MPA02 High-Low Tech Input/Output

Due: Monday, March 24 (before classtime)
Now Due: Wednesday, March 26 (before class, meet in HCIL)

What To Do
In this assignment, your goal is to rethink the materiality of computing and interaction. You must make a primary input device (e.g., paper joystick) or a primary output device (e.g., ambient display) using low-tech materials such as paper, conductive paint, play-dough, tape, water, food, etc. The primary interactivity must be mediated by the low-tech material (i.e., the low-tech material cannot be superfluous to your design, it must be directly integrated).

Some inspirational projects:

Material Ideas and Some How-Tos

Leah Buechley's High-Low Tech Group has a nice listing of material sources for electronic and conventional textiles, conductive inks and paper, and other materials. Browse her list and the list below and be inspired!

Paper Circuits


Conductive Paint


Thermochromatic Paint (a kind of Thermochromatic Pigment)

Related Accessories
  • Thermoelectric Cooler, from SparkFun. This might be useful for cooling the heated material pigment. (Disclaimer: I'm not sure about that. I assume that it may not help a whole lot, but it would be an interesting exploration.)
  • Heating Pad, from SparkFun. Like the thermoelectric cooler, this heating pad might possibly be used to heat the thermochromatic pigment to change its color. (Disclaimer: I'm not sure that this would work, either. You'll have to do some research to make sure it can be used to heat the pigment.)


Conductive Dough

Conductive Textiles

Conductive Glue

Conductive Everything

Laser Cutting Fabrication

Note: the HCIL Hackerspace does not have a laser cutter. The below references are for your own edication.

Assignment Deliverables

The assignment deliverables are due before lecture begins.
  • Utilize github to store and post your code. This should be publically viewable and accessable. You are welcome to use any license you like on the code itself (including no license at all--e.g., None). When you use other people's code, you must cite your source--even if it's just a blog post and a small snippet. I believe github provides academic accounts (for additional features, please check the website).

  • Post a Wiki write-up to your own wiki subpage on this wiki (example).

  • Upload a video demoing your submission to YouTube. You should include the link to the YouTube video in your Wikipage. Please take the video creation process seriously--video is one of the best forms to portray the interactivity and sheer awesomeness of your inventions. I hope that you create something you would feel proud of to show your friends or family.

  • Presentation/demo. On Wed, March 26, we'll have a presentation/demo day. We will dedicate the whole 75 minutes to this (if not more!). We will likely have around 10 teams so each presentation should be 4 minutes + 1 min Q/A. It's up to you how you want to present your work--you could do a live demo for the class, play all or part of your video, show slides, or do an interpretive dance. After all presentations are complete, we'll use the remaining time in the class to interact with each others demos.

Assignment Grading and Rubric

Most, if not all, assignments in this class will be graded on novelty, aesthetic, fun, creativity, technical sophistication, and engagement. All assignments (including the project) will be peer-reviewed by everyone in the class including me. Everyone, including me, will fill out the same feedback form. We will rank our favorite projects and the top two or three teams will receive a prize.

In-Class Demos

For each in-class demo/presentation, you need to fill out this Peer Feedback Form. After all demos/presentations have been presented, you must fill out this MPA02 Wrap-up Form. This should be completed on March 26th.

Completed Assignments

As before, please list your completed assignments below. You and your partner do not have to list your real names unless you want to. Instead, you can come up with a team name (I know some students are sensitive about online privacy and I respect that). The format should be similar to before.

1. Liquid Lights

Anis Abboud, CS Master's
Max Potasznik, CS Master's

Liquid Lights is a tangible interactive version of the classic Lights Out game.
The buttons are water cups, pressed by inserting your finger into the water!

2. Enchanting Ema: A Magical Interpretation of Shinto-Japanese Beliefs

Kent Wills, CS Master's
Ruofei Du, CS Ph.D. Student

We propose Enchanting Ema, an interactive and aesthetic Shinto-Japanese diorama in which traditional wooden boards called "Ema" are hung at shrines in order for kami, the Gods, to receive them. Our goal for Enchanting Ema is to show how interactive and enhanced dioramas can be created using "low tech materials" in order to provide a better learning experience.

3. Puzzling Circuits

Josh Bradley, CS Ph.D.
Brendan Fruin, CS Master's

A puzzle game to learn the basics of circuits.

4. FabricPad

Peter Enns, CS Masters
Chris Imbriano, CS Masters

Aren't you sick of how small, accurate, and convenient your laptop's touchpad is? Dislike how uncomfortable non-fabric materials feel against your fingertips? Swipe your troubles away with the lowest-tech touchpad ever made.

5. Celebrity Deathmatch: American Idol Edition

Alina Goldman, HCI Masters
Fan Du, CS PhD
Audience members vote to eliminate contestants. Eliminated contestants get eaten by a dinosaur (Simon Cowell).

6. pillowTalk

Tiffany Chao, HCI PhD
Jonathan Gluck, CS PhD

A tactile experience? A Singing pillow? What could be better?!?!

7. StarryNight

Hitesh Maidasani, CS Masters
Meethu Malu, CS PhD

A tool to learn astronomy and electronics at the same time!

8. Yellow Bird

Kristin Williams, HCI Masters
Sana Malik, CS PhD

An interactive bird bath.

9. Musical Spaghetti Madness

Richard Johnson, CS PhD

Use magical spaghetti noodles to play musical instruments.