Physical Interface design – Lugano

A workshop focused on “computer vision” and pattern-recognition software to control on-screen emulation of everyday devices, where students will be able to prototype a physical interface. The interface, realized as a controller for devices or services, will use pattern-recognition for implementations of physical knobs and buttons.


Just like the musical tool Reactable, which incorporates pattern-recognition to control sounds and audio effects, this workshop will be directed to create substitute interfaces for devices such as: TV, Radio and Audio devices; or for services like browsing Flickr’s photos, YouTube’s videos and I-tunes on local machines. Based on “Reactivision”, students will make use of a platform created by Nastypixel as a rapid prototyping tool. This tool enables students to swiftly mold interfaces for a wide variety of purposes. Since our workshop is short in time – students will create mock-ups such as a visual downscale model for the computer screen, showing the behaviour of such physical devices as they would actually function. Alternatively, students will learn to “hack” physical interfaces (like TV remote controls) and adjust their behaviour from the computer. As open-source methods of development become a new standard, students will literally open up the makings of interfaces to expose their mechanisms of operation. Combining both physical and conceptual interface ideas, students will learn ways to rapid prototype their ideas in the future.

Focusing on digital media, and in particular digital music, the idea of SMO’s was born. SMOs are musical objects which enable new ways of interacting with digital music. In the world of the near future, where our digital life resides completely in the “cloud”, we theorize that hard drives will become obsolete and all we’ll be carrying are interactive ID cards, representing not our physical selves, but our segmented digital selves. An SMO thus represents my “music self”.
Those objects can bring social media to the table, literally.

The approach “learning by making” allows students to produce real hand-on prototypes and to learn how to design innovative pattern of interactions and user interfaces in context in which physical world and digital media are interconnected.Considering the peculiarity of the workshop no more then 12 students will be admitted to participate. Students from all programs (bachelor, master, PhD) can participate by applying through a motivation letter (few lines that motivate the interest to participate at the workshop) to this email tec-lab [at ] with the subject “Physical Interface design”. Deadline for the application request is September 18th, 2008.


  • SMOs – Social Music Objects
  • Technical stuff
  • Participants:

    Fercu Michael
    Yehia Amr
    Aida Aidka
    Keikha Mostafa
    Hwang Yoon Nam
    Stefania Lorenzi
    Viviana D’Angelo
    Shelley Mannion
    Amalia Sabiescu
    Matteo Agosti
    Alberto Terragni
    Ahmadi Navid

    Stefano Vaghi
    Tommaso Perego
    Marcello Campagna

    Prof. Mehdi Jazayeri, Prof. Paolo Paolini, Dr. Elisa Rubegni
    Seminar given by Yaniv Steiner.

    September 25th-27th, 2008
    Thursday, September 25th, 2008 (10.00 am — 6.00 pm)
    Friday , 27th, 2008 (10.00 am — 6.00 pm)
    Saturday, 27th, 2008 (10.00 am — 2.00 pm)

    University of Lugano, room 139, Main building Via G. Buffi 13