Using Common Objects To Interact With Computers

The TED Fellow and interactive designer James Patten explores newer ways to control and represent data.

Inventor and designer James Patten creates new, interactive ways to represent and control data. He says that traditional peripherals like the keyboard and mouse don’t fit in with the multimedia and digital needs of today, and explains his argument using the phenomenal success of gadgets like the Wii and the iPad that have been able to attract people towards them by offering them a new kind of experience.

In an interview with Business Week, Patten says that he has explored ways to use objects on a tabletop as a substitute to the keyboard.

One approach I’ve explored in depth is using physical objects on a tabletop to represent and control information inside the computer. This approach lets people organize information spatially and leverage a rich set of skills that humans have for using our sense of touch. In one application we made, physical objects on a table represent various parts of a manufacturing supply chain. By moving and rotating these objects, one can control a simulation of that supply chain, for example, by changing the output of a factory. You can do the same thing with a keyboard and mouse, but doing it on an interactive table is easier to understand and creates a more effective learning experience.

James Patten

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