Call for applicationsMay 20

The Interface Culture Lab at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz/Austria provides an internationally oriented master program in Interactive Media Arts. The two-year program, which is entirely organized in English language, is open to prospective students with multidisciplinary backgrounds integrating art, design, science and technology.

We are currently accepting new students for the master class of the upcoming academic year 2010/11 and would therefore like to point you to the online registration form, which will be open until June 18th 2010. The application interviews will take place in Linz on June 30th or alternatively on September 7th during the Ars Electronica Festival.

LiWoLi2010 – The Art of Doing it TogetherApril 9

Next week this year’s edition of the LiWoLi 2010 will again take place at the University of Arts and Industrial Design in Linz. From April 15-17 there will be several talks, discussions and workshops around open source communities and technologies in the context of artistic production and teaching practice. I will also hold a TUIO workshop on Open Tools for Tangible Interaction, there are still a few places left if you are interested in that topic and happen to be around in Linz that time. There are several more workshops held by key developers of Pure Data and Open Frameworks for example, and the rest of the activities around the general practice of open source within artistic communities is also quite promising.

Prof. for Interface Cultures in LinzJanuary 22

During this semester I will hold an interim position as Professor for Interface Cultures at the University of Arts in Linz, appointed to act for Prof. Sommerer & Prof. Mignonneau during their sabbatical leave. The Interface Cultures department looks back to an exciting history of five years leading to the establishment of one of the most innovative master programs for digital arts in Austria. Apart from managing the continuity of the master program and student activities I am planning to give an impulse towards the research in human computer interaction and the development of open tools for creative production during my stay. Our new team is completed by senior researcher Dr. Georg Russegger, who will be responsible for the research towards a new European master program in Ludic Interfaces.

ceci n’est pas un code QRJanuary 13

ceci n'est pas un code QR

TUIO logoJanuary 7

TUIO logo

The TUIO acronym translates to “tangible user interface objects”. This logo therefore intends to symbolize the primary application field of the protocol in the context of tangible interactive surfaces. The three central letters TUI standing for “tangible user interfaces” are surrounded by the large letter O, which represents the protocol in general as a unifying fabric. Finally the letters T and I have been designed to mimic the structure of a table in order to emphasize the role of the TUIO protocol for the realization of interactive tabletop applications.

You can download the TUIO logo on its page at

TUIO 2.0 specification nearing completionJanuary 4

It took longer than expected to develop the next generation TUIO 2.0 specification, since this new protocol generation is intended to cover a much wider scope of tangible user interfaces and interactive surface environments. The present TUIO 1.1 specification has been mainly used for multi-touch surfaces, but it also included the basic component descriptors for tagged and untagged physical objects.
In addition to improved multi-touch features, TUIO2 now has an even stronger focus on tangible (=physical) interfaces. Therefore it is not only enhancing the existing components with some previously missing attributes (e.g. pressure), but also defines new descriptors for additional interface component types. Apart from extending the existing descriptors for Tokens (tagged objects), Pointers (touch and pointing devices) and Bounds (untagged object geometry), TUIO2 introduces an additional Symbol component for the encoding of arbitrary symbols, such as RFID tags or data matrix codes. Additional Geometry messages now allow the more detailed description of the full shape of untagged physical objects, while several complementary Content messages allow the transmission of additional control dimensions, data content and signals for any interface component. TUIO2 also introduces the new category of Association messages, which allow to define various Container and Connection relationships between individual interface components. The new protocol finally also includes detailed Timing information, which is essential for the realization of gesture-based interfaces.
Due to its shared OSC name space /tuio2 and its more compact message syntax, the new protocol is hopefully more open for future extensions with additional component messages. This structure also allows the incremental description of individual interface components by a series of messages. A finger touch for example can now be encoded by combining a pointer and bounds message, while several properties of a tagged physical object can be referenced through a series of token, symbol and geometry messages.
Although the documentation still might need some improvements and eventually some minor error correction, I hope that the current specification actually meets its primary goals and can be soon declared final. If there are any objections or last minute proposals for improvement, please get in touch as soon as possible. In any case it will still take some more time before we are going to see actual implementations of TUIO 2.0, since most applications and client libraries are still in the process of implementing TUIO 1.1.

nfOSC: OSC tool for RFID readersDecember 28

In order to simplify the development tasks for my Tangible User Interface class at the Interface Culture lab in Linz, I just released a new tool for tangible interaction. nfOSC adds touchatag reader. When an RFID tag is placed onto such a device, the application sends a simple OSC message to the configured UDP port, an equivalent OSC message is sent when the tag is removed. The code is based on the libnfc and liblo libraries, and is available for download on this google code project page. This page also includes an example project for Pure Data demonstrating its basic capabilities. I am planning to include this functionality into reacTIVision, as soon as TUIO2 will become available. Alternatively nfOSC already includes an experimental implementation of the TUIO2 Symbol message in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

Roboexotica 2009 – top of the botsDecember 4

Well, it is pretty difficult to stay sober at Roboexotica. Back from the opening at the old Drinkomat factory in Vienna, I am still excited by the overall quality and fun-factor of this cocktail bot exhibition. There is an award ceremony planned by the end of this week, but I reckon it will be rather hard to choose the best submission. Here are my favourites starting with last year’s winning installation “Pressoir de la Fee” or Fairy Juice Squeezer, an amazing electro-mechanical device that is capable to squeeze a tiny amount of green alcoholic juice from a fairy trapped within the device.

As you can obviously guess from its name, “Plasmastaub” is set up within a kind of spaghetti western saloon bar, where one has to arm-wrestle against the robotic bartender, who will subsequently fill and toss a glass of whisky over the bar, which is not that easy to catch actually. The “Facehugger” is an alien creature, which attacks selected visitors who are tied-up on a bed within a closed room. Apparently the lucky victims eventually can suck some liquor from an alien rubber vagina monster which drops onto their face. The “loaded question” installation on the other hand manages to place the shot (more or less) directly into the mouth of its customer … from a distance well over a meter. Bartris is a modified version of the classic Tetris game, where the composition of different block colours that are eliminated within a row, determines the final ratio of a drink made of rum, coke and water. The “Miraculous Stigmatatron” – a crucified steampunk Jesusbot – is capable of turning water into wine. But I still don’t believe … even if it happens to reboot after three days. And finally the “Corps Reviver” is a beautifully crafted alchemist machine, mixing a nicely cooled alcoholic potion in perfect proportions.

ceci n’est pas un datamatrixDecember 3

ceci n'est pas un datamatrix

Tabletop conference in BanffNovember 29

After spending the last years on media art festivals, I took the opportunity to present my recent work on tangible interactive surfaces on this year’s conference on “Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces“, which took place last week in Banff, Canada. Since I presented the latest updates around the reacTIVision and TUIO framework, I was glad to finally meet some interesting colleagues, which I only knew by name so far, such as Thomas Hansen from pyMT and Florian Echtler, the author of the tisch framework. It was also great to see that Francois Berard, who improved the multi-touch support for the Diamondtouch, now also provides a TUIO bridge for this platform. Furthermore I had a brief chat with Edward Tse from Smart Technologies, who also expressed his interest of bringing TUIO compatibility to their platform.

Naturally these conferences are packed with interesting projects and research results, so I am going to try to select a few subjective highlights from various genres. Chi Tai Dang from the University of Augsburg for example presented a decent method for the identification of individual fingers of the hand based on their touch footprint geometry, and Miguel Nacenta from the University of Calgary explained that bird view parallel projection is the best choice for 3D tabletop environments. During the demo session I had the opportunity to try Nicolai Marquardt’s actuated tangibles, which provide various haptic feedback such as surface friction. Another really outstanding project was presented by Itsuo Kumazawa, who was showing several well designed passive rubber widgets, which provided an astonishing haptic sensation when used to control games on ordinary touch screens. Dan Jackson demoed the FiberBoard, which implements a smart method of how to decode touch data from an unordered bundle of optical fiber using an ordinary webcam. Interesting enough there have been also two labs showing their independent prototypes of a bent display that nicely combines a tabletop with a vertical surface. You can check out these and more demo videos on the conference’s youtube channel.

There have been also three prominent keynote speakers, where I found Ken Perlin‘s talk and presentation of his latest pressure sensitive touchco pads most interesting, which also inspired me to rethink the overall pressure encoding for the upcoming TUIO 2.0 protocol. Bill Buxton‘s final keynote was also very inspiring and entertaining as usual, he was basically talking about the future ubiquity of display technology and the related design challenges. Chia Shen presented interesting details of her previous pioneering work around the diamondtouch, but I felt that this might not have been the right format for the dinner talk. There have also been two tutorial sessions, where I chose to attend the one held by the Microsoft Surface team, who promised to present a taxonomy of interactive surfaces. Since I am naturally interested in this topic, I was of course a bit disappointed to see this taxonomy only inspired by the world of MS Surfaces and tablet PC’s. In general I felt that the conference had a slight over-representation of its sponsoring organizations, but I guess this is what the sponsoring is good for them in the end.

After the conference I had the great opportunity to visit the iLab at the University of Calgary (best known for the phidgets), which was one of the most active labs at the conference, where I also noticed a strong presence of researchers from Germany and Austria, such as the Media Computing Group from Aachen (slap widgets) as well as the Media Interaction Lab from Hagenberg (cristal project). All in all I have to say that it was definitely worth to attend this conference, but I felt that its focus was a bit too much on (multi)touchscreen research and technology, and I would have hoped to see a bit more on tangible interactive surfaces there.

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