Tangible User Interfaces

At LMN, our projects start with developing a physical model in tandem with a digital one. This allows us to learn a lot about the project site, and while the digital model carries an arsenal of tools, the accessibility and tangibility of a physical model is an integral part of our design process.

Since our chipboard site models are created using a laser cutter, we have a physical model that’s a copy of the digital one right off the bat. We want to go further and have the two talking to each other.  By creating a live link, we can begin our massing studies with powerful digital tools while preserving the accessibility of a physical object.  This is the basis for the tangible user interface.

Here’s an early look at the tangible user interface with Grasshopper. In this video, we’re using the Reactivision Listener for Firefly (a plugin for Grasshopper). While the video represents one basic model, we can use hundreds of these tags (called fiduciary markers) to represent building masses or program blocks. By plugging a physical model into Grasshopper, we now have access to a wide range of tools for simulation, visualization, and geometric generation. Each scheme can be saved with a simple toggle and studied further.

In this first run-through, we’re moving the physical object and then going to the computer to toggle solar irradiation or a rendering command. However, it’s possible to send these commands with a remote control and bypass direct interaction with the Grasshopper interface . This allows users without Grasshopper experience to access the tools, which is great for project teams with a wide range of design technology experience .

Just a first look at incorporating these tools into our process. Stay tuned for more posts on the subject.