Podcast: expanding our experience of interfaces and interaction

A chat with Amanda Parkes, Ivan Poupyrev, and Hayes Raffle.

At our Sci Foo Camp this past summer, Jon Bruner, Jim Stogdill, Roger Magoulas, and I were joined by guests Amanda Parkes, a professor in the Department of Architecture at Columbia University, and CTO at algae biofuels company Bodega Algae and fashion technology company Skinteractive Studio; Ivan Poupyrev, principle research scientist at Disney Research, who leads an interaction research team; and Hayes Raffle, an interaction designer at Google [X] working on Project Glass. Our discussion covered a wide range of topics, from scalable sensors to tactile design to synthetic biology to haptic design to why technology isn’t a threat but rather is essential for human survival.

Here are some highlights from our discussion:

    • The Botanicus Interacticus project from Disney research and the Touché sensor technology.
    • Poupyrev explains the concept behind the Touché sensor is that we need to figure out how to make the entire world interactive, developing a single sensor that can be scalable to any situation — finding a universal solution that can adapt to multiple uses. That’s what Touché is, Poupyrev says: “a sensing technology that can dynamically adapt to multiple objects and can sense interaction with water, with everyday objects, with tables, with surfaces, the human body, plants, cats, birds, whatever you want.” (2:50 mark)

  • The ultimate goals of Google Glass and Touché, Raffle says, are similar in that they’re both trying to make computers disappear — Disney is putting the computation into the world so that it’s indistinguishable from objects around us, while Glass aims to bring technology closer to you so that it almost fades into the background when you’re using it. (4:17 mark)
  • In a similar vein, Parkes is interested in bringing the interactivity of our surroundings — such as the overwhelming visual pollution in Times Square — back to a more natural, softer state — and is there any hope for the Times Square redesign? (5:56 mark)
  • Parkes’ discussion of her work prompted a nod from Stogdill to Design in Nature, by Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane.
  • We also discussed how the expansion in our experience of interfaces and interaction is enhancing our possibilities to be entertained as well as enhancing beauty, aesthetics and pleasure (9:15 mark); Poupyrev stressed as well that it’s the technology that makes humans who we are — technology isn’t a threat; it’s the most important thing for human survival. (13:28 mark)

Additional points of note include a discussion of Google Glass in the wild (14:19 mark); biocouture (19:15 mark); Parkes’ recent experiment: feeding organic conductive ink to slime mold to see if it’ll produce conductive circuit traces — can we can grow our own circuit boards? (17:50 mark). Also, research into haptic technology that creates tactile sensations in free air (23:58 mark) — have a look:

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