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Response to [Tangible bits] by Ishii & Ullmer

One Sentence

This paper discussed how future HCI should blend ‘atoms’ with ‘bits’ where digital information is conveyed via physical media and physical artifacts can be used to manipulate digital contents .

More Sentences

Key concepts:

  1. Interactive Surfaces: Transformation of each surface within architectural space (e.g., walls, desktops, ceilings, doors, windows) into an active interface between the physical and virtual worlds;
  2. Coupling of Bits and Atoms:Seamless coupling of everyday graspable objects (e.g., cards, books, models) with the digital information that pertains to them; and
  3. Ambient Media: Use of ambient media such as sound, light, airflow, and water moement for background interfaces with cyberspace at the periphery of human perception.

Key Points:

  • (About screens – ) Stream of bits leak out of cyberspace through a myriad of rectangular screens into the physical world as photon beams.
  • From foreground to background interaction:
    • allowing users to ‘grasp & manipulate’ foreground bits by coupling bits with physical objects, and
    • enabling users to be aware of background bits at the periphery using am bient media in an augmented space.


  • The design of smooth transition between foreground and background interactions is a great challenge for HCI;
  • Thought: related work is a section in which you acknowledge who have influenced your work;
  • From tangible geospace: if physical objects can be present in the virtual interface, will it help basic touch-based tasks such as pointing?
  • The design method for ambientROOM, as described in the paper, seems to be to look for what ambient media is currently existing in the physical world, and how digital information can be encoded into such media;
  • Good writing of discussion: Through the design process of Tangible User Interfaces, we encountered many design problems which helped us to identify the most salient research issues.
  • The promising optical metaphor might come from the optical properties of atoms? – just a thought.
  • The paragraph of Ishii’s abacus-PDA is really touching… HCI could be some sorts of belief.

About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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