Tangibles: Technologies and interaction for learning

Price, S. (2013) in Price, S. Jewitt, C. & Brown, B. (eds.) Sage Handbook of Digital Technology Research

With recent developments in computing and networking new kinds of interfaces, such as tangible interfaces, and consequently new forms of interaction with technology, have emerged. ‘Tangibles’ generally refer to interfaces where computational power is embedded in everyday artefacts or customised objects, which can be wirelessly networked or linked to various forms of digital representation. The emergence of increasingly small microchips and digital sensing technologies means that embedding technology in both artefacts and the environment is becoming more commonplace. In the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) this group of technologies may be described as graspable interfaces (e.g. Fitzmaurice et al., 1995), tangible interaction (e.g. Ullmer and Ishii, 2001), and tangible bits (e.g. Ishii, 1997). Shaer and Hornecker’s (2010) definition offers a useful description for the purposes of this chapter: ‘‘Interfaces that are concerned with providing tangible representations to digital information and controls, allowing users to quite literally grasp data with their hands” and thus physically manipulate associated representations (p. 4). There are three key categories of systems that sit under this umbrella term: constructive assembly kits, token and constraint systems, and interactive surfaces.

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