PICO is a tabletop interaction surface that can track and move small objects on
top of it. It has been used for complex spatial layout problems, such as cellular
telephone tower layout. PICO combines the usability advantages of mechani-cal systems with the abstract computational power of modern computers. It is
merging software-based computation with dynamic physical processes that are
exposed to and modified by the user in order to accomplish his or her task.
Objects on this surface are moved under software control using electromag-nets, but also by users standing around the table. With this method, PICO users
can physically intervene in the computational optimization process of determin-ing cellphone-tower placement.
• PICO: Mechanical intervention of computationally actuated packs.
The Recompose project explores how we can interact with a 2.5-D actuated
surface through our gestures. The table consists of an array of 120 individually
addressable pins, whose height can be actuated and read back simultaneously,
thus allowing the user to utilize them as both input and output. Users can inter-act with the table using their gestures or through direct manipulation. Together,
these two input types provide a full range of fidelity, from low to high precision
and from hand- (direct manipulation) to body-scale (gestures) interaction.
January + February 2012
• recompose: Direct manipulation and gestural interaction with 2.5-D shape display.
as if an invisible person were
manipulating a shared object.
The use of kinesthetic gestures
and movement is a promising application genre. For example, educational toys promoting constructionist learning concepts have been
explored using actuation technology, taking advantage of tangible
interfaces’ input/output coincidence. Gestures in physical space
can illuminate symmetric mathematical relationships in nature,
and kinetic motions can be used
to teach children concepts ranging
from programming and differential
geometry to storytelling. Curlybot
[ 7] and Topobo [ 8] are examples of
toys that distill ideas relating to
gesture, form, dynamic movement,
physics, and storytelling.
Kinetic Sketchup is a toolkit
to provide a language for motion
prototyping featuring a series of
actuated physical programmable
modules that investigate the rich
interplay of mechanical, behavioral, and material design parameters
enabled by motion [ 9]. Bosu [ 10] is
a design tool offering kinetic memory—the ability to record and play
back motion in 3-D space—for soft
materials. Both Kinetic Sketchup
and Bosu were used by designers
for motion prototyping to explore a
variety of kinetic tangibles.
2-D tabletop discrete tangibles.
A variety of tabletop TUIs (
interactive surfaces), such as the
Sensetable system, have been prototyped and partially commercialized in the past decade. However,
one limitation of these systems is
the computer’s inability to move
objects on the interactive surfaces. To address this problem, the
Actuated Workbench [ 11] and PICO
[ 12] were designed to provide a
hardware and software infrastructure for a computer to smoothly
move objects on a table surface in