cations for how interfaces are designed. For exam- output responses. It is possible to trace the mean-ple, in Ferneaus and Tholander’s study of tangible ing of abstract concepts represented in a system
support for physical programming, they observed back to physical actions, and then incorporate
the importance of providing configurable offline those physical actions as input. This approach
space embedded within the computational may better support children in their develop-environment . Children solved programming ment of conceptual understandings than relying
problems by manipulating the spatial configura- on abstract representations alone to communi-tion of tangible programming objects offline. cate meaning. Leveraging this kind of embodied
Once a potential solution was reached, children knowledge may provide both usability and learn-
 Fernaeus, Y. and
J. Tholander. “Finding
changed the status of objects so they were active ing advantages in systems that represent abstract
design qualities in a
in the computational program and how they are concepts. In my study of a full-body interface to a
space.” Proceedings of displayed on the screen In this way, spatially sound-making application, I found evidence that
CHI 2006, 447-456. New
configurable objects served the dual purposes of the strategy of tracing higher-order cognition back
York: ACM Press, 2006.
resources for action and representations. to its bodily basis and including this relationship
Design principle: Exploiting external scaffolding in the interaction model had both performance
in interface design requires the design of compu- and experiential benefits for children learning
tational objects, which offer affordances for action about concepts related to musical sounds .
and represent information in their resulting spa- Design principle: Exploiting embodied knowl-
tial configurations. edge in interaction design requires leveraging
Input design. Understanding how offloading familiar embodied schema in the mapping layer
cognition to physical action can support develop- between input actions and the display of meta-
 Antle, A. N., M.
ing cognitive abilities has implications for how we phorically related abstract concepts.
Droumeva, and D.
Ha. “Hands on what?
choose input methods and design control func-
Comparing children’s tions. Tying the hands to a mouse and keyboard Rethinking Cognition
mouse-based and tan-
gible-based interaction.” may limit children’s cognitive performance and Giving consideration to underlying mechanisms
(under review, available
inhibit developing mental skills. While many that support the interplay of action, cognition,
iat.sfu.ca/Physicality/ children’s designers are constrained to Internet and the environment will enforce a commitment
or desktop applications, new gaming platforms to embodiment in children’s interaction design.
like the Nintendo Wii video console and the Unlike virtual reality, which aims to bring the
Nintendo DS handheld gaming platform offer user into the world of the computer, designers
opportunities to support the tight coupling of of interactive technologies for children may find
physical action with mental operations required success bringing computation into children’s
for learning. In my research comparing tangible worlds. As new applications and forms of inter-
and graphical user interfaces for jigsaw puzzles, I active technologies emerge, designers who give
investigated the kinds of physical-mental strate- consideration to the ways in which cognition
gies used by children who physically manipulated is rooted in embodied action will contribute to
actual puzzle pieces versus those who digitally children’s successful development into active,
manipulated pieces using a mouse . The study thinking adults.
provided evidence that children using tangibles
more frequently used actions on pieces to offload
March + April 2009
 Antle, A.N., G.
Corness, and M.
Droumeva. “What the
body knows: Exploring
the benefits of embodied metaphors in hybrid
physical digital environments.” Interacting with
issue on physicality.
Elsevier, (in press).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alissa N. Antle is an
mental visualization tasks and formed internal
assistant professor in the School of Interactive Arts
and Technology at Simon Fraser University. Her
representational structures that improved mental
research focuses on embodied human computer
performance as the activity proceeded.
interaction and the design of tangible user interfaces
Design principle: Exploiting physical activity in and responsive environments. Antle’s interactive
input design requires consideration of how mental
work has been recognized by organizations including the Canadian
New Media Awards, New Media Invision Awards (GOLD), SIIA Codie
operations may be simplified through physical
Awards, and Parent’s Choice Foundation. She holds bachelor’s
actions that control computational objects.
degrees in systems design engineering and liberal arts from the
Interaction design. Understanding how abstract University of Waterloo, and a Ph.D. in computational geography from
concepts are built on bodily schema through met-
the University of British Columbia.
aphor has implications for the design of the inter-
action model or layer that maps input actions to