Story of the Week: The best computer interface? Maybe … your hands

So this week an interesting video popped up in my YouTube feed. It’s a TED talk from James Patten, an interaction designer, inventor and visual artist whose work lies at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds.

Patten describes some of his projects in which he builds ‘nontraditional’ UI’s with clever use of projectors, magnets, small motors and so on. The main point here is that by bringing the UI into the real world (e.g. use real objects instead of rendering images of them on a screen) it becomes more intuitive less abstract. The human brain is perfectly capable of working with abstract concepts (for example the word “abstract”), but its extremely good at contemplating the physical world. By using the physical world as a computer interface designers can make it feel more natural. This means it is easier to learn and more fun to use.

Something that wasn’t mentioned in the talk, but that’s very related is the Internet of Things. This is the idea that physical objects become linked to the internet (as you all know :p). They can become computation nodes, sensor arrays, storage nodes or… interface elements.



  1. Very interesting and new insight into the world of HCI. It is always nice to see where we’re at for the interactions between computers and humans. And this shows a great way of how to make a typical physical interface with buttons also usable for more general applications.

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