early stage, the presiding atmosphere
is that of youthful optimism. Sifting
through the literature, we can uncover
numerous statements elucidating
seductive future possibilities in bold,
graphic terms—collectively painting
a techno-utopian vision similar to
Weiser’s famous vignette (starring
“Sal”) depicting everyday life filled
with the technological wonders
of ubicomp. Risking accusations
of naivete, we can rely on simple
extrapolation and imagine a future
world saturated with new technological
marvels, such as:
• a meticulously customized
3D-printed house with morphing
interiors and automated control of light
• a city scenery characterized by
shape-shifting facades, printed gardens/
farms, and smart traffic systems that
anticipate and prevent accidents
• a suite of wearables that allow
us to dynamically transform our
surroundings as easily as changing the
desktop wallpaper on a present-day PC.
A brave new world where
individuals have the capacity to
freely sculpt their surrounding
environments, new aesthetic styles
flourish, city streets boast impeccable
safety/accessibility, and citizens play
increased roles in the planning and
construction of their city landscapes.
A dynamic, diverse, and democratic
city that goes well beyond William
Mitchell’s seminal “city of bits” [ 4].
Would you want to live in such a
future? Who wouldn’t?
Unfortunately, as we have learned
from our experiences with ubicomp,
such idealistic visions rarely survive
the transition to reality entirely intact.
While many of Weiser’s predictions
did come true, our lives in the year
2014 are still not quite like that of
Sal. The real-world manifestation of
ubicomp now unfolding before our
eyes is a messy, imperfect system
with limited built-in robustness (as
famously argued by Bell and Dourish),
far from the seamless, clockwork
precision imagined by Weiser. The
pursuit of habitable bits will inevitably
suffer the same fate. Over time, as
ideals dovetail with reality, this
new vision will similarly need to be
shepherded, fleshed out, and reshaped.
This is not a reason to despair, though.
Just like ubicomp, what will be lost in
theoretical purity will be replaced by
practical efficacy to benefit our lives.
We will be better off for that.
HCI AS A DISCIPLINE OF
Ever since the publication of
Weiser’s groundbreaking essay, the
HCI community has been hard at
work inventing novel ways to inject
virtuality into the physical world.
Nevertheless, the community has
generally been hesitant to engage
directly with architectural design,
treating the practice as somewhat off-limits for HCI research. The emerging
efforts described in this paper
signal a radical departure from that
longstanding indifference, an attitude
that I hope will be adopted by the
mainstream HCI community. There
is no shortage of issues that need to be
tackled. Aside from the obvious task
of developing the actual technologies
and applications, we will need to
devise new design methodologies and
evaluation frameworks applicable to
architecture-scale systems, both tasks
that should put to good use the unique
strengths of the HCI community. The
time is now ripe for HCI to evolve
into a discipline that studies and
designs the future environment in
its totality, not only its niche subset
that has preoccupied us for so long.
GUIs, TUIs, and other interfaces have
already been thoroughly studied; the
new frontier for HCI now lies in the
study and design of HUIs—habitable
1. Weiser, M. The computer for the 21st
century. Scientific American 264, 3 (1991),
2. Takeuchi, Y. Synthetic space: Inhabiting
binaries. CHI’ 12 Extended Abstracts on
Human Factors in Computing Systems.
ACM, New York, 2012, 251–260.
3. Ishii, H., Lakatos, D., Bonanni, L., and
Labrune, J.B. Radical atoms: Beyond
tangible bits, toward transformable
materials. Interactions 19, 1 (2012), 38–51.
4. Mitchell, W.J. City of Bits: Space, Place, and
the Infobahn. MIT Press, 1996.
Yuichiro Takeuchi is a Toronto-born, Tokyo-based computer scientist whose work explores
the intersection of HCI and architecture/urban
design. He is currently an associate researcher
at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Inc.
Figure 10. Printable Garden, a 3D printing technology that enables automated fabrication of
felt-based hydroponic gardens with various shapes and plant types/layouts.
3D Data Files
Print out furniture/buildings
Figure 9. Printable architecture. Furniture/buildings are digitally fabricated from 3D data files
that can be newly created by users, downloaded from online repositories, etc.