THE TANGIBLE USER INTERFACE
AND ITS EVOLUTION
Users sculpt and manipulate digital information through
such tangible media as clay, sand, and building models, coupled with
underlying computation for design and analysis.
BY HIROSHI ISHII
Through eons of human evolution, we have developed sophisticated
skills for sensing and manipulating our physical environment. However, most of them are not used when interacting with the digital world
where interaction is largely confined to graphical user interfaces. With
the commercial success of the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows systems, the GUI has become the standard paradigm for human-computer interaction.
GUIs represent information (bits) in the form of pixels on bit-mapped displays.
These graphical representations are manipulated with generic remote controllers
(such as mice and keyboards). By decoupling representation (pixels) from control
(input devices) this way, GUIs are malleable enough to graphically emulate a variety
of media. However, when interacting with the GUI world, we cannot take advantage
of our evolved dexterity or utilize our skills in manipulating physical objects (such as
building blocks or clay models) (see Figure 1).