo.

There has been considerable questions after the talk, whether it supports the design process or not. On one hand it´s such a quick way to show and display interactions as you see in the second video. On the other hand it´s that low complex that it shows up it´s limits quite fast. In my eyes it´s a perfect tool for learning electronic basics, get to know all the components, how the work and what they do. It´s beginners paradise. another more rustical way of learning electronics is displayed here.