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Designing Bespoke Interactive Devices in 10 Weeks

Björn Hartmann (UC Berkeley)
Machines
Location: Conference Center - Golden Gate Room
Slides:   1-PDF 

A new class of devices such as activity trackers and smart scales are pushing embedded sensing ever deeper into our everyday lives. In contrast to earlier generations of stand-alone consumer electronics, these devices are now connected to a larger computing ecology: many use smartphones to show user interfaces and cloud servers to aggregate data across users.

Advances in both software tools and digital fabrication technology have reduced the cost, time, and expertise required to design and prototype such interconnected interactive devices. This has led to a sea change in product design: projects that before required teams of specialists or researchers are now within reach of students, hobbyists, and budding entrepreneurs.

At the CITRIS Invention Lab at UC Berkeley, small interdisciplinary student teams create fully working interactive product prototypes in a single semester. Their projects combine embedded programming, sensing and actuation circuits, circuit board design and soldering, 3D modeling and fabrication, wireless communication, and mobile interaction design.

I will describe the process to take an idea from napkin sketch to fully functioning prototype, and the toolset required to do so.

I will then bring three different student groups on stage – each will give a two-minute demonstration of their device. We have about 20 projects to choose from, but likely candidates include:

  • Flow – a hydro-generator powered smart shower that encourages reducing one’s daily water consumption
  • Drinke – a smart cup that tracks how much and what kind of beverages you consume
  • FuzzyLogic – a talking stuffed animal that teaches spelling and arithmetic with tangible blocks
  • Büng – a wireless barrel gauge for micro distilleries
Photo of Björn Hartmann

Björn Hartmann

UC Berkeley

Björn Hartmann is an Assistant Professor in EECS at UC Berkeley. His research in Human-Computer Interaction focuses on design tools, fabrication, and crowdsourcing. He co-founded the CITRIS Invention Lab and also co-directs the Berkeley Institute of Design and the Berkeley Swarm Lab. His research has received numerous Best Paper Awards at top HCI conferences, a Sloan Fellowship, Okawa Research Award and an NSF CAREER Award. He was recently co-chair for the first AAAI conference on Human Computation.