Tangible Programming Bricks

An approach to making programming accessible to everyone

A Digital Construction Set for Science Exploration: QuickTime Movie (>115Mb!)
My Master's Thesis in PDF format (4.1Mb)

Thanks to inexpensive microprocessors, consumer electronics are getting more powerful. They offer us greater control over our environment, but in a sense they are getting too powerful for their own good. A programmable thermostat can make my home more comfortable and save energy, but only if I successfully program it to match my life-style. Graphical, direct manipulation user interfaces are step in the direction of making devices easier to program, but it is still easier to manipulate physical objects in the real world than it is to interact with virtual objects "inside" a computer display. Tangible, or graspable user interfaces help bridge the gap between the virtual world and the physical world by allowing us to manipulate digital information directly with our hands. Tangible Programming Bricks are physical building blocks for constructing simple programs. In this thesis I provide technical details of the Bricks themselves, demonstrate that they are useful for controlling a variety of digital "everyday objects," from toy cars to kitchen appliances, and set the stage for future research that will more rigorously support my hypothesis that tangible programming is easier to understand, remember, explain to others, and perform in social settings, when compared to traditional programming mechanisms.

Click here to see some early concept drawings and photos