location. According to Farnaeus,
Tholander, and Jonsson, the consequence of this is that interaction
designers should also be “thinking
about the interactions around the
system, and how people interact
with each other even when this
activity is not directly directed at the
interface. Physical interaction will
often result in many manipulations
of interface elements being performed ‘offline,’ directed at the social
and physical setting” [ 3]. I fully agree
with this. Moreover, LinguaBytes
was fully aimed at “offline” interactions, those between a child and
her caregivers or peers. LinguaBytes
created opportunities for social
behavior, either directed through
its digital component or outside it.
While evaluating LinguaBytes, most
of my attention went to the social
interaction between child and caregiver, merely considering the mediating role LinguaBytes could play.
Tangible interfaces leverage the
connection of body and cognition by facilitating tangible thinking—thinking through bodily
actions, physical manipulation,
and tangible representations. I
also agree with this apparent
strength. In LinguaBytes tangible
thinking manifested itself most
notably in syntactic exercises
where children could physically
construct sentences and identify
in a hands-on way the impact of
grammatical elements on the
meaning of their combination.
Another strength of tangible
interfaces is space-multiplexing and
directness of interaction. I focus on
the directness of interaction here.
Looking at LinguaBytes, I identify the
following strengths of tangibility:
• Objects are not bound to the 2-D
virtual world. This means that they
can be used for other purposes outside the interface.
• Objects allow for eyes-free
• Objects can be used as an
appealing alternative for dedicated
menu functions at any time during the interaction. In LinguaBytes
I designed thematic backgrounds
as an alternative to a menu. These
formed an integral part of the social
interaction between caregiver and
child, thus turning an otherwise
flow-disturbing functionality into an
opportunity for learning.
These factors make it so the interaction through tangible interaction
objects is not only more direct, but
also better balanced between the
strengths of the virtual world and
those of the physical world.
Finally, with regard to strong-specificness, space-multiplexing
means that interaction objects
do not need to be abstract and
generic but can be strong-specific,
dedicated in form and appear-
• Figure 2.
LinguaBytes’ interface consists of
output and input
modules (top left).
The input modules
designed for doing
(top right) or interactive story reading (middle right)
through the use of
figures and story