Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Research Program

We characterize Extreme Situated Interaction as follows:

Extreme users. We study extreme users who make extreme demands on current technology. We know that human beings take advantage of the laws of physics to find creative new uses for physical objects. However, this level of adaptability is severely limited when manipulating digital objects. Even so, we find that creative professionals––artists, designers and scientists––often adapt interactive technology in novel and unexpected ways and find creative solutions. By studying these users, we hope to not only address the specific problems they face, but also to identify the underlying principles that will help us to reinvent virtual tools. We seek to shift the paradigm of interactive software, to establish the laws of interaction that significantly empower users and allow them to control their digital environment.

Extreme situations. We develop extreme environments that push the limits of today's technology. We take as given that future developments will solve “practical" problems such as cost, reliability and performance and concentrate our efforts on interaction in and with such environments. This has been a successful strategy in the past: Personal computers only became prevalent after the invention of the desktop graphical user interface. Smartphones and tablets only became commercially successful after Apple cracked the problem of a usable touch-based interface for the iPhone and the iPad. Although wearable technologies, such as watches and glasses, are finally beginning to take off, we do not believe that they will create the major disruptions already caused by personal computers, smartphones and tablets. Instead, we believe that future disruptive technologies will include fully interactive paper and large interactive displays.

Our extensive experience with the Digiscope WILD and WILDER platforms places us in a unique position to understand the principles of distributed interaction that extreme environments call for. We expect to integrate, at a fundamental level, the collaborative capabilities that such environments afford. Indeed almost all of our activities in both the digital and the physical world take place within a complex web of human relationships. Current systems only support, at best, passive sharing of information, e.g., through the distribution of independent copies. Our goal is to support active collaboration, in which multiple users are actively engaged in the lifecycle of digital artifacts.

Extreme design. We explore novel approaches to the design of interactive systems, with particular emphasis on extreme users in extreme environments. Our goal is to empower creative professionals, allowing them to act as both designers and developers throughout the design process. Extreme design affects every stage, from requirements definition, to early prototyping and design exploration, to implementation, to adaptation and appropriation by end users. We hope to push the limits of participatory design to actively support creativity at all stages of the design lifecycle. Extreme design does not stop with purely digital artifacts. The advent of digital fabrication tools and FabLabs has significantly lowered the cost of making physical objects interactive. Creative professionals now create hybrid interactive objects that can be tuned to the user's needs. Integrating the design of physical objects into the software design process raises new challenges, with new methods and skills to support this form of extreme prototyping.

Our overall approach is to identify a small number of specific projects, organized around four themes: Creativity, Augmentation, Collaboration and Infrastructure. Specific projects may address multiple themes, and different members of the group work together to advance these different topics.