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Digital Fabrication for Your Digits: Tools for Making Interactive Objects that Respond to Touch and Manipulation

Valkyrie Savage (UC Berkeley)
Location: C260
Slides:   1-PDF 

Tangible user interfaces (TUIs) are, according to Hiroshi Ishii, about “mak[ing] digital information directly manipulatable with our hands and perceptible through our peripheral senses through its physical embodiment”. Although touch screen-based interactions are increasingly popular as smartphones continue to sell, there are still strong arguments for maintaining the tangibility of interfaces: these arguments range from speed and accuracy (a gamer using a gaming console) to visibility (ability of others to learn and interact with one’s data in a shared space) to safety and accessibility (including eyes-free interfaces for driving). 3D printing holds obvious promise for the physical design and fabrication of tangible interfaces. However, 3D prints by themselves are passive – they do not sense and respond to user input. It is our goal to make it very easy to make fabricated objects interactive. Our group at Berkeley is examining how to combine digital fabrication and smart sensing approaches to assist designers in prototyping tangible input devices, with the ultimate goal of making hardware prototypes more like software prototypes: rapidly iterable and immediately functional through tools that are easily learned. I will describe two projects in this space. My first project, Midas, explores the creation of custom capacitive touch sensors that can be designed and made functional without knowledge of electronics or programming skill. More recently, my Sauron project has an eye towards enabling designers to turn models fabricated on commodity 3D printers into interactive prototypes with a minimum of required assembly or instrumentation.

Photo of Valkyrie Savage

Valkyrie Savage

UC Berkeley

I’m a PhD student at UC Berkeley working with Bjoern Hartmann. My focus is on design tools to make digital fabrication machines more useful.