Tangible User Interfaces

CS320 TUI -- Fall 2018

This is a course about the theory and practice of novel human-computer interfaces

Tangible user interfaces emerge as a novel human-computer interaction style that interlinks the physical and digital worlds.

Extending beyond the limitations of the computer mouse, keyboard and monitor, Tangible user interfaces allow users to interact with digital information through grasping and manipulating physical objects, and through gestures. By allowing users to draw on their natural skills for interacting with digital information, tangible user interface could reduce the cognitive load required for performing a computetional task, and offer an intuitive and collbaorative interface to support activities such as learning, problem solving, design, and entertainment. The field of tangible interaction encompasses multidisciplinary knowledge including from computer science, engineering, art, and social sciences.

About CS320 TUI

Learning Goals

The course aims to engage students with the theory and practice of novel human-computer interfaces.
Upon completing this course students will be able to:

  • Novel UI technologies - Implement functional prototypes using various new technologies for data processing, touch and gesture recognition, sensing and actuation.
  • Design Thinking - Apply an iterative process to identify needs and construct innovative solutions.
  • Conceptual and cognitive foundations- Explain how tangible interaction relate to other emerging human-computer interaction styles, identify design dimensions, and discuss the cognitive foundations for this interaction paradigm.
  • Teamwork and project management - Work effectively with a small team on a semester-long project, while utilizing collaboration and project management tools.
  • Critical thinking - Debate the strengths and limitations of tangible user interfaces. Consider an agenda for researchers and practionairs in the field.

Meet your instructors & tutors

CS320 TUI Fall 2018 tentative schedule

Please note that READINGS and eeading RESPONSES are due on the day they appear.
Check this page frequently, as it is subject to change.



Sept 3

Labor Day - no class

Sept 6

In class: Intro to TEI

Introduce yourself

HW1 out

Sept 10

No class (Rosh Hashana)

Sept 13

Read: Tangible Bits

Read: Computer of the 21st Century

Reading response

In class: device ecology

HW1 part A due

Sept 17

Read: Shaer & Hornecker chap. 2

Reading response

In class: TEI design space

Sept 20

Class starts at 1PM (Pizza!)

Read: Shaer & Hornecker Chapter 7

Read: How to build a smart appliance

Reading response

In class: sensors makeathon

HW1 part B due

Sept 24

Read: Your Team Is Brainstorming All Wrong

Read: TEI book Chap. 5


P0 out

Sept 27

Read: Informing the Design of Direct Touch Tabletops

Reading response

Intro to Surface Computing

Oct 1

Read: Tangible Interaction (Hornecker & Buur)

Read: Solid diagrams

Conceptual Design

Oct 4

Surface computing lab 2

P0 is due

HW2 is out

Oct 8

Fall break

Oct 11

Surface computing lab 3


Oct 15

Prototyping tabletop interfacs

P1 out


Oct 18

Read: Intro to subtraction and addition based fabrication

Read: 3D printed interactivity

Reading response

Fabrication -Visit to Maker Space (class meets at the entrance to Clapp Library)

HW2 due

Oct 22

Class starts at 1PM (Pizza!)

Read: Crafting Technology

Watch:Basic electricity - Currents and amps

Watch: Basic Electricity - What is voltage?

Watch: Basic electricity - What is resistance and Ohm’s Law?

Reading (video) response

Soft Circuits Lab

Oct 25

Conceptual design presentations

P1 part A is due

Oct 29

Conceptual design presentations

Nov 5

Arduino Lab 2

HW3 out


Nov 8

Read: Shaer & Hornecker Chapter 6 (Google Drive)

Reading response

Conceptual and cognitive foundations

Nov 12

Arduino Lab 3

HW3 due

Nov 15

Reading: Fatimah Tuggar: Methods, Making, and West African Influences (in Google Drive)

Reading response

Guest speaker: Fatimah Tuggar, visual artist

Nov 19

Feasibility prototype presentations

P2 due

Teamwork reflection questionnaire due

P3 out

Nov 22

Thanksgiving break

Nov 26

Read: TEI book chap. 6

Read: Radical Atoms

Future Directions for TEI

Project work plan due (P3)

Nov 29

Midterm exam

Dec 3

Project prototyping

Project progress report due (P3)

Dec 6

Project prototyping

Dec 10

Class starts at 12:30PM (Pizza!)

Course Open House (project presentations)

P3 due

Administrative details of CS320 TUI


CS220 or CS230, or Permission of instructor.


Meeting times

Mondays and Thursdays 1:30PM to 2:40PM.

Please note that a few times during the semester class will start earlier - at 1PM or 12:30PM. Check the schedule for exact dates. When class starts during lunch time - lunch will be served in class.

Course Group

Please verify that you are registered to the course google group. This group has several purposes. We will use it to make class announcements, and post questions or comments that are of interest to students in the course. The course group is also a good place to find assignment partners. You should plan on reading group messages on a regular basis.

Textbook, Readings, and Materials

We will be using a new (currently in press) book as well as research papers. All materials will be available in the course e-reserve Google drive, The book we will be using is:

Tangible and Embodied Interaction by Brygg Ullmer, Orit Shaer, Ali Mazalek, and Caroline Hummles.

While there are no text book expenses in this course, there is an equivalent materials fee - students are expected to purchase materials (e.g. art and craft materials, sensors, wires) for their projects. If this poses an obstacle or difficulties for you - please come and talk to the instructor (we can always find a solution).

Course Requirements

The course requires active participation in class through discussion and hands-on activities. 
Students are required to prepare for class by reading and responding to questions about their reading prior to lecture.

There are 3 homework assignments in this course that explore conceptual and technical aspects of tangible user interfaces.

In addition, the course has a final project that requires students to work in teams to design, implement and evaluate a mobile user interface. 
As part of your team project, you will be expected to do the following:

There will be an in-class midterm exam (see the schedule).

The dates of the assignments, project milestones, and final exam are listed on the schedule. Please let the instructor know within the first week of classes if you have a scheduling conflict.

Grading Policy

Your final grade for the course will be computed as a weighted average of several components. The relative weight of each component is shown below:

Collaboration Policy

Here is an overview of our collaboration policy, followed by a more detailed explanation below:

We believe that collaboration fosters a healthy and enjoyable educational environment. For this reason, we encourage you to talk with other students about the course material aand topics. Also, teamwork is the norm in the tech industry and one of our goals is to learn how to collaborate effectively on a project. When working on assignments or group projects team members must work closely together on all tasks. Here are ground rules for collaboration:

Special Accommodations

If you have a disability or condition, either long-term or temporary, and need reasonable academic adjustments in this course, please contact Disability Services to get a letter outlining your accommodation needs, and submit that letter to me. You should request accommodations as early as possible in the semester, or before the semester begins, since some situations can require significant time for review and accommodation design. If you need immediate accommodations, please arrange to meet with me as soon as possible. If you are unsure but suspect you may have an undocumented need for accommodations, you are encouraged to contact Disability Services. They can provide assistance including screening and referral for assessments.

Disability Services can be reached at disabilityservices@wellesley.edu, at 781-283-2434, by scheduling an appointment online at their website www.Wellesley.edu/disability , or by visiting their offices on the 3rd floor of Clapp Library, rooms 316 and 315.

Computing and Laboratory Environment

Classes will be held in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (SCI E125).

You will have access to these rooms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the semester; details will be announced in class. 
Science Center policy requires that every student have a "buddy" when working after hours.

The lab is equipped with a 3D printer, PC and Mac computers, Multitaction displays, VR and AR headsets, and other sesing technologies.

All students are required to sign a lab policy form.

If you have a PC or Mac OS X laptop you can use it for this class if you like. We will primarily use the following platforms during the course:

Students are responsible to back up their work onto their Google accounts.

We will use Slack for team collaboration.

Code for the final project will be submitted using a GitHub account.