Project Zanzibar is a flexible and portable mat that can locate, uniquely identify and communicate with tangible objects placed on its surface, as well as sense a user's touch and hover hand gestures. We describe the underlying technical contributions: efficient and localised Near Field Communication (NFC) over a large surface area; object tracking combining NFC signal strength and capacitive footprint detection, and manufacturing techniques for a rollable device form-factor that enables portability, while providing a sizable interaction area when unrolled. In addition, we present design patterns for tangibles of varying complexity and interactive capabilities, including the ability to sense orientation on the mat, harvest power, provide additional input and output, stack, or extend sensing outside the bounds of the mat. Applications demonstrate integration with Augmented Reality (Hololens) and other learning games.

Figure 1: The Zanzibar Mat (b) tracks objects equipped with NFC tags (c), senses touch, detects hover gestures, and can be rolled up for portability (a). Different tag designs can be used to determine rotation (d), stack objects (e), provide I/O (f), and extend sensing outside the bounds of the Mat (g).

Project Zanzibar: A Portable and Flexible Tangible Interaction Platform. CHI 2018. (To appear)